by Tyler Hill… Over the course of the year, the Leafs have played a number of rookies. Some were call-ups from the AHL Marlies that got the chance to shine or were given their big break.
The Leafs have made a few bad moves, trading Draft picks and prospects away.
But after seeing a few of the current crop of youngsters, I have decided to focus on a positive (I know, very unlike me). Here’s the top five Leafs prospects in the system!
Don’t be alarmed if you’ve never heard of half these guys. It’s to be expected.
Alex Berry: 6′2″, 212 lbs., 23 years old
He’s a big guy and knows it; he uses his size to his advantage. He could be a third line guy, primarily serving as a checker.
But that’s not to say he doesn’t know how to contribute to the offense. Indeed, he has 30 points playing in Massachusetts.
He recently signed a two-year entry-level contract which will see him with the Marlies for the remainder of the season, and I’m sure at some point next year we will see him in the bigs playing for the Leafs.
Viktor Stalberg: 6′4″, 208 lbs., 23 years old
Never heard of him? I’m not surprised. He was drafted 166th overall in 2006 by a man all Leafs fans love, John Ferguson, Jr. When he was taken, he may have been regarded as a crap pick, a “best-of-the-worst” kind of guy.
But this year, the big kid is breaking out. Playing for the University of Vermont, Stalberg is in serious consideration for the Hobey Baker Award.
In his first two years, he had a total of only 17 goals. He has 22 already in 2008-09. He will one day be a top-six player in the Leafs’ lineup.
Chris DiDomenico: 5′11″, 165 lbs., 20 years old
I think most of you are familiar with DiDomenico, who played with the Canadian Juniors and won gold this past year. With his junior team, St. John of the QMJHL, he has 34 points, 23 of which are assists.
In my opinion, he’ll be a great complementary center to the man I rank No. 1 on this list.
Two speedy youngsters, a playmaker and goal scorer, will make the perfect combo in the “new” NHL and will be great together in Toronto in the near future.
Dale Mitchell: 5′9″, 207 lbs., 20 years old
Currently playing for Windsor in the OHL, he has 68 points in 66 games and has compiled a plus-24 mark.
But beyond his numbers, Mitchell proved that speed is his main weapon in his first few seasons with the Oshawa Generals. He was hands-down the fastest on that squad.
This guy will fit perfectly with the new Maple Leafs, who are quick and youthful.
Greg Scott: 6′0″, 178 lbs., 20 years old
If you’ve never heard of Greg Scott, then listen up. In 65 games with the WHL’s Seattle club, the kid has 76 points on 38 goals!
Last year, he had 32 points total, but this season, he has shown much improvment. He plays right wing, which is a position that needs addressing for the Leafs.
Scott could carry the Leafs offense now, and certainly will later.
So there you have them: the guys I think will be most vital to the Leafs future. But this is just me, and I’m not always right.
Who do you think should be on this list? What guys have your attention? Let me know, leave a comment.
Note: For people that say I’m too heavy on stats and goals, guess what? That’s all that really matters nowadays. Stats are your friend. Enforcers aren’t top priorities anymore.
Well, Leafs fans, congratulations! We are now the most pathetic asshole fans in the league.
In Tuesday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, Justin Pogge made his home ice debut at the NHL level. It was only Pogge’s fourth NHL game and it was, unfortunately, against the Sabres, who are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference.
How was our 22-year-old goalie welcomed to Toronto ice? By a series of jeers and sarcastic cheers whenever he made an easy save.
I am absolutely disgusted as a Leafs fan. I am embarrassed to be a Leafs fan, and I’m ashamed of my fellow “fans” who thought this was acceptable. A 22-year-old in his fourth game had this done to him by these “fans” that are supposed to be supporting him.
How the hell is his confidence supposed to grow when his fans are doing that to him? You cannot be a successful goalie in this league without confidence.
Fact is, the Leafs are rebuilding now. So what exactly do these people want from Pogge? A goalie with as little experience as he has needs support from his team, mainly defense (which the Leafs don’t have), to play well. Even goalies with experience need support from their teams.
Toronto fans are going to ruin Justin Pogge’s career in the NHL, or at least drive him to another team, where he will become one of the best goalies in the league. Why? Because the fans in another city will give him room to develop into the goalie he should be…and is completely capable of being in Toronto, if these fans will get off his back and let him play the game, instead of being such assholes to the kid.
