Leafs notes: Joffrey Lupul finds a job in KHL

Locked out Leaf forward Joffrey Lupul has agreed to play in the KHL. (Michael Peake/QMI...

Locked out Leaf forward Joffrey Lupul has agreed to play in the KHL. (Michael Peake/QMI Agency/Files)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 PM ET

TORONTO - Getting the youngest of the locked-out Maple Leafs ice time is vital of course, but their best forward needs his game face on should a shortened season be played.

So it should be seen as good news for the club that left winger Joffrey Lupul is getting back in uniform for the first time since separating his shoulder in March — even if Brian Burke can’t comment.

Lupul will join KHL team Avtomobilist, a last-place outfit based in the southwestern Russian city of Yekaterinburg. He was the Leafs’ most consistent performer last season with 67 points in 66 games and right on the tail of fellow all-star game participant Phil Kessel in team scoring until the injury.

Lupul, 29, was a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy, recognizing perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey after returning from a career-threatening back injury a couple of years earlier.

“I’m shocked the lockout has gone on this long,” Lupul told the Toronto Sun in a phone interview Tuesday night from California. “But I’m a hockey player and I want to play. The KHL is the second-best league in the world, but really right now it is the best.”

Most of the Leafs’ projected top six forwards are now moonlighting during the lockout.

Mikhail Grabovski is with CKSA Moscow, with eight points in 12 games, while Nikolai Kulemin has five in 11 starts with Metallurg. Clarke MacArthur is just getting started on a second division team in Germany.

New Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk could join a Finnish team now that the lockout appears set to drag through November, but likely won’t get to play centre, where Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was thinking of trying him with Lupul and Kessel.

LEO LOVIN' T.O.

A lockout and a stint on the farm were not in Leo Komarov’s plans when the Finn made the move here. But Poulin has no reason to believe rumours Komarov will head back to the KHL if the lockout goes into the New Year.

“I can’t be 100% sure of a lot of things with all our players in a year like this,” Poulin said. “But I can tell you that right now he’s enjoying it, there’s a smile on his face and everyone on the team he’s touched is better for it.

“Our European scout Jari Gronstrand has built a nice relationship with him. He was ready to commit to North America.”

The 25-year-old Komarov played well with Joe Colborne and Carter Ashton in Toronto’s last game, a 5-4 win in Hamilton on Friday.

FRATTIN FIGHTIN' BACK

When Matt Frattin slammed heavily into an empty net on the goal that insured his team a spot in the Calder Cup final, it was the kind of play that showed why the tough winger could have made the jump from Ricoh permanently this month.

Unfortunately, that goal against Oklahoma City in last May’s conference final was Frattin’s last appearance of the 2012 playoffs, right to the present. He required major shoulder surgery and is only now cleared for contact with the Marlies.

It’s unlikely he’ll play as soon as this weekend’s two games in Abbotsford, B.C., but Toronto plays three-in-three against the AHL’s Texas teams the week after.

“It’s even noticeable in practice, how much he’s elevated his game,” said Maple Leafs vice-president of hockey operations Dave Poulin. “He’s worked out a lot in order to get back and has his legs working well.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Sixth-rounder Connor Brown is getting ice time with 15-year-old OHL sensation Connor McDavid in Erie. “Riding shotgun with a player like that is huge,” Poulin said ... Sam Carrick, a rookie pro squeezed out by the huge numbers of forwards with the Marlies, has a goal in four games with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads. That’s where ex-Marlies captain Ben Ondrus now plays ... The Leafs have high hopes for Minnesota- Duluth freshman forward Tony Cameranesi, who has two goals and an assist in six games ... Goalie Mark Owuya should get in his first game for the Marlies this weekend, while the Leafs look at finding the No. 3 man a spot somewhere in the ECHL.


Photos