It's time for the first installment of the Battle of Ontario. It may only be the pre-season but each team has a large core of NHLers especially on the backend.
With Wellwood out for the start of the season Steen has a great opportunity to make his mark on the top two lines. Whether it's as a centreman on the second line or as the other winger on Mats will depend on his performance in the next five games.
Based on Antro's performance thus far this pre-season I'd rather have him stick on the wing with Blake and Sundin as they have been a handful to control and have a good mix of speed, size and hands.
Plus, Antropov has shown some good chemistry with Mats that he has had trouble replicating with other centremen on the Leafs.
Steen is not the only player that will stand to benefit from Wellwood's absence. There are a trio of players that will be vying for the 12th forward spot: Simon Gamache, Jiri Tlusty, and John Pohl.
Gamache and Pohl are very similar players both in stature (although Gamache is the smaller one) and game. Both play an all-action game with decent enough hands. They are in tough in that they straddle the Mike Fisher territory: good enough to play the 3rd/4th line effectively but not enough to handle a spot on the second line.
Tlusty, of course, is the star forward of the future. He had an injury-plagued season but when he played he used his large frame and soft hands to post over a point a game with the OHL's Soo Greyhounds. He's definitely a long-shot to take the last spot but he will benefit greatly from a full season at the AHL level with the Marlies.
Jason Blake - Mats Sundin - Alex Steen
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Matt Stajan - Jiri Tlusty
Ben Ondrus - John Pohl - Simon Gamache
Bates Battaglia - Nathan Perrott - Kris Newbury
Bryan McCabe - Andy Wozniewski
Tomas Kaberle - Pavel Kubina
Hal Gill - Ian White
Andrew Raycroft - Starting