By Lance Hornby

With six John Ferguson-era draft picks traded the past couple of years, Tyler Ruegsegger might think he is an endangered species in Toronto.

Not getting a contract upon graduation from the University of Denver also seemed to point to the same exit sign as Jiri Tlusty, Viktor Stalberg, Justin Pogge, Robbie Earl, Anton Stralman and Chris DiDomenico.

But there will be a home for him somewhere with the Brian Burke Leafs, based on the centre’s good closing push with Denver (41 points in 41 games) and his enthusiasm through Toronto’s prospect evaluation this week in Etobicoke.

“They wanted me to have a good camp and see where we go after this,” said Ruegsegger after Thursday’s sessions at the MasterCard Centre. “To be honest, I don’t want to look into any of that (contract) stuff. I’m just out here to compete. It’s still a pleasure to be a part of the organization.”

Ruegsegger was picked 166th overall in 2006 from the NHL incubator at

Shattuck-St. Mary’s high school in Minnesota, five spots back of Stalberg.

At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Ruegsegger doesn’t strike you as having the size Burke wants to see up front the next couple of years, but he’s impressed the brass in other ways.

“Everyone’s going to have their own special qualities,” said Jim Hughes, the Leafs’ player development director. “If they’re not big, they will be packing heavy muscle mass. Some are bigger in height, but some are more strong and fit.

“He’s a high-end character and a very special person. He’s been four years at Denver and played in the world juniors for the U.S. (Denver-born, but half Canadian).

“We’ll probably find a spot for him somewhere in our organization, because of the quality he brings every day, because of his practice habits. You want him around. He’s not an NHL player right now, we’re hoping he’ll be an AHLer.......(more)