April 13, 2011
The breakout player of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs has to be Sudbury Wolves right wing Joshua Leivo, the one-time 11th-round selection who is merely the leading rookie scorer. That makes him an intriguing case as far as prospect status is concerned. Leivo, who is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds and had two points Tuesday as the Wolves stuck with MasterCard Memorial Cup-host Mississauga for two-plus periods, wasn't ranked by NHL Central Scouting for the entry draft, which was a "mega-surprise" to observers such as Brock Otten at OHL Prospects.
Numbers aren't everything but Leivo has 13 points in the playoffs, ahead of potential first- and second-round NHL picks Alexander Khokhlachev, Nicklas Jensen and Lucas Lessio. Fortunately for us, Gene Pereira chronicled Leivo's emergence, which began over the second half of the season:
One only has to watch the performance of Innisfil native Joshua Leivo in this year's playoffs to know the Wolves extracted themselves a real nice find in the 11th round of the 2009 Ontario Hockey League draft.
"Oh yeah, I'd say," Wolves head coach Trent Cull said, adding a chuckle. "He's one of my top-line players, so any time you get a player like that later on, I'd say it's a little bit of luck, but you have to have some knowledge of your players and he's come out of nowhere to do great stuff for us."
This isn't the first time the Wolves struck it big in the 11th round. It was only seven years ago they selected a winger by the name of Benoit Pouliot with the same pick in the 2002 OHL draft. Pouliot blossomed into a junior star and went on to be selected fourth overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. (Barrie Examiner)
Talk about an omen. It's also a credit to how Cull, the first-year Wolves coach, was patient with bringing Leivo along before placing him with left wing Andrey Kuchin and San Jose Sharks prospect Michael Sgarbossa, a trio which is each sharp-witted enough to make plays at high speed.
"He wanted me to grind it out," Leivo said of what Cull asked of him early on. "(Cull) knew I could score goals. He gave me a shot at the beginning of the year and I started off slow, trying to get used to the league. He bumped me down but he knew I could do it, so he bumped me back up and ever since then I've shown him what I can do."
One thing Leivo certainly got plenty of in his rookie season was ice time. With a young squad and injuries playing a factor early on, Cull leaned on his young winger and he wasn't disappointed.
The Wolves will be hard-pressed to avoid being eliminated by the Majors late Wednesday, trailing 3-0 coming into Game 4. Still, they've played their way into being talked about as a contender in the OHL's Eastern Conference next season, depending on how they shore up their defence and replace graduating overage Alain Valiquette in goal.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. (Photo: OHL Images.)