Leafs impress German prospect

Maple Leafs prospect Matthias Plachta takes part in a rookie scrimmage Wednesday at the MasterCard...

Maple Leafs prospect Matthias Plachta takes part in a rookie scrimmage Wednesday at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto, Ont. Plachta is one of three youngsters from Germany trying to earn a spot in the Leafs' main rookie camp in September. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

TORONTO - Ten or 15 years ago, when Mats Sundin was captain, the Maple Leafs were Sweden’s favourite NHL team.

Now, the Leafs could make some inroads in Germany. After forward Marcel Mueller and defenceman Korbinian Holzer had a chance to make an impression here last season with the Leafs and Marlies, three more German players have been invited to the club’s prospects camp at the MasterCard Centre.

For now, defenceman Florian Kettemer and forwards Matthias Plachta and Martin Buchwieser are enjoying just a little taste of North America and NHL. They are undrafted and not near the class of the bigger and more-seasoned Mueller and Holzer.

“This is my first time in Canada and the rink is so small,” Kettemer said Thursday. “But (after three days) it’s no problem. I’ve played well (his team is 2-0 in the scrimmage tournament). I want to show up and use my shot.

“I don’t know any friends on the ice and it’s been very hard work, but it’s fun.”

The trio plays in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Kettemer and Plachta with Adler Mannheim, Buchwieser with Munich. Toronto’s European scout, Joe Gibbs, arranged for the tryouts as part of an exchange program that Mannheim and the Marlies began last season. Luca Caputi and Simon Gysbers went to Mannheim’s training camp in August before the Leafs convened in September and pro scouts Rob Cowie and coach Derek King have visited, too.

Mannheim head coach Harold Kreis has worked the Leafs prospects camp and Alex Andjelic, a skills coach from the Netherlands, is back again for this session.

“We bring some guys over and let them see some different things,” said Jim Hughes, Toronto’s director of player personnel. “All three of the (German players) are doing a great job.”

Buchwieser stands just 5-foot-10, but is stocky, while six-footers Kettemer and Plachta have not looked out of place with North American linemates.

“It’s impressive how the Leafs work,” Kettemer said. “It’s a big team, that’s known worldwide. It was a great chance to show up here and I want to use that.

“The city is nice and friendly and so are the people. I like the CN Tower, walking downtown, the MasterCard arena and the locker room, Someone told me a lot of German-speaking people live around here (in Kitchener-Waterloo).”

The kids conclude the four-day gathering on Thursday. The most impressive of the undrafted players will likely get an invite to Toronto’s rookie camp in September.


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