Watching the Leaf game on Wednesday night, two things were very apparent; Luca Caputi finally understands what he'll have to do to be a pro and Pierre Maguire says, "this guy gets it" way too often. This article is the sum of those parts.
Since the deal was made to acquire Caputi, I've really liked his skill set and size. There's no doubt about it, he's a talented guy. This talent has led him to be a highly productive AHL player but it seemed last season as though this talent wasn't going to be fully realized at the NHL level. It had nothing to do with skill and everything to do with mindset.
Caputi, despite his size, was playing soft. Brian Burke must have cringed as he watched how poor he was on the cycle and his reticence to drive to the net. Leaf fans jumped on Caputi quickly, calling for a demotion to the AHL.
In all of the turnover that occured with the Leafs' forward corps this offseason, Caputi was the forgotten man. We at BCP have been as guilty as anyone at omitting him in considerations of who should fill top six roles.
Caputi reminded us last night not to forget him.
He picked up a pair of points, which is nice, but it goes beyond that. Recall that Viktor Stalberg had an exceptional pre-season last year. We shouldn't get overly excited about points accrued in glorified scrimmages. What should excite us was the style.
Caputi was a different player last night. He was aggressive, he went to the net hard, he forced players off the puck. There were times where he looked like a man playing against boys (which was, at times, true given that it's the pre-season and all). This was the Caputi that Leaf fans were begging for.
Clark MacArthur was brought in to address our noticeable lack of depth at left-wing. Last night, despite being the third star of the game, MacArthur was our second best left-winger. With Kulemin undoubtedly starting the season on the top unit, the spots on the wing are becoming scarce on this team.
Versteeg's talent will place him solidly on a scoring unit and Kessel is a no-brainer. Kulemin is in based on the chemistry he had on the top line last season and Colby Armstrong's bloated contract will demand some heavy minutes. That puts both Caputi and MacArthur in the 'bottom six' - for now.
The truth is that while Wilson is trying to establish early chemistry this season, the lineup is destined to change. Bob McKenzie stated last night that the Leafs had a lot of forwards that were 2.5s. This mean that not much in the team's lineup card will be crystal - for Caputi, an opportunity.
If Luca keeps playing the game this way with his skills, he'll see some scoring line ice time this season. As Leaf fans, we have to hope this is his new mindset.
Very timely post. It will be an exceptional accomplishment if Caputi can play the whole season in the NHL at age 22. Only three of the forwards on the current Leaf roster (Kessel, Versteeg, and Kulemin) have accomplished this feat.
Second line LW? Hard to say. His play has to be absolutely convincing while MacArthur falls flat on his face. But, it may be worth while having Caputi as the third line Lw while easing in Sjostrom after his shoulder surgery.
Burke and Wilson may have a dilemma in choosing between Mueler and Caputi for this spot. But, you can't rule out Caputi "graduating" to the second line within one to two years. Oh yes, Jerry D'Amigo and Brad Ross are vying for the same future spot.
It is nice to see the talent funnel filling up with the right pieces. Sooner or later, some of these prospects will be traded for a first line forward.
I think there will be a lot of ebb and flow in our top six this year. We have a lot of ok players and only one very good one.
I also don't think MacArthur has to fail for Caputi to succeed. His contract is modest and moving him back when he's playing 'ok' and someone else is playing 'great' isn't all that unlikely.
I agree that it's exciting to see the promise of our farm system funneling up to the NHL. Hopefully someone breaks out!
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