Leafs give Bell a ring

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Yet another Toronto Marlies defenceman has been rewarded for showing great strides under Paul Maurice and his coaching staff.

Brendan Bell, the 65th pick overall by the Leafs in the 2001 NHL entry draft, will make his NHL debut tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. Bell was paired with Alexander Khavanov yesterday morning at practice at the Air Canada Centre after taking a 6 a.m. flight from Philadelphia, where the Marlies beat the Phantoms on Sunday night.

"(The Leafs) are a team that needs a couple of wins and needs big games out of everybody, so all the more reason you are under the microscope," Bell, 22, said. "I am looking forward to that opportunity and challenge. I have been dreaming of this for a long time, since my last game of junior hockey."

Others who have gone before Bell include Carlo Colaiacovo, Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski and Jay Harrison. All have shown potential to be long-term NHL defencemen.

Bell, an Ottawa native, grew into an offensive whiz by the time he graduated from the Ontario Hockey League. He put an exclamation mark on a fine career with Brian Kilrea's 67's when he was named the Canadian Hockey League defenceman of the year in 2002-03 after he had 53 points and was a plus-50 in 55 games. But by his own admission in the past, Bell struggled with the defensive side of the pro game.

Bell has become comfortable this season, and has been scoring as well, with four goals and 28 assists in 60 games.

"We've really learned a lot from Paul Maurice down there," Bell said. "It has really helped having an NHL coach for us. Guys are confident."


Videos

Photos