BOSTON — There were so many kids in the Maple Leafs locker room Thursday, it was like being in the company of a junior A team.
Of the 20 players slated to dress Thursday for Toronto against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden, 10 are 25 years old or younger. The youth movement is especially evident up front, where seven of the 12 forwards have yet to reach their 26th birthday.
All in all, there will be five rookies in coach Ron Wilson’s lineup.
But the housecleaning conducted by general manager Brian Burke and his staff is much more than just a youth movement. It is very much a case of “out with the old, in with the new.”
Sure, Tomas Kaberle is still around, having played 800 career games in blue-and-white. But do you know who is the second-longest serving Leaf in terms of tenure?
Hands up, those who guessed Nikolai Kulemin, who has suited up for the Leafs 131 times.
Ranking third is defenceman Luke Schenn, who has played 129 games. The same guy who was drafted by the Leafs just 21 months ago. The same guy who is all of 20 years old.
“I think there are only five guys still left from when I first joined the team (for the 2008-09 season),” Schenn said.
“There is no question the position we are in (in the standings) is not fun. At the same time this is an opportunity for a lot of the young guys.”
This much is certain: You won’t be able to identify these Leafs without a program.
J-S Giguere, one of the few greybeards at age 32, will start in goal for Toronto while Tim Thomas gets the call for the Bruins.
Former Leafs farmhand Tuukka Rask is day-to-day with a lower body injury for the Bruins, while forward Patrice Bergeron also is out after suffering a groin injury for Team Canada at the Olympics.
Phil Kessel-Tyler Bozak-Nikolai Kulemin
John Mitchell-Christian Hanson-Luca Caputi
Jamie Lundmark-Rickard Wallin-Freddie Sjostrom
Colton Orr-Wayne Primeau-Viktor Stalberg
Francois Beauchemin-Dion Phaneuf
Tomas Kaberle-Carl Gunnarsson
Garnet Exelby-Luke Schenn
Daniel Paille-Marc Savard-Mark Recchi
Blake Wheeler-David Krejci-Michael Ryder
Miro Satan-Vladimir Sobotka-Marco Sturm
Milan Lucic-Steve Begin-Sean Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Hunwick-Dennis Wideman
Andrew Ference-Mark Stuart