Leafs fans at this game or that participated in this jeers at home (if you were doing this at home, get a life, because no one can hear you) should be disgusted with themselves. In no way at all was this helping Pogge to become a better player for the future when we really need a goalie to lead us to and through the playoffs.
So, to you “fans,” congratulations. You have really shown your true colors to the world of hockey. Your performance the other night was an embarrassment to any self-respecting and true hockey fan.
I think most Leaf fans are now at the point where they can let go of this season, if they hadn’t already done so that is. We knew at the beginning of the year the Leafs were not going to be cup contenders, but as fans we held on to any hope and cheered for the team as we still, moronically, wanted wins.
Well here we are now! It’s the middle of February and the Leafs sit with 52 points (11th in the East) which is one point less than the 14th and 15thplaced St.Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference.
If the season ended today, the Leafs would be sitting with the fifth overall pick (for the sake of simplifying this article let us pretend the Draft Lottery doesn’t exist, which it shouldn’t. I know a certain team, Pittsburgh, ended up with two first overall and two second overall picks in four years, but if a team is so bad that after that many bad years with such good picks they still suck, maybe they need more picks…but that’s just me).
Fitfh overall pick isn’t that bad of a place, however the season doesn’t end today and knowing the Leafs, it’s right about time for them to start playing well and winning games, which will give them a nice 11th overall, or so.
In the east, teams that sit behind the Maple leafs are the Ottawa Senators (50pts), the Tampa Bay Lightning (49pts), the Atlanta Thrashers (45pts), and the Islanders with uhm…38pts.
So as you can see the Leafs can very easily move up a few places, if they were to lose their next game and if Ottawa and Tampa were to win their next two. The Leafs would then move up two slots in the draft and would be trailing only the Thrashers and Islanders. However, I’m not good with math or stats so i won’t go into the numbers too much here.
Any fan that starts a season, in October or even September, with the idea that his team needs to lose, is not a true fan, nor is he/she any kind of fan for that matter. I have held on to hope for awhile now, but I recognize when it’s time to throw in the towel and call it quits.
Before we get too far ahead of the few teams behind us and have not enough time to give up and have it actually make a difference, the Leafs have to do something now.
If things in the west keep panning out the way they have been so far we won’t have to worry about them interfering with the Leafs’ plan of action in the late stages of the season. Although, it is sad that you can be 11th in the east and still be behind all the teams in the west.
Brian Burke and Ron Wilson will hopefully go into the Leafs’ locker room and say, “Hey! You know, I think we are all aware of where we stand this season; we should all be able to realize that we don’t have to go out and give it 100 percent every night anymore. Let’s just try and lay low for the rest of the season”. Play well, but not well enough to win, the Leafs need a good draft pick to help them in the long run, not solid play right now for a short term high.
Go for someone that will make a difference two or three years down the road. They have Luke Schenn now, but add some offense to the team and pick up John Tavares or Luke Schenn’s brother Braydon. Or build up the blue-line even more and add Victor Hedman to the line-up. These moves will bring strength and stability to the Leafs future.
So, to close, the Leafs need to realize where they are and what their situation is. They need to do what almost all fans have realized the Leafs needs to be done. They need to do the best thing for the team in the long run and give up the fact that this year is not going to happen. I hope all fans and the Leafs’ management know and accept that.
Toronto Maple Leafs fans have heard the name Jason Blake tossed around more and more as the trade deadline nears.
The 35-year-old veteran winger is stirring up a lot of trade talk in the past few weeks with his constant stellar play and the debate over whether he should be shipped out of Toronto for a young prospect or draft pick.
Those against the trade say he is more valuable in Toronto for his skill and role as a mentor to the younger guys on the team.
The fact of the matter is Jason Blake is old, too old to be on a team rebuilding. The Leafs can use him best to gain assets for the future.
Now is the perfect time for a trade, with Blake on pace for a 30-goal season (which would be only the second time in his career he hit the 30-goal mark). He surely is attractive to a team that could use a good veteran presence in the playoff push or as another weapon for a finals-bound team needing help to win the Cup.
