Burke adds a little bad-ass to Buds

Brad Ross, drafted in the second round by the Toronto Maple Leafs, poses for a portrait during day...

Brad Ross, drafted in the second round by the Toronto Maple Leafs, poses for a portrait during day two of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at the Staples Center on June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (HARRY HOW/Getty Images)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 PM ET

Uncomplimentary NHL scouts have called Brad Ross “a dirt bag” to play against.

Just music to the ears of the club’s first pick in the National Hockey League draft.

“I just take that as a compliment when I’m called that,” Ross said Saturday from the Staples Center in Los Angeles - with more than a hint of pride in his voice. “I think I just have a way of getting under peoples’ skins.”

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke liked the six-foot tall antagonistic right winger from the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks enough move up 19 spots to 43rd overall in a trade with Chicago. That trade included flipping picks and sending 2008 second-round pick Jimmy Hayes to the Cup champions.

As the muscle on the Winter Hawks’ talented line with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, who were the surprise fourth and fifth picks to Columbus and the Islanders respectively on Friday night, Ross fits the bad-ass team character Burke hopes to foster as a prelude to improvement.

“He has the proper levels of truculence and hostility,” said Burke. “(Other GMs) kind of went off their lists a little bit (in the first round) and that managed to drop him down to us.

“(Hayes) is a good kid, (but) this kid brings a little more bite. He gets around, he can skate, he’s an active forechecker. When things get physical, he’ll scrap. This is our kind of guy.

“He came a long way this year, but he’s going to need some time. I don’t anticipate seeing him (as a full-time Leaf) anytime soon.”

Asked for an NHLer comparable to himself, Ross was quick to bring up names such as fellow Albertan Darcy Tucker and Matt Cooke, both whose tactics have been called into question over the years. But Ross stopped at the mention of Sean Avery’s vocal assaults.

“You say a few things against certain players, but I wouldn’t go as far as (Avery),” Ross said. “I like the way a player such as Tucker uses his body so well and can put the puck in, too.”

Ross did that 27 times for Portland as part of a 68-point, 103 penalty minute package. He was the only CHL player in the draft to score more than 25 goals and reach more than 200 penalty minutes with 13 fights from the start of the season through the playoffs. A scout described Ross to The Hockey News as a more mature 17-year-old version of Steve Downie, who curbed his over-enthusiasm to become a contributor with Tampa Bay.

“I was always a physical guy, but my (abrasive) reputation is something that just developed,” Ross said.

He was thought of highly enough to be invited to the world junior evaluation camp later this summer.

Dave Morrison, the Leafs’ director of amateur scouting, says the key to Ross is that he can keep himself on a leash.

“His switch is always on, he’s tenacious, in-your-face and plays on the edge, but the big thing is he can control his game,” Morrison said. “He’s shown that and his coach (Mike Johnston) has told us that, too. But he has some work to do in other areas.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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