Leafs will have to wait

BRUCE GARRIOCH AND LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Leaf Nation will have to wait for Jiri Tlusty.

While the Czech centre-winger looked good in blue and white on the stage at GM Place, it's going to be a while before he appears in person at the Air Canada Centre.

Picked 13th overall in the National Hockey League entry draft, the 18-year-old indicated he's headed back to Kladno next season after discussions with agents Bobby Orr and agent Frantisek Kaberle Sr.

Tlusty was also drafted by the OHL Soo Greyhounds, who are coached by Craig Hartsburg.

The Leafs have always liked Czech players, but never enough to draft one this high. The man who did a lot of leg work on this one, Leaf-turned-scout Peter Ihnacak, was chosen 25th in 1982.

Tlusty already has received lots of tips about T.O. from defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who played for Kladno as a youngster and went back during the lockout.

The Leafs also held interviews with Kladno's Michael Frolik, who went 10th to the Florida Panthers and had also been tight with Kaberle.

With goaltending and defence prospects in abundance, the Leafs used their highest pick in the past eight drafts on a forward with 10 points in 44 games, not too unusual for a kid who split his time with the Kladno junior and senior teams.

The most recent time Tlusty was in Vancouver was during the world junior championship last December. He had to swallow a bitter pill because he suited up for only one game with the Czech squad.

"I'm happy to go to Toronto because it's a hockey city," Tlusty said. "Being drafted No. 13 isn't my lucky number, but it's the lucky number of my father."

Still, Tlusty doesn't want to rush to the NHL.

"I have the chance to play on the top two lines in Kladno next season and (Orr) feels like that might be better for me," said Tlusty.

"I'm excited to be with the Leafs. I spoke with them (at the NHL scouting combine last month), but they didn't give me any indication they were going to take me."

Toronto scouts like Tlusty because of his speed, skills and ability to move the puck. He held his ranking with the Central Scouting Bureau all year, No. 3 at mid-term among Europeans and finished in the same slot at the end.

At this point, all Tlusty is committed to is attending the club's rookie camp in July.

"We like his speed and we like his skills," Toronto general manager John Ferguson said.

Tlusty said he was also asked about Czech great Jaromir Jagr a lot during his interviews with NHL teams because he came from the Kladno organization and played there during the lockout.

"I admire him.

He was always my biggest idol," Tlusty said.


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