Euro prospect riding high

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Forward Michael Frolik had a window on the world of the Maple Leafs during the lockout while playing on a club team with fellow Czech Tomas Kaberle in Kladno.

Frolik, who could be the highest European chosen at the June 24 draft in Vancouver, certainly had attention from the Leafs and almost every other National Hockey League team during the recent Central Scouting combine in Toronto.

"There was a lot of talk about the possibilities in North America and Tomas gave a lot of good information," Frolik said through an interpreter. "I learned a lot being on the ice with a player like that and watching him practice. It was a good experience."

Frolik, 18, played with the Kladno senior team again this season, but was held to nine points in 48 games, consistent with a kid's ice time on a veteran team. This is not considered to be a strong European draft, as Frolik and Swedish centre Nicklas Backstrom have flip-flopped as top Europeans through the season.

The Leafs pick 13th overall and likely will not get a shot at Frolik, though the North American class, led by Americans Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel and Canadians Jonathan Toews and Jordan Staal could bump a few of the Euros back. Toronto might also move up the order in a trade.

"With the new rules in the NHL, Europeans have a chance to be better players," Frolik said. "I think more players will come from Europe."

But another new regulation, limiting NHL teams to holding rights of unsigned Euros for just two years, could see the clubs take only the most blue-chip prospects from overseas.

The Leafs also had a chat at the combine with Russian left wing Nikolai Kulemin, which was significant because the 6-foot, 200-pound was a linemate of Russian stars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin with the national team at the world championship last month in Latvia.

"I'd like to think those two helped me and I helped them," Kulemin said. "I'm the same age as them (20) and I've played with Malkin a few years with Magnitogorsk in the Russian League."

That team's coach was one-time Canadian national team coach Dave King.

"Dave has a very different training process and that helped me a lot," Kulemin said.

Leafs general manager John Ferguson is intrigued by both Frolik and Kulemin.

"There's quite a distance between them (in the Central Scouting Bureau rankings)," Ferguson said. "But we've had interviews and follow-up interviews with a number of players."


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