Ferguson eyes prospects

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

After catching a late-day flight to Russia Tuesday, John Ferguson was in Moscow yesterday watching Team Canada's 5-4 victory over Slovakia at the world hockey championship.

Having taken part in the player selection process for the Canadian squad, the Maple Leafs' general manager finally had the opportunity to scout in person the team he helped put together.

Left behind back in Canada was the entire media frenzy of the Mats Sundin hip injury, which has been the buzz throughout the city for the past 48 hours.

But both Ferguson and Sundin will be front-and-centre once again next week.

On May 9 here in Toronto, Ferguson is scheduled to present his plan for the 2007-08 season to the board of directors of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd, one that includes a proposed budget.

On that same day in Sweden, Sundin is expected to have his highly-publicized ailing hip checked out.

It will be an interesting day. Ferguson remains confident that his job is not in jeopardy and is progressing full-speed ahead, although who knows what the board is thinking concerning the GM's future.

'DUAL ROLE'

In the meantime, Ferguson will use his time in Russia to scout a number of players from the Leafs organization who are participating in the worlds. That group includes Alex Steen and Anton Stralman (Sweden); Nikolai Kulemin (Russia); former Marlie, Roman Kukumburg (Slovakia); and Karel Pilar (Czech Republic).

"It's almost like having a dual role," Ferguson said. "As part of the Canadian management team, of course I want Canada to win. At the same time, it's a chance to get a good look at some of our prospects."

Kulemin, the one-time linemate of Evgeni Malkin at the world junior championships in Vancouver 16 months ago, is off to a nice start, notching a pair of goals and an assist through three games. Steen, Stralman and Kukumberg each have one point while Pilar has yet to play.

The International Ice Hockey Federation's official website for the 2007 world championship suggested yesterday that Stralman is expected to sign with the Leafs soon.

He scored his first goal of the tournament in Sweden's 6-0 romp over Switzerland yesterday.


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