Rookie won't be down if Leafs send him down

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- If Kyle Wellwood is demoted to the minors once the Maple Leafs' injury situation clears up, he is not going to go to the Toronto Marlies without a sense of accomplishment.

"I think I have played well and I have proven I can play in the NHL," the 22-year-old rookie said. "I'm pretty confident that if they keep me, I am going to play well throughout the year. But if I get sent down, it is not going to be a big deal. I am not expecting it, but I do believe it is possible."

With captain Mats Sundin hopeful he can return from a left eye injury tomorrow night against Tampa Bay, and with Nik Antropov (knee) and Mariusz Czerkawski (shoulder) recovering from injuries, coach Pat Quinn and general manager John Ferguson soon will have some decisions to make.

Forward Nathan Perrott, who has played in just three games and would be a clear favourite to be sent down, but would have to clear waivers to go to the Marlies.

If the Leafs were to recall him and he was claimed by another team, they would be on the hook for half of his $450,000 US salary.

Wellwood was fourth in AHL scoring last season with 87 points in 80 games. Whether he could develop more there is not a question, Quinn said.

"He showed how to score last year, but there were areas of his game that needed to be developed further and he did a real nice job at that," Quinn said. "So he can always learn there. But we are not there yet and we have not made any decisions."

Wellwood is a smart player and has been able to adapt better than some of his veteran teammates to playing without the puck in the era of the obstruction crackdown. Wellwood was plus-3 entering last night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the few Leafs on the plus side.

Though six of his eight points had been recorded during Leafs power plays, his teammates weren't exactly lighting it up at even-strength, either.

One thing is clear about Wellwood -- good or bad, nothing fazes the kid.

"They have a lot of good centres here and a lot of players on contract who are proven in the NHL," Wellwood said.

"So if anybody is going to go down, it is going to be me. I don't think I am going to get any worse by playing down there."


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