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It's August. We're beyond speculating on free agency, but not quite ready for predictions on the upcoming season. So what do we do? Speculate on the state of the franchise, especially it's future. Jesse Blacker is a part of that future. Here's what Kyle Cicerella had to say about the young defenseman:

When he was in the line-up, the 2009, second-round selection brought stability to the Marlies’ second D-unit and showed he was progressing at a smooth pace after a successful junior year guiding the Owen Sound Attack to a Memorial Cup appearance. After proving with the Attack he had an offensive side to his game, he used his first pro season to work towards becoming a better two-way blue liner.

"I think that’s an ongoing thing," said Blacker about becoming an all-around defenceman. "Maturing my game is the main thing I want to work on (now) and experience is the best thing to do that."

Blacker missed 28 games due to various niggling injuries throughout the season but finished third among Marlies defenders in scoring. If there is an NHL training camp this year, Blacker would be in competition with Korbinian Holzer for the 7th defenseman spot on the Leafs.

More links after the jump...

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Prospect season in review

MLHS chats with Dave Morrison

NHL negotiations take a tense turn

NY Times with the latest on the CBA talks