Leaf rookie shifting focus

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

The only player in the Maple Leafs organization coming off a 50-goal, 100-point season would like to show the bosses what else he can do.

Brent Aubin gets that chance starting tonight in Kitchener where the Leafs rookies begin a four-team tournament against Florida, Ottawa and Pittsburgh. He hopes it leads to auditions in one or two NHL exhibitions later this month.

"I want to pick up where I left off with the Leafs last September," said the undrafted Aubin, who parlayed a fine rookie camp into a minor-league contract before returning to the junior Quebec Remparts last season.

The 5-foot-9 right winger graduated with 51 goals and 54 assists, adding two points in eight games with the AHL Marlies.

"My main goal is to be on the top two lines of the Marlies this year," Aubin, 21, said. "But if I can get in a couple of games with the Leafs, then after that, who knows?"

Aubin was encouraged when the Leafs gave plenty of rope to smallish players such as Kyle Wellwood and defenceman Ian White, and then signed 5-foot-10 Jason Blake as a first-liner. Certainly, that diminutive group all excelled in part because of new anti-obstruction standards, but Aubin knows that strength, speed and stick control are big factors in cracking today's NHL.

"I definitely worked out as hard as I ever have this summer," Aubin said. "I want to do what I do best, which is score. But in the faceoffs I did take, I was 56% and, when we won the Memorial Cup (in 2006), I concentrated a lot on defence."

General manager John Ferguson is most interested in grading his second-year pros -- such as forwards Robbie Earl and Chris Foster -- at the rookie camp, as well as rookie Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman and goalie Justin Pogge.

But junior-aged forwards Aubin, Jiri Tlusty and Dale Mitchell will be under the microscope, too. Tlusty and Mitchell are the Leafs' first picks in 2006 and '07, respectively.

"Brent is a determined player from the top of the circle down," Ferguson said. "You look at his goals and you see he can finish, but now we have to see if he can get closer to an NHL level."

The Leafs play Pittsburgh tonight at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, Ottawa tomorrow and Florida on Sunday.

All Leafs games are at 6:30 p.m. A total of 23 prospects under the direction of Marlies coach Greg Gilbert will participate.


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