Wellwood will get good, long look

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

Kyle Wellwood didn't have much choice but to pass off to Steve Thomas during a scrimmage yesterday at Maple Leafs training camp. But you have to think for a brief second Wellwood wanted the old veteran to miss the puck.

Much has been made of Thomas' quest to get his hands on one of the coveted few spots at forward. However, Wellwood, who is among several youngsters in which the Leafs might actually invest some day, wants one just as badly.

"I've proven to myself that I can score at the pro level, but it is just the AHL," Wellwood said. "I have no idea if I will be able to do it in the NHL. We'll see. There is an outside chance I could make it if I play really well (during camp)."

Rather than fall off during his sophomore season in the AHL in 2004-05, Wellwood was on fire, finishing fourth in league scoring with 87 points in 80 games. The Windsor native never will be confused with some of the bigger players in camp -- he is listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds -- but he is the kind of player who could benefit from the proposed crackdown in obstruction this season. One bonus with Wellwood is that even with the infractions, whistled or otherwise, he has been able to produce.

Wellwood had 55 points in 76 games for St. John's two years ago as an AHL freshman, following a prolific junior career with the Belleville Bulls and Windsor Spitfires.

It has been difficult for young players to get much of a crack under Leafs coach Pat Quinn, but the latter wants to give Wellwood and another kid up front, Alexander Steen, a legitimate chance to make the club. However, with centres Mats Sundin, Jason Allison and Eric Lindros locked into three jobs barring injuries, the 22-year-old Wellwood probably will have to have a monumental camp to stick.

"He is a guy you can't discount here," Quinn said. "Right off the bat, we know that he is a highlight reel sometimes. He is a very deceptive skater and is deceptive on the attack. Maybe we end up carrying him if we have three lines that are going to be logging lots of time. Maybe we have a specialty sort of a situation where we consider keeping him for the power play and shootout opportunities."

Whether Wellwood winds up at the Air Canada Centre or the Ricoh Coliseum will be determined during the next few weeks. But he has an idea how he would like to end his pro career far in the future.

"I really hope I end up being him when I am 42," Wellwood said of Thomas. "It's incredible what he is doing out there."


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