With the 43rd pick overall, the Toronto Maple Leafs are pleased to select from the Portland Winter Hawks, Bradley Ross. Many casual Leafs fans would have replied with a resounding "who?" at that moment, but those in the know realize what a coup this was for Brian Burke. Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederrieter who went 4th and 5th respectively in this year's draft were on a line with this guy. Many say he made them what they are. Tough, strong, dare I say truculent? Whispers of a "Darcy Tucker clone" resound everywhere. Can it really be this good? Can a gem be had 43rd overall in the draft?
Leafs fans, rest assured he's everything you're hoping for and more. He has great hockey skills, soft hands, feisty around the net, good speed, and responsible at both ends of the rink. All in all a complete hockey player. An outright steal in the draft. The kind of player that every line can benefit from as he opens up time and space for his teammates. Can Leafs fans see him soon riding shotgun with superstar in the making, Nazem Kadri? The future is tough to predict, but the good money is on this kid.
The Lethbrige native represented Canada at the world under 18 tournament and returned home with gold. 27 goals in 71 games with over 200 penalty minutes for the Winter Hawks. A year of further seasoning in the western hockey league will help this young man make the jump from junior to pro. If he can follow the same committed trainging regiment of future teammate Nazem Kadri, and bulk up significantly from his current frame of 175lbs, the Leafs may just have the steal of the entire 2010 draft.
In just over 19 months, Brian Burke has transformed the Leafs from a team with few prospects into one of the most exciting teams of the future. A Chicago Blackhawks in the making, albeit one with a more solid understanding of salary cap structure. This team is being built to contend not just for one or two seasons, but for the long haul. A dynasty in the making if you will. Leafs fans can point to 2010/2011 as "Season One" when they gaze back years from now to reflect on the history of success.
This reporter believes that one Bradley Ross will be a big part of that. A big part.