Welcome, Matt Finn

Toronto Maple Leafs pick Matt Finn at the CONSOL Energy Center during the 2nd to 7th rounds of the...

Toronto Maple Leafs pick Matt Finn at the CONSOL Energy Center during the 2nd to 7th rounds of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania June 23, 2012. (QMI Agency/ANDRE FORGET)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

TORONTO - One of these years, the Maple Leafs hope the saga of a hometown Toronto fan helping them to a Stanley Cup becomes a book and a movie.

Right now, it’s pure fiction, though another fresh-faced blue-blooded candidate emerged yesterday in Matthew Finn. Listening to his story, it’s a shock he wasn’t born on the steps of the Air Canada Centre.

He joined the Buds Club as a kid, he’s a cousin of former Leaf defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, was a big Bryan McCabe fan, played with last year’s top pick Stuart Percy with the minor Marlies and even lives on the same street as the Leafs practice rink in Etobicoke.

But Colaiacovo, first rounder Drake Berehowsky and a number of Toronto-born stars such as Eric Lindros found success in their backyard very elusive. Many found it a burden more than anything, especially in times such as these, a seven-year playoff drought with fans in a grouchy mood .

“It’s an opportunity,” countered general manager Brian Burke. “I think it would be a thrill to play in your hometown. When I was growing up, (in Minnesota) I dreamed I’d be playing for the North Stars.

“There’s a bit of pressure that comes with it, but also great reward. Your friends and family can enjoy your success. When the day comes when this team is more competitive, these guys will be able to run for mayor.”

Finn, a two-way defenceman with the Guelph Storm, was feeling like he was atop the CN Tower on Saturday morning, after trudging back from the Consol Energy Center without getting picked in the first round. He was ranked 16th by Central Scouting, projected at 22nd by the Leafs and ended up at 35th.

“I went back to the hotel with the family, kind of laid low,” said Finn, who saw OHL pals Scott Laughton and Thomas Wilson selected Friday.

“Unfortunately I didn’t get picked, but I ended up in Toronto. It’s unbelievable, a dream come true. To be selected by Toronto, growing up in Toronto, watching them my entire life, it’s something else.”

Finn recalled his Buds Club membership entitled him to a Carlton The Bear stuffed toy and he had team posters in his room up until last year.

“Now I’m part of the real club,” he laughed Finn.

Finn led all Guelph defencemen in goals, assists and points (48). He is a power-play specialist and yet another offensive blueliner in the mix after the Leafs took Moose Jaw’s Morgan Rielly fifth overall on Friday.

“I’ve got to work,” Finn said of what lies ahead to move up the depth chart. “It’s not this year or next year. It’s five years down the road. I know they’re deep on defence.”

Dave Morrison, the Leafs’ amateur scouting director, watched as Finn went unclaimed through the 20s and early 30s.

“I don’t know why he dropped,” Morrison said. “(Vice-president) Dave Poulin and I always pick what the other teams want. At a certain point, each of us kept taking Matt. Then we got back to the room Friday and (thought) ‘what are the chances of us getting him at 35? It’s going to be tight’.

“He plays a ton of minutes in Guelph. He’s got good offensive numbers, is smart, moves the puck very well. He competes, got good size, he’s not afraid of physical play.”

 


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