If you were the one in control, if you were the one to decide Blake future in Toronto, what would you do? Give him to a team that is a contender, one that thinks that within the next four years they could win the Cup. Trade for a draft pick or a young prospect.
When I say prospect, I don’t mean a player who has been compared to Sidney or Ovie or any of those guys. I’m just thinking about a guy who can contribute every night, maybe score 20 goals a season. Someone reliable for the Leafs roster.
We don’t need a superstar and I don’t expect one. Jason Blake isn’t going draw trade talks for Malkin, Stamkos, or Kane, and he doesn’t have to. They just need someone that can make their presence felt and let you know they mean business.
Some don’t want to see Blake leave because in the past months they have fallen in love with the scoring “machine” he has become. But that is not in the best interest of the team as a whole, neither now or in the future.
Need further proof? After this season, Blake’s payout on his contract goes down. Any GM not on board with that needs their head examined.
Right off the bat I want to make clear that I’m not flipping on my previous feelings for Pogge. I’m not going to say he’s a terrible goalie because of the last game, so don’t jump down my throat for writing this.
As many of us may recall, some weeks ago Justin Pogge played in his first official NHL game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In that game he collected his first win and received praise from the Leafs’ large fanbase.
He won—if I remember correctly—6-2 against the usually subpar Atlanta Thrashers, and I thought at the time he had proved he was ready for the NHL.
After the last game, I still think he is ready. I will not fall into the majority of Leafs fans who will likely say, “He sucks! He got lucky in the first game.”
Despite the last game 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, I still believe that Pogge is a solid goaltender; every goalie has a bad game here and there.
True, he may have been lucky in the Atlanta game, but he still showed in that game, and even at times in the last game, that he can make big saves and hold his team in the game (Holding his team in doesn’t apply so much to the Minny game).
The one thing we, as fans, can’t forget is that Pogge is still young, and even younger when it comes to NHL experience. He has only two games under his belt and I’m sure by the time I wake up tomorrow and have published this, there will be enough stories on the major sports networks about how Pogge isn’t ready for the NHL and needs to be sent down to make your head spin.
Well, guess what? He isn’t ready, but keeping him in the minors isn’t going to help him any more. The only way for Pogge to improve is for Ron Wilson to give him more games at the NHL level.
You know what they say: Practice makes perfect. However, a 15-year-old doesn’t practice with 12-year-olds to get better—he plays with people his own age. You can play one level all your life and be the best player on the team, but if you move up a level you could be just an average Joe.
Pogge needs to move up now while he can still develop quickly. Ron Wilson is definitely smart enough to realize this himself—I just hope he can make up his mind about how many games he will give Pogge before the end of the season.
So fellow Leafs fans, give Pogge a break before you decide to drive him out of Toronto. He is good, he just needs time to adjust and get to know the team in front of him.
Give him some credit—he’s come into a team that isn’t really trying at this point and has been asked by fans and possibly staff members to give it up at this point.
Trying to make a name for yourself in that situation can be tough.
by Tyler Hill… In Part One, I covered the forwards I thought needed to be included, and now, in Part Two, I’m looking towards the defensive end, which includes the guys between the pipes. Enough talk—let’s go!
Finger signed a big contract with the Leafs during the off-season, and it definitely raised a few eyebrows. Although Finger may not be living up to the hefty contract he signed over the summer, he is still playing well with the Leafs and has been a solid defenseman for them. He’s gritty and tough, and that’s what the Leafs need.
Brian Burke’s acquisition of Brad May shows he wants grit too. I’m sure he wants to keep any grit he already has on the roster. Besides, who wants Finger’s $3.5m contract anyway?
More rumours surround this guy than that one girl from your high school. Well, maybe not, but there is at least one rumour that Kubina could be involved in a trade with Nik Antropov.
When I wrote Part One I didn’t think Antropov was going to be traded, but after a few comments, I realized getting Antropov out with Kubina might not be a bad idea. They’re starting to age and likely won’t get much better.
This 31-year-old defenseman has been improving his game in Toronto in the last few months, and if they want to get rid of him, now is the time to do it. A team that needs a solid defenseman to help make a playoff run might jump at the chance to grab Kubina, and I don’t think Mr. Burke would hesitate to pull the trigger.
