TORONTO- After playing four seasons of junior with the Portland Winterhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Brad Ross feels it’s time to turn pro.
“Yeah, I think I’ve done all I can do in junior so far, said Ross. “It’s been good years there, I love the coaching staff and the guys but I think it’s time to move on.”
In his last season with Portland, Ross put up a career best 42 goals in just 68 games to help guide his club to 102 points and a spot in the WHL final for the second straight time.
He followed up the regular season, one that had him finish Top-20 in both points (82) and penalty minutes (163), with 22 points in 22 playoff games. He also added 57 more penalty minutes in the post season, which led all skaters.
“I had a good year last year and that’s what I want to build off of and try to bring to the Leafs, Marlies or whoever it is,” said the 20-year-old.
In his four years as a Winterhawk, the 6’1 190 pound winger matured from the guy who protected teammates to a player who can score goals and agitate an opponent at the same time.
He crossed the line sometimes, as shown by five league suspensions varying from fighting altercations to boarding majors, but continued to develop and produce more points in each season he played.
In all, the Lethbridge, Alberta native scored 109 goals, 245 Points and 656 penalty minutes with Portland in 270 career games.
“Towards the early part of my junior career I was more of a fighter, helped protect guys like Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter and put up some points,” said Ross. “The end I stepped up offensively and I was more of a leader on my team. Still went out and agitated, fought, played my role. Hopefully I can do that in the pros.”
Ross isn’t afraid to stand up to anyone on the ice and sometimes gets the best of his opponents simply by the way he approaches the game.
“I stick around the net,” he said. “I don’t think I scored one pretty goal all year, it was all around the crease.”
For much of the summer, the 2010 second-round selection has been training in Toronto with Leafs’ staff including strength and conditioning coach Anthony Belza and skating consultant Barbara Underhill.
If this was a normal off season Ross would be working towards training camp in the fall, with a pro spot on Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies a likely destination to start the season.
However, with the CBA negotiations still far from being settled their is a chance he could be sent back to junior as an over-ager.
“I’ll be down here focusing on what I have to do and when things settle down and I know what’s happening I’ll do what they say,” said Ross about all the uncertainty of the next NHL season. “It’s not my choice, whatever the organization feels to do with me I’ll do it and be happy doing it, whether its Marlies or junior.”
Portland opens their training camp on August 23rd and Ross says he won’t be in attendance.
It’s possible that he may not know where his future lies until September 15th when the NHL lockout potentially takes effect.
Until then, Ross will just have to keep working out, and wonder.
“I’m really curious to see what the pros are like.”