Leafs' Wellwood is a big hit

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Kyle Wellwood made all the highlight films Thursday night but for all the wrong reasons.

The Maple Leafs rookie centre was hit by a Mack truck known as Atlanta's 245-pound Andy Sutton and the resulting impact ended with Wellwood on the ice and his equipment scattered -- a yard sale in skiing parlance.

It was a collision so one-sided it could replace the opening shot on the now-defunct Wide World of Sports that showed the ski jumper wiping out.

The day after, though, there was no sense of the "agony of defeat" hanging over Wellwood, just a sense of humour.

"It was a great hit," Wellwood said. "After seeing the replay I was just lucky to come out of it alive.

"That was probably the hardest I've been hit in open ice for sure. It was an awesome hit and I'm going to have to keep my head up."

After the opening 27 games of the Leafs season, however, Wellwood's play has been more about turning heads.

In limited ice time, Wellwood has shown himself to be a smooth, quick skater with soft hands and an ability to read the flow on the ice which enables him to hit the open man and find the open ice.

Those are traits that are innate as much as honed by repetition and practice.

"I think it's a product of a lot of hard work," Wellwood said of the skills he brings to the ice. "You're not born with anything. You've got to earn it and hone your trade and continuously work at it."

In Wellwood's case that meant hours of play on the outdoor rinks.

"I put in hours of practice on the rink that my dad built. When you're out there by yourself that's the kind of stuff you practice, your skating and your hands and over time it ends up getting better and better."

His playmaking skills came later.

"Growing up, whenever you play shinny hockey you score as often as possible. Basically my philosophy is score on them and don't get scored on. You have to make plays every night and I try to do that."

So far Wellwood has kept to his word. He has 13 points, which ties him for eighth on the Leafs. He also is tied with Tomas Kaberle for the team lead with a plus-seven.

Those are the highlights of which he is more proud.


Photos