Wozniewski making name for himself

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

GRAVENHURST -- Here in the posh Muskokas, a favoured summer playground for the rich and famous, it would be easy for Andy Wozniewski to feel like a fish out of water.

In a region where the Martin Shorts, Goldie Hawns and Eddie Van Halens of the world have migrated over the years to escape the limelight, the kid from suburban Chicago suddenly finds himself the centre of attention.

Swarmed by cameras and microphones at the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre yesterday, Wozniewski, who received far less publicity than fellow Maple Leafs wannabes Carlo Colaiacovo and Staffan Kronwall throughout training camp, realized his days of toiling in relative anonymity are over.

No worries. The sudden notoriety is a good thing, he admitted, since it means he has landed a spot on the Toronto blue line, beating out some better-known names in the process.

"From a media standpoint, yeah, it looked like I was a (dark horse)," Wozniewski, 25, said. "I don't mind being an underdog, though. Things just worked out my way."

Growing up in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Wozniewski eagerly followed his beloved Blackhawks and their leader, Chris Chelios.

It was his sparkling performance against Chelios and the Detroit Red Wings at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday that confirmed his selection in the minds of management. From his first goal of the pre-season to his crushing of Wings speedster Pavel Datsyuk, it proved to be the exclamation point on his impressive camp.

"With (Datsyuk), if you look down at the puck you can get mesmerized, so you have to stay on his body. So that's what I did," Wozniewski said.

"I'm a more defensive player. I think I'm really strong and my mobility as a big guy is an advantage for me. And I think my ability to make that first pass out of the zone helps, too.

"I try to keep my game simple and try not to do too much."

It was a philosophy that helped him beat out Kronwall and Colaiacovo.

"Woz's defensive (play) is probably ahead of the other two," coach Pat Quinn said of the 6-foot-4 defenceman who had four points in 28 games with the St. John's Maple Leafs last season.

As he sat on the bus travelling to Gravenhurst on Sunday, Wozniewski almost had to pinch himself to realize that this really was happening.

"I had so many calls," he said. "It's an unbelievable feeling."


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