World junior light on Leafs

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:23 PM ET

John Ferguson won't have to take a very large notepad with him when he leaves for the 2005 world junior championship just after Christmas. Just two Maple Leafs prospects - defenceman Dmitry Vorobiev of Russia and left winger Jan Steber of the Czech Republic -- were expected to participate in the tournament.

While Ferguson, the Leafs general manager, wouldn't mind if a few more Leafs picks were going to compete in the U.S., he's going to be busy anyway.

"It's not only a strong level of competition to assess other clubs' prospects but it's a good opportunity to nail down what we think of other (prospects)," Ferguson said.

One player on whom Ferguson is keeping tabs of a different sort is American defenceman John Doherty, who was the Leafs' first pick, 57th overall, in 2003.

Doherty recently left the hockey team at the University of New Hampshire to play for Des Moines of the United States Hockey League. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Doherty is a physical specimen, but his hockey sense could be better.

Doherty played in 16 games for New Hampshire as a freshman last season and appeared in four games this season.

In his first nine games with Des Moines, Doherty had two assists and was minus-9 with 17 penalty minutes. The USHLbills itself as the only major junior league in the U.S.

"It's a step back in competition but the hope is that it is a step forward with ice time and responsibility," Ferguson said.


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