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Playing out the string

Three games into his NHL career and rookie Christian Hanson has already made his mark on the scoresheet.

Three games into his NHL career and rookie Christian Hanson has already made his mark on the scoresheet. It’s a good omen for the newly-signed Leaf, who will be counted on for consistent offence next season, as will fellow college free agent signee Tyler Bozak.

While playing out the string in a playoff-deprived season is no fun for any pro, the rookies have been the ones taking it to the competition of late. Against New Jersey on Tuesday, the Toronto goal-scorers were freshmen Hanson, Mikhail Grabovski and John Mitchell, plus journeyman Jeff Hamilton, who has his own interesting tale.

Hamilton has done many little things right since being picked up as a free agent in March, including being lethal in the shootout and logging power play time. And while he has been better than expected so far, the same cannot be said for a lot of older players on the team.

The Grabovski-Kulemin-Ponikarovsky combo has been good of late, but that’s a recent development. Matt Stajan piled up the points early in the season as the team’s No. 1 centre, but has taken a back seat in the second half.

Lee Stempniak has also taken a step back and was even a healthy scratch recently. Since coming over from St. Louis for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo, Stempniak’s points-per-game average has been slashed in half. Ironically, Steen’s average has doubled with the Blues, while Colaiacovo is scoring at four times his Toronto pace and staying healthy for once.

While John Tavares may be just a bit out of reach in terms of draft lottery odds, the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires have a great young center in Taylor Hall, who could be the No. 1 pick in 2010.

 
 
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