Young Leaf happiest at home

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Phil Oreskovic is ready for some home cooking again.

Armed with a three-year entry-level contract he signed last month, the Brampton native has his eye on a spot on the blue line with the Marlies of the AHL.

But the 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenceman, one of 19 players at the Leafs' annual prospects camp this week, is not prepared to make any assumptions. Though the Leafs' cupboard of prospects generally does not cause a lot of excitement, there is a healthy list of young defencemen in the organization.

"I've got my foot in the door, but that's all it is right now," said Oreskovic, who was taken 82nd overall by Toronto in the 2005 NHL entry draft. "I am hoping to be with the Marlies next season, but I know I have a lot to do ahead of me.

"There are tons of defencemen in the system, and I am happy they are all here, but hopefully I fit in nicely. It's a challenge I am willing to take on and push myself."

Oreskovic might have something going for him in that he is a large customer who does not stray much from the defensive zone. Many blueliners in the organization get by on their offensive skills. In the Ontario Hockey League last season with Brampton and Owen Sound, Oreskovic had three goals and 19 assists, as well as 179 penalty minutes, in 62 games.

Oreskovic spent 31/2 seasons with his home-town Battalion before he was traded to the Attack. When he patrolled the blue line for the Battalion, Oreskovic lived at the home of his parents, Joe and Colleen. His mother's cooking was integral in keeping him at home, but one of the life skills the Leafs prospects are learning this week involves going to the kitchen for more than a beer and a slice of pizza.

Oreskovic, 20, is leaning toward living at home for another year if he makes the Marlies out of camp this fall. His mother's cooking is a big draw, but learning to have greater independence is a major reason for the young Leafs' presence at the camp. "They teach you to coach yourself," Oreskovic said. "It's not a camp to see whether we are in shape, but more to teach us where we should be. It's a great experience."


Photos