View Full Version : Caputi thrilled to join Leaf youth core

03-04-2010, 07:52 AM
Caputi thrilled to join Leaf youth core

Former fourth-rounder touted as `guy with a skill level' who is `ready to play,' says GM Burke


He grew up in Toronto, loving Doug Gilmour while wearing Wendel Clark's number.
Yes, Luca Caputi bleeds blue and white.
Now, the newest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs will get to find out what it's like to wear blue and white.
"For me and my family it's a special day," Caputi said Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to having a good end of the season."
It doesn't matter to Caputi that he was traded away by the outfit that won the Stanley Cup last season. It matters that he was traded to Toronto in the deal that sent Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh. It matters that he will get a chance to pursue his NHL dream with his favourite NHL team.
"It's going to be special to play in front of friends and family," said Caputi. "From my standpoint it's an honour to have been put in a trade with a player like Alexei Ponikarovsky. He's a bona fide 25-goal scorer in the NHL.
"I can't wait. I take it is a compliment that this is a team that wants me and hopefully I'm going to be one of the pieces they build their future around. They have great young talent. The future looks great in Toronto. I just want to be a part of it."
GM Brian Burke said he turned down an offer from another team of a second- and fourth-round pick for Ponikarovsky because he thinks Caputi is the real deal.
"We're not interested in a five-year rebuilding program," said Burke. "We're trying to build this team on a much more rapid time frame.
"We'd have taken picks if we couldn't get a prospect. But ... this kid we think is ready to play. He is a guy with a skill level. He's big and he gets around very well."
At 21, Caputi joins a young core of players Burke hopes will blossom sooner rather than later. At the top end is 22-year-old Phil Kessel, 20-year-old Luke Schenn and 21-year-old Carl Gunnarsson. The works in progress include 23-year-old Tyler Bozak, 24-year-old Viktor Stalberg and 23-year-old Christian Hanson.
Caputi played nine games over two seasons with the Penguins. A former fourth-round pick in 2007, he had 51 goals and 60 assists in his final year of junior with the Niagara IceDogs.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Torontonian put up solid numbers in the AHL, with 23 goals in 54 games this season in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Most of his goals come from standing in front of the net. Those who know him say he's determined to be successful.
"He's a big forward who skates well," said IceDogs GM Dave Brown. "He has very good puck protection skills and is very good down low. Has an accurate shot and craves to score goals. He competes very hard and was a threat whenever he was on the ice in his last year in Niagara.
"In junior he had the ability to dangle his opponents and use his size to overpower them that coupled with a natural ability to finish."
Caputi will be in uniform when the Leafs play Boston on Thursday night.
He'd love to wear No. 17 – his number since he was a kid – but he's not sure the Leafs will hand over the number most closely associated with Clark. It has not been used since he retired.
"I can't wait to get going and I can't wait to put on that jersey," he said. "I don't care the number they give me, I'll put on a jersey and be happy with it," he said.

03-04-2010, 09:03 AM
Caputi's dream come true

Maple, Ont., native grew up a Leafs fan
Last Updated: March 3, 2010 11:07pm

BOSTON — As far as grappling grudge matches go, this one had Luca Caputi sitting on the edge of his seat.

It was a frosty Tuesday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Caputi, a member of the AHL’s Penguins, was loving every minute of this no disqualification tag-team bout between the Westies and the dastardly duo of Acid and Cannon.
Caputi and his friends had come to the local arena for the highly anticipated card put on by Action Unlimited Anthrocite Wrestling, which is run by the Pens head trainer. They weren’t disappointed.
“Chairs were being tossed, guys were being thrown through tables,” Caputi said. “It was great.”
Life couldn’t get any better than this, could it?
Sure enough, it was about to.
“All of a sudden I started getting text messages from family and friends,” Caputi said. “They were telling me TSN was reporting I was going to be traded to the Leafs.”
For this 21-year-old kid who had grown up in Maple, Ont., bleeding blue-and-white, this was too good to be true.
Only Caputi wasn’t buying it. Not until it became official.
He couldn’t sit any longer. He was too excited. He had to leave the wrestling match and go to a buddy’s place.
Finally, at about 10:30 p.m., Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero confirmed what the kid had been hoping for — he was now a Maple Leaf, having been dealt to Toronto along with defenceman Martin Skoula for forward Alexei Ponikarovsky.
“It was a crazy couple of hours,” Caputi said. “I couldn’t ever imagine this was really happening.”
It won’t take long for him to believe it.
Less than 24 hours after the deal, we are sitting in the lobby of the Leafs’ swank team hotel here in Boston and Caputi, having just arrived in town, still is incredulous at what has transpired.
Having yet to officially be introduced to his new Maple Leafs teammates, Caputi, 21, is in the middle of an interview when he is approached by a guy in a spiffy suit.
“Hi, I’m Dion Phaneuf,” he is told. “Welcome to the team. Join us for dinner when your interview is done.”
The welcome isn’t
over, either.
“I just met J-S Giguere, Francois Beauchemin and Dion Phaneuf,” Caputi said a couple of minutes later. “Amazing.”
To fully appreciate the overwhelming emotions Caputi is feeling at this moment, you have to understand just how much the Leafs mean to him.
When young Luca was a wee tot of 2, he was given a Leafs jersey. One day he wore it to school. Bad move.
“I ruined it,” he said. “I got fingerpaint all over it.”
No matter. To this day, he still has it. Just like the Doug Gilmour poster he has in his room. And like the autographed photo he had on the wall of he and Gilmour together.
“He always was my favourite player,” he said. “Always.”
Caputi will make his Leafs debut Thursday night at the TD Garden against the Boston Bruins. On Saturday, he hopes his parents, Gina and Frank, will be on hand when the Leafs play the Senators in Ottawa.
It will be an especially emotional night for Gina, who cried upon learning her son had become a Leaf.
“I’m sure I’m going to have butterflies when I put that jersey on for the first time (Thursday),” he said.
The Leafs believe in him. They like the way he goes to the net like he did on Feb. 3, 2009, when he scored a goal against the Montreal Canadiens on his first NHL shift.
“I must have banged away at the puck four times before it finally went in,” he says.
Caputi laughs. It’s still all so unreal.
Sometimes, it seems, dreams do come true after all.