Bozak a fan of Wilson

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Joe Nieuwendyk, the Leafs special assistant to the general manager, who has spent considerable time scouting the U.S. college ranks this season, said yesterday that the signing of University of Denver star Tyler Bozak this week had a lot to do with the Leafs' coaching staff.

Sure, the Leafs were able to offer the Regina native a quality contract and are rebuilding, which gives the 23-year-old a better chance of cracking the lineup. But Nieuwendyk believes that the Leafs coaching staff has made it attractive for young players to want to play in Toronto.

"When you look at what we've done this year, we have some players that are having career years (Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan) and we have (rookie) players like (Nikolai) Kulemin and (Mikhail) Grabovski who, well, some coaches may have lost patience with them at times during the year. But Ron (Wilson) and his staff have stuck with these guys. And I think players that are looking to join a team look at stuff like that," said Nieuwendyk, who played at Cornell University before moving to the NHL in 1986. "There is tough love (with that coaching staff), but that's all part of being a professional. It's not easy, and it's not a cake walk, and these kids are going to have to learn the hard way sometimes, but our coaching staff is committed to developing our youth."

One of the players who been a victim of Wilson's tough-love policy this season, but has played better because of it, is Grabovski, who is only one goal short of 20.

"Ron has helped me a lot, first with ice time. That's a big help," Grabovski said yesterday. "And second ... he teach me to play in defensive zone."

Grabovski has struggled at times and was a healthy scratch on Feb. 4 in Buffalo, but the native of Belarus has been on fire of late, playing between Kulemin and Ponikarovsky, picking up 15 points in his last 11 games. Grabovski, who is fourth in NHL rookie scoring with 46 points (heading into last night's games), did admit yesterday that he is anxious to get his 20th.

"It's still about winning games," Grabovski said. "But if I get one more goal, I'm happy. I would like to get it against Montreal (last night)."

Around the crease

Rookie defenceman Jonas Frogren, who has been out since March 7 with a knee injury, has been skating with the Leafs for the last three days, but won't play a game until later this week, and possibly for the AHL Marlies, not the Leafs. "It could be a week. I feel pretty OK, but if you play a game, it has to be 100%, and it's not," Frogren said ... Rookie forward Christian Hanson had a two-stitch cut on his lip as a souvenir from his first-ever game on Friday.


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