Finnish net wave rolls in

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

OTTAWA -- The Maple Leafs hope they selected the Finnish version of Ed Belfour yesterday.

But whether Tuukka Rask arrives in the NHL before the 40-year-old Belfour retires remains to be seen. The 6-foot-2 Rask, the top-ranked goaltender in Europe, was optimistic of being in Toronto within a year or two, though European scout Thommie Bergman said it could be as long as three or four, given the intricacies of the position.

Toronto, which had little hope of trading up high enough to get Central Scouting's best goalie, Carey Price of Tri-City, took Rusk at 21st overall in the NHL draft. Their previous first-round goalie -- Eric Fichaud at No. 16 in 1994 -- was a flame-out. The book is still open on Mikael Tellqvist, Belfour's back-up while the Leafs took WHL goalie Justin Pogge in the third round last year.

"We project (Rask) to be a No. 1 down the road," Leafs' general manager John Ferguson said.

IMPRESSED LEAFS

Rask watched the draft at his girlfriend's house in the Finnish hamlet of Savonlinna, a four-hour drive from Helsinki. But he impressed the Leafs at an NHL scouting combine earlier this summer and had an inkling they'd take him.

Described by Bergman as a butterfly goalie, Rask prefered calling it a "hybrid" style on a conference call.

"I'm really happy," he said, listing his favourite Leaf as Swede Mats Sundin.

Bergman and Leafs' amateur scouting director Barry Trapp liked Rask's composure in some difficult situations with the Finnish junior national teams the past couple of years. With club team Ilves, he had a .935 save percentage in 26 games this season.

"He's been an outstanding prospect for the past three years," Trapp said. "At 17, he was the goaltender for his world junior team. As you know, the way Finland has been turning out goaltenders lately (Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen) this guy looks like a good prospect. With changes in the rules for goalie equipment, this kid has great athleticism and that's another bonus."

The Leafs sat out the second round having lost their pick in the Brian Leetch trade to the Rangers. They were just about to move on London Knights' defenceman Danny Syvret when the Edmonton Oilers scooped him 81st overall. So the Leafs opted for 6-foot-3, 210-pound Phil Oreskovic, a defenceman with the Brampton Battalion.


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