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Leafs Looking for Toughness-Answer, Phil Oreskovic!

Louis PisanoAnalyst INovember 12, 2009

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano

The mix of toughness and skill is something every team in the league would like to have in every player, especially on defense. The lack of physicality during the Minnesota game brings up questions of toughness on a team that is supposed to be draped in it.

Luke Schenn has been a hot topic amongst Leafs fans and media alike and they are saying the sophomore jinx and maybe he’s not all he was cracked up to be and so on.

This barely–Nov second, happy belated- 20–year–old–kid is behind Ian White for defensemen. At -3, he is a strong player but Ian White and PonyBoy are the only two players on the team on the plus side of the category.

With an average ice-time at fifteen minutes per game in 21.1 shift, Schenn isn't seeing as much play time with the additions of Beauchimin and Komisarek. And he was never meant to be an offensive threat, as I have heard talk of him in that context.

 So, give the kid a break he is playing well on a team that has struggled and still looks good in my book and brings some of that toughness to the team and will harden with time.

Phil Oreskovic, 6'3" and 217 lbs., brings the same solid type of stay–at–home defensive style, who may not produce a lot of points, but will certainly prevent them.He played well in pre-season but with the additions to the defense there just wasn’t room for him, at least not at that point.

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Oreskovic had the best plus/minus of any Leafs or Marlies player last season late in the year.  This gave him the opportunity to play a stint with the big guns. 

When he came back to the Marlies, I had the opportunity to interview him.

 I asked him about his time with the Leafs and the three fights he had against Tim Jackman, Milan Lucic and Andre Roy.  

He had replied,  “I’m still smiling which is the important thing and they’re tough guys and that’s part of my game and I like to think I’m a player as well so if I can play and bring a tough guy role as well that’s what they’re happy with and move the puck well and just do my job.”  

Toughness is obviously not a question nor is his defensive zone coverage along with his ability to clear the front of the net. Having been in the dressing room and seeing the Marlies most of last season I could tell what a great component he added to the chemistry of the team as well.

The Marlies are 6-4 this year and Oreskovic is a plus three in his nine games though only recording one assist as well as 33 penalty minutes.

This guy is definitely in the plans I would think for the rebuilding of a Toronto team that wants to go younger and build from within.

Being that he is from Brampton he has home–town backing, which is always good for a team and a player, given the pressure doesn't become overbearing.

But in Phil’s case, it has been nothing more than water off a ducks back throughout his career having played in the OHL for the Brampton Battalion and is accustomed to what comes with that situation.

Every time he came off the ice or after a game at the Ricoh Coliseum he could be seen giving a puck or signing autographs for wide eyed kids as well.

 If, barring any miracles, the Leafs are not in the playoff hunt nearing the trade deadline, we may see one of our veteran defensemen moved to a team that needs extra help on the back-end for their playoff push or run.

This may net us a draft pick or two returning some of the traded picks for Kessel, that aside, that space on the back-end is easily filled by hometown guy Phil Oreskovic.

The problem facing the Leafs over the last few years has certainly been keeping the puck out of their own net, a basic necessity to a successful game.

With the Monster playing, the defense core, the puck will stay on the outside and be limited to rebounds in front.  And, with the ability to turn good defensive zone coverage into a quick transition to the offense, the team will reap the rewards–a successful game plan to the coaches. 

Phil Oreskovic can certainly be a cog in the wheel driving the machine towards those goals.

Now or in the distant future, Phil Oreskovic is somebody to watch for and a player Leafs Nation should look forward to having as a pillar of strength on the blue-line.

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