Burke likes what he sees of rookie goalie

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:35 PM ET

He didn't kiss any babies or announce a trade, but Brian Burke was his usual forthright self when he met the masses at a downtown appearance yesterday.

The Maple Leafs general manager took part in a new-age press conference at Futureshop's flagship store, taking questions from long-suffering fans both in person and over the Internet.

And Burke had plenty to say about two new Leafs who have taken up much of the buzz this pre-season.

Specifically, he expects big things from goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who played an outstanding two periods last night in his Air Canada Centre debut. e has yet to surrender a goal in 60 minutes of pre-season play.

"Over time, I'll bet you it ends up being Gustavsson," Burke said when asked which of his off-season acquisitions may have the biggest impact. "I think Vesa Toskala is going to have something to say about that. I think he's going to have a real big year."

While Joey MacDonald was brought in for insurance and has had a strong camp in net, Burke strongly suggested that Gustavsson will be the backup.

Management expects Toskala to get between 55 and 60 starts, according to Burke, with Gustavsson getting the call for the remainder.

After a long summer of courting the lanky Swede, Burke finally got the chance to see the Monster in action in a Leafs uniform the past two nights.

"I thought he looked confident, big and quick," Burke said of Gustavsson who had minor heart surgery early in training camp. "I'm sure, for him, it was a relief to get some action."

REPEATING

As Burke and coach Ron Wilson must be getting tired of repeating, top draft pick Nazem Kadri isn't expected to be among the group that heads to Huntsville tomorrow night for a three-day pre-season retreat.

Kadri, who was second in team scoring with five points prior to last night, watched the game against the Red Wings from the Air Canada Centre press box.

"(Kadri) has had a great pre-season and he's going to be a great NHL player," Burke said. "I don't think he's physically mature yet. I expect it's probably 90% he goes back to junior. We expect great things from this young man, but maybe not this fall."

As for newly acquired sniper Phil Kessel, who has been skating the past couple of days, Burke said the former Bruin is well along in his recovery from shoulder surgery.

"He looks good," Burke said. "He is skating, he is shooting. He is on schedule or slightly ahead of schedule or mid November."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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