Leaf knocks 'next Nick' talk

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Anton Stralman has never met Detroit Red Wings all-star defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom.

But that hasn't stopped the Swedish media from comparing the recently signed Maple Leafs defenceman to the multi-time Norris Trophy winner, often referring to Stralman as "the next Lidstrom."

"I've heard that a lot," said Stralman, who was introduced to the Toronto media yesterday. "It's very flattering. He is such a great player. But I don't feel pressure from it. It's a nice compliment, nothing more."

Called one of Sweden's top three players by his coaches at the recently completed world hockey championship, Stralman admits Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin was one of his childhood heroes.

That's why he is hoping Sundin, an unrestricted free agent come July 1, can be locked up by the Leafs.

"I've never talked to him but he was one of my idols growing up," Stralman said. "It will be a thrill to see him."

Despite the logjam on the blue line, Stralman, 20, will come to camp intent on making the Leafs. Asked about his recent comments that he would rather return to his homeland's Elite League than play for the Marlies should management wish to farm him out, he was noncommital.

"I want to play for Toronto," he said. "Any of those other things, we will deal with them when they come."

Stralman, the 216th overall pick in the 2005 entry draft, had 21 points in 53 games for Timra IK of the Swedish league last season.

CHARITY RETURNS

The Broadcasters Bottle Drive for Leukemia Research, spearheaded by Leafs announcers Joe Bowen, Harry Neale and Ottawa Senators play-by-play man Dean Brown, takes place on May 26-27. All 440 beer stores in Ontario will be accepting beer, wine and spirit empties as a donation to leukemia research.


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