Young, talented, on a two-way contract, and he is already one of the Leafs’ top D-men. The most important word here was young. The Leafs are rebuilding, and to get rid of a young player with so much potential would be ridiculous! There is no way Stralman is going!
Mike Van Ryan:
After 40-some odd games, Van Ryan has only played 17 games this season. I haven’t really noticed him on the ice myself, but he has nine points and is a +2, so in the few games that he’s played he must be doing something right. However, I’m sure on deadline day Burke will be on the phone trying to move him, but the chances of that happening are slim.
Want to move him, but won’t be able to.
He has been moved up to the wing a few times this year and is currently sporting a very fashionable 1970s hockey mustache. Aside from that, White has played 36 games and is a +4 with 12 points; not bad if you ask me. He won’t be leaving anytime soon, not because he’s a valuable piece to the team and not because he has an inflated contact, but simply because he just isn’t on the urgent agenda.
At Joseph’s age, where are you going to trade him? No one wants a 41-year-old washed up backup goalie. It just wouldn’t be logical for someone to trade for him. The Leafs are better off keeping him and sticking with him until the end of the season. Make him a healthy scratch a few times and have Pogge come up and play a few games; that way Pogge will be ready for next year.
He’s looked shaky for a bit now, and he seems to be slowly improving, but it would be a hard choice. At the start of the season he was seen as the Leafs’ building block, and there could be no way I or anyone else could see him being traded, but now it’s more of a trade him while he’s still worth something kind of deal.
I really have no clue what the Leafs will do with Vesa on March 4. If they hold on to him hoping he returns to his former self, they could strike gold, or it could all come crashing down.
Well, there you go. If anyone wants to know why some people were not included on the list, it is because I did not feel the need to include them, i.e. John Mitchell is not a big part of the team, so I passed on him. However if there is an uproar or demand I will publish one with all the players I skipped, just to make you feel better.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed!
No doubt there were many changes for the Leafs over the off-season. New faces came in to begin the “first” year of the Leafs rebuilding process, while many fan favourites left to make cap room, and to make room for some younger guys.
However, this article isn’t about what the Leafs did over the off-season, but rather about the changes that might come at trade-deadline day.
Although the day is set for March 4th, which is well over a month away, I say, why not start now? Distance in time has never stopped me before; I did write an article about the (2009) draft back in September. So here we go; who stays, who goes?
Nik Antropov: A few rumours surround this leafs, such as he may be involved in a package deal with Kubina. Despite the rumour, I don’t see Antropov going anywhere. He’s the top guy and one of the best leaders on the ice. It may have taken him longer to grow into the player he was expected to be, but now he is one of the guys they can build around in the future. Stays!
Jason Blake: I, myself would like to see Blake stay in Toronto. I think he is a skilled player, but since coming to Toronto he hasn’t been playing the way people thought he was going to play unfortunately. Now that Brian Burke is the Leafs GM, older guys, especially the ones that aren’t contributing to the team on a regular basis, will have no place in the Leaf locker room. Going.
Grabovski/Hagman: They just came in this season. Both are playing well and there is no reason to trade them at this time. Therefore, it likely will not happen. Stay.Ryan Hollweg: If Brian Burke has any sense at all, he will trade Hollweg. Since he came to Toronto, all he has managed to do is show us how much of an idiot he is. The total of games he was suspended this season is greater than his point total, which happens to be two. People say he brings grit, but they are wrong. He’s worse than Sean Avery, at least Avery can put the puck in the net on occasion. Going!
Jamal Myers: He may only have a few more points than Hollweg, but at least he hasn’t been suspended and hasn’t made himself look like a complete moron. Myers is all the grit we need (well…Brad May might help). Myers is a fighter and is here to stick up for teammates, aside from that he has some skating ability and jumps in on the rush. Myers is helpful in the corners; he is big and not afraid to go in hard on the puck. He has the ability to be a leader and will be an important part of the team. Stay
Dominic Moore: Some thought he was washed up when he came to Toronto, but since arriving in the city his game has improved and he looks rejuvenated and speedy on the ice. He has 23 points in 45 games which is about a point every second game, good enough for a second or third liner. Stay
Alexei Ponikarovsky: One of Toronto’s few Star players. He has 30 points through 45 games and the Leafs would be struggling (more than they are) without him. The only way Poni would leave is if they get a descent player and a draft pick in return for him. It is unlikely any GM will give up that much for him. Staying
Matt Stajan: Impressive young talent Stajan is becoming a valuable member of the Leafs, not only as a player on the ice, but, perhaps as a piece of trade bait later on. To a team that wants a skilled young forward to bring speed to the line-up Stajan may not be safe from a trade at the deadline. Possibly going.
