This post is inspired by a piece put together over at Yakov Mironov. If you're not already reading his stuff, I'd encourage you to check him out - he does good work. You'll find a link in the blogroll.
In his piece, Yakov talks about his favorite (or at least most overvalued) Leaf prospect, Jerry D'Amigo. BCP has always been fond of recognizing when we have what might be an overly high opinion of someone (Man Crush, Man Crush II) and with this in mind I'll begin talking about Marcel Mueller.
Marcel Mueller is a big forward at 6'3" and 220 lbs. Having just turned 22, he's also young and still developing. Last season in the DEL he picked up 56 points in 53 games making him the second leading scorer on his team. He was also +11 which ranked 4th on the team.
With Mueller, as with most undrafted European free agents, the development has occured recently and rapidly. Perhaps most exciting, Mueller picked up a total of four points at the World Championships and the Olympics on a German team that was far from offensively dynamic. Moreover, his strong showing against the highest level of competition suggests that he might be ready to make the jump to the NHL sooner rather than later.
Where should he play?
If Mueller were to make the jump to the NHL, I doubt he'd be a liability. He's a good two way player and doesn't appear to be prone to the big mistakes that you'll often see from rookies. Perhaps equally important, he doesn't try to do too much with the puck. He understands the cycle game and doesn't mind being the retriever on dump ins.
Marcel Mueller is a lot like...
In a way, he looks a lot like Luca Caputi. His size and position (LW) have led to frequent comparisons between the two players which makes sense as their skill sets are fairly similar as well. The trouble with the comparison is that they play the game differently. Caputi has shown some reluctance to use his size during his time as a Leaf and doesn't have the same prowess in the defensive zone as Mueller.
The better comparison, as I argued when the Leafs first picked him up, is Nikolai Kulemin. He has a little way to go until he gets to where Kulemin is but their styles are similar and their skill sets aren't all that different. Neither will blow you away with their speed or their shot but both of them are passable with each. They're solid two-way wingers that finish checks and win puck battles.
Where does Mueller fit in the lineup?
Burke has said that he expects Mueller to start the season in the AHL but that it's "up to him". I expect that at some point this season we see both Mueller and Kadri in the NHL which would ideally put Mueller on a third line with Colby Armstrong and Mikhail Grabovski. That's a third line I can get excited about.
So that's more or less why I really like Marcel Mueller. He doesn't have the top end potential that a Tyler Bozak does but he projects to be a decent second line player or a very good third liner. I expect he'll see some time on the Leafs this year and will likely even get some reps on the penalty kill. Can't wait to see how he does in camp and I hope he proves me right.