I've been chastised for not posting my thoughts on the Leafs' first round draft pick, Nazem Kadri, as well as the team's other pre-season moves and so I am taking the time to quickly do so now.
The first think I'd like to say is that I like Kadri and what he can bring to the team the more I read about him. He's quick, offensively-minded, has great hands, is a wickedly fast skater and is especially impressive in his ability to find the net shorthanded. As a London Knight, he finished second in team scoring behind John Tavares with 78 points--not too shabby. If I wished one thing about Kadri, it's that he was a bit bigger (at 6'0, 167 pounds, he's not that physically imposing), however he is still just a kid and will beef up as he gets older. Interestingly, he was ranked 11th at midterm by NHL Central Scouting and his final rank was 15th, however he ended up going 7th overall. Kadri turns 19 in October and I'm curious as to whether he will be able to crack the Leafs lineup this coming season or whether he'll be back with the Knights.
Burke has definitely toughened the team up with his signings in the off-season (Komisarek, Beauchemin, Orr, Exelby, etc.), but I am not seeing much offensive power in the lineup outside of Jason Blake (who isn't getting any younger!), though new acquisition Rickard Wallin may help with that. I am also hoping that John Mitchell will step up even more this year after a good season with the Buds last season--he has potential to be a good second or third line forward with the team, much like he was last year.
Goaltending is going to be interesting for the team--Vesa Toskala has a more-than-ample challenger in Jonas "the Monster" Gustavsson and I am curious to see whether the Finn is displaced from the number one position! At least, no matter what happens, we should have a highly competent backup 'tender, which has been lacking for a good long time.
Our GM has done a good job this off-season and our team is not going to be one that is easily intimidated. Heck, I think that they are going to be a difficult team to play and more difficult still to push around, which is encouraging. That being said, however, who is going to put the pucks in the net? This is my main concern as the 2009-10 seaspm approaches. Does Burkie have a few more tricks up his sleeve?
We shall see...