Lee Stempniak: When he came to the Leafs no one knew of him and now a month later!…they still don’t? Stempniak hasn’t done, well, anything really. I expected him to be one of the hard working guys and that is great on the back check and fore-check. On occasion, Stempniak has done so but more often than not, he seems to be lagging and hardly noticeable on the ice. However, I think he may get a second chance from Brian Burke. Staying
Thus concludes the forwards, later in the week I will be making a similar list for defenseman. My original intention was to include the entire team, but due to the lack of available time I was forced to cut this short and I am unsure when I will be able to write the follow up to this.
by Tyler Hill… Has Justin Pogge not spent enough time “developing” in with AHL Toronto Marlies? Or, has he not proven himself a capable NHL goaltender?
Maybe the Leafs want to save him for next year, so they can use him the whole year and also get a decent draft pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
I’m not sure what the reason is, but it seems that for some reason the Leafs, either do not want Pogge to play this year, or they refuse to believe that their young prospect is ready for the NHL.
Pogge has clearly proven—in his debut against Atlanta—that he is fully capable of playing at the NHL level. Not only can he play, but, he can play well. If given the right opportunity may even be able to steal a game or two.
Toronto’s management must realize that at some point he will no longer be their “young prospect”, but rather, their 30-year-old (NHL ready) goalie still playing in the AHL (ring any bells, Boston?). Some cases have shown that, holding a goalie in the AHL until he’s in his 30’s might not ruin him.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t recommend it, in Toronto’s case—or any team for that matter. Except Montreal; they have enough goalies running in and out of that city.
Anyway, Justin Pogge is clearly ready now! Why are the Maple Leafs wasting their time waiting for Vesa Toskala to return to his form!?
They need to trade Toskala while they can still get something decent for him. By the time they realize he has to go, the rest of the league will be caught up in the reading (as in being on the same page). Thus, no one else will want him either.
They may still be able to get rid of him, but for what? A third-round draft pick? I don’t think so, they might as well keep him if that’s all they’re going to get for him.
The best way to go for the Leafs is to get rid of Toskala as soon as possible, then bring up Pogge and Play him against a few tougher teams than the Thrashers. Get him some games so he can develop from an AHL goalie into a NHL goalie.
He needs to play against teams other than just the weak ones. Doing so is the only way he can reach his full potential. My co-host from Leafs This Week seems to think that the best way to go is to play him against weak teams to build his confidence.
All that will do is build him up for a horrible demolition when he plays a team with some real fire power.
You know the saying, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Pogge plays against weak teams and wins a lot of game then he will become “bigger,” but if he is put into a game against a team such as Detroit or Boston he will “fall harder.”
Keeping Pogge in the AHL and playing him against weak teams isn’t helping him in anyway. The time is now! Stop letting him rot in with the Marlies and put him in some real game action!
I am tired of waiting around for the Leafs management to do the right thing; they better get their asses in gear and figure out that me and half of Leafs Nation is right!
Why does it seem that the only people involved with a team that can’t see what the right move is are always the people that have the power and the control of that team!? Why do fans seem to be the only ones who know what’s right for a team?
Most importantly, why is Justin Pogge, after his performance against Atlanta, still not playing in the NHL?
Anyone who can answer even one of those questions, please feel free to inform me because I would love to know.
Check out Tyler at Maple Leafs This Week
by Tyler Hill… In a season that was expected to be unusual, the Maple Leafs year has so far lived up to that, odd moves and strange decisions. (e.g. benching Kaberle for a period)
With another half of the season still to go, the question is: What can we expect as we head into the New Year and what will 2009 bring for the Leafs?
There is one obvious thing that we know 2009 will bring the Leafs, that thing, you ask, is Lord Stanley’s Mug. Yes, anyone that has NHL ‘09 will be able to see the Leafs win the cup!
