Since the 20 year-old was drafted 13th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Leafs fans have had high hopes that Tlusty would be a diamond in the rough, and would eventually play a crucial role in the Leafs' top-six.
However, Tlusty has struggled somewhat at the NHL level, posting a disappointing 10 goals and 20 points in 72 games played. But, it's not as if Tlusty has been given ample opportunity to shine, as he has been forced to play bottom-line minutes throughout his tenure with Maple Leafs thus far. Considering the type of game he plays, which does not include a robust defensive style, it's no wonder he hasn't progressed.
As soon as Tlusty was sent down to the Toronto Marlies last season, he flourished under the increased ice-time and responsibility. In fact, he ended up producing 25 goals and 66 points in 66 games played. It's also worth mentioning that he scored 5 goals and 6 points in one of those games as well. Even taking a look at his stats in the 2007-08 season with the Marlies, the then 19 year-old posted 7 goals and 18 points in 14 games played. There's no denying that, when given sufficient ice-time to produce, the Czech native is capable of posting points.
The question now is whether he is capable of translating these stats to the NHL or not. Taking into consideration the Leafs are in the rebuilding phase, I'd say next season will finally determine Tlusty's future with the Buds. Head coach Ron Wilson is aware that he's coming off an impressive season with the Marlies, so you can bet he'll give Tlusty an opportunity to crack the Leafs' top-six come training camp. However, Tlusty may find the task a little more difficult this time around, as there are a fresh new crop of players competing for the same role. Perhaps this is exactly what is needed, however, as the Leafs can now strain the less competitive players from the competitive ones.
While Tlusty lacks your prototypical "Burke-type player" tag, he's still got the potential to become an effective second-line scoring forward in the NHL. He lacks the defensive game to make him a two-way forward, but his speed, playmaking and goal-scoring abilities could make him a valuable commodity to any team looking for an offensive-minded player. And if you think Burke won't hesitate to trade Tlusty based off his style, you're wrong. Sure, Burke loves the sandpaper, grit and toughness implemented to his line-up, but he also understands that offensive players are a necessity if any has aspirations to eventually win the Stanley Cup. After all, he was involved in the Mike Cammalleri sweepstakes on July 1st, was he not?
Personally, I think Tlusty will crack the Leafs' top-six from get-go, and will surprise many observers throughout the season.
Prediction: Tlusty produces 18 goals, 51 points next season.