Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bozak Joins The Frat Pack In Toronto

(above) Viktor Stalberg (U. of Vermont), Tyler Bozak (DU) & Christian Hansen (Notre Dame) form the Frat Pack in Toronto


First there was the Rat Pack. Then there was the Brat Pack.

And now...the Frat Pack?

That would be the self-proclaimed title for Maple Leafs prospects Christian Hanson, Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg - three NCAA products born in 1986, all three of whom have been dazzling head coach Ron Wilson thus far, playing on a line together in the pre-season.

Wilson tried something different on Wednesday, and split up the line for Wednesday's exhibition game against the Buffalo Sabres. He could be seeing how well they can perform apart from one another, but the presence of the Frat Pack has already been established in camp and has raised plenty of eyebrows.

"It's just fun that people care, I guess, and notice us out there," said Stalberg. "What our name is doesn't really matter - it's pretty irrelevant right now. We're trying to make a case for us playing up in the big leagues this year, so if people notice us out there that's a good thing."

The trio has also been living together in Toronto and that off-ice bond likely doesn't hurt when it comes to gelling on the ice.

"I think we've been able to find good chemistry right off the bat," said Bozak. "We've played well together just kind of using our speed and trying to read off each other."

While they seem to have plenty in common, the 23-year-olds were all born in different countries and played for different teams in college.

It's well known that Christian is the son of Dave Hanson, one of the three famed Hanson brothers from the 1977 cult favourite hockey flick "Slap Shot". Hanson spent his college time at Notre Dame and appeared in five games with the blue and white last season.

Bozak, the 6'1" Regina native, came out of the University of Denver and was signed to an entry-level contract with Toronto back in April. He has a goal and two assists in three exhibition games.

Stalberg, a 6'3" Swede who was selected 161st overall by the Leafs in the 2006 Entry Draft, came out of the University of Vermont and was a First Team All-American in 2009. He has two goals and an assist along with 12 shots in four pre-season games.

And it hasn't taken the trio long to figure out how to play to the strengths of each man.

"I think we're finding each other pretty well out there on the ice," said Stalberg. "We complement each other pretty well. Hanson is a big guy who does a lot of the dirty work in the corners, Tyler is obviously a great playmaker, and I try to contribute with my speed and get some goals."

So here's the dilemma for the Leafs' brass: it's a pretty full house right now. With veteran players like Matt Stajan, Alex Ponikarovsky and Jason Blake, plus Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski, and new addition Phil Kessel, there isn't much breathing room in the forward department.

On top of that, the Leafs have several more forwards who could be floating on the bubble, including Jiri Tlusty, John Mitchell, Lee Stempniak and Nikolai Kulemin.

With all those things considered, none of the Frat Pack members are guaranteed a spot when the final cuts are made. Wilson has said he will be making some cuts over the weekend, but confirmed that if the line remains intact, it won't be at the NHL level - for now.

"We want to see different people, in the event that one of them did make the team. We're not going to have all three," said Wilson.

Either way, it's likely good news to Wilson and GM Brian Burke that they'll have plenty of depth to call upon if the team happens to be plagued by injury during the season.


puck swami said...

From the sounds of Wilson's post game press conferences, I don't think any of the the "Frat Pack" is going to make the big club out of training camp. I think they want to get these guys some AHL development time and call them up as injuries and performance warrants.

Anonymous said...

Did y'all see that Bozak made ESPNs top plays of the week TWICE last week? Once at #7 and once at #2??? For preseason hockey??? Someone at ESPN is a PIO!!

Trev said...

The Frat Pack? really? Marketing fail.

Amy said...

I hope Bozak makes the team. He's shown some really great potential through scoring, specialty teams, play-making, and even the defensive play he made yesterday night.

Anonymous said...

You're forgetting about former UMass forward Alex Berry. OK, fine, but I gotta try to get my alma mater out there.