Unfortunately, that is only in video game land. In real life, there is no Cup in the Leafs’ near future. Despite that, there are many changes a foot in the Leafs’ Locker room that will affect how they play on the ice.
One of the biggest changes is the arrival of the Maple Leafs new General Manager, Brian Burke. He will definitly make some big changes to the Leafs’ lineup, and the players know it.
I’m sure that Burke walked into the room on the first day he got there and said it flat out to the entire team, “No one is safe, except Schenn.” To be honest, you can see it in some of the players.
They are working harder and as a result, playing better overall. Burke projects fear into players and commands respect. Even when I see him on T.V, it scares me a little bit. Every player on the team is working harder, and if it keeps up the Leafs will receive their reward with time.
Another new face around the Leaf locker room is Lee Stempniak.
Stempniak was acquired in a trade from St.Louis for Alex Steen and Carlo Coliacovo. I can admit that Coliacovo was becoming more of a pain with his constant injuries, and it was the right move to drop him while they still could get someone decent.
However, removing Alex Steen from the roster might not have been a good move. He had been struggling in recent games and did not have a very productive season in 2007-’08. However, he still had a good future ahead of him, and the Leafs where impatient when it came to him.
Stempniak should be a good asset to the team. He isn’t the most skilled, and he might not be the fastest guy on the ice, but he is a hard worker and he does have some moves, just not a large repertoire. I have a feeling he is a diamond in the rough and will prove vital to the team when it counts the most.
Aside from the big things, what changes will make the difference in 2009?
Ron Wilson will need to make sure he keeps doing what he’s doing. He is a good coach and the players respect him. That is major. If the players don’t respect you, you will not get anywhere as a coach.
Toronto’s defence will also need to tighten up for them to be successful in 2009. Toskala is a good goalie, but he can’t stop them all. He is facing too many shots in games and seems to be taking a lot of criticism for letting in a few.
He was struggling in the early part of the season, but now seems to have found himself and is playing, possibly not at his best, but better than in November.
So, in the New Year, if Toronto’s recent play is any indicator, they might be able to pull off a playoff spot. If they know Burke means business and Ron Wilson makes them work, the Leafs will be firing on all cylinders come January. If things go well, they might even put a scare into a few teams (I’m looking at you Ottawa).
by Tyler Hill… Saturday! Hockey Night in Canada is set to air tonight. Maple Leafs take on the Washington Capitals, unfortunately, that means Alex Ovechkin, as well.
I would also like to say that, although the new HNIC theme is good, I think it is complete bull-shit that CBC wouldn’t keep the old one around. It is a tradition and now my nephews and everyone one else their age will not be able to hear the true HNIC Theme!
Team Records: Washington: 14-9-3-31pts
My Thoughts: Leafs have only two wins in the last 9 games, I for one am sick of it and say it’s about damn time they won a few games! With Vesa letting in the first shot of the game it hasn’t really helped them out a lot. If Ovechkin is on his game and Toskala isn’t Leafs fans are in for a long night. The good news for the Leafs is they are returning from a three game road trip too some good old fashioned home cooked meals.
As for the Caps, I can honestly say I haven’t seen a lot of them this year, but judging from their 5-2 win Thursday night, having 31 points and leading their division, I would venture to say they must be doing something right.
Once again I have to say Toronto will be the better team defensively, but whether or not that will be enough to stop Ovie, Semin, Backstrom and others, is the real question. I have been happy with the current play of Jeff Finger, it is still too early to tell weather or he is worth $3.5 million dollars, none the less, he has proven to be a valuable member of the team.
On the offensive side of thing there are really on two words to describe it: Alex Ovechkin. He is a definite threat to any team and can make any goalie shiver when he steps on the ice, if the Leafs want a chance their big guns will have to really step up in this game.
I’ve already mentioned Toskala and his consistency to let in the first shot of the game for the last 3 games. Hopefully this will not be the case this game. The last thing a team need against this team, or in any game for that matter, is to fall behind the 8 ball that early in a game.
Game Expectation and Projected Score:
Combine the offensive threat Washington poses and the declining play of Vesa Toskala and it looks very bad for the Leafs this game. But, all that in mind, I think the Leafs Skaters will rise to the challenge and pull off a win.
Pick: Toronto 5-3
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