There was something in Dave Bolland’s eyes that told Jon MacWilliams the kid would be a pretty good hockey player.

Bolland had been cut from other novice and minor atom AAA teams in the GTHL but when he played for the North York Rangers the head coach took him under his wing and helped him develop.

“He wasn’t a very good skater but he had this look in his eyes” MacWilliams recalls about meeting an 8-year-old Bolland for the first time. “Skating is what I do (teach).

“He scored 57 goals that year. He’s one of those kids that’s just special. He was going to succeed no matter what.”

Bolland the kid from Mimico who grew up admiring Brendan Shanahan is now starring on hockey’s biggest stage. No disrespect to linemate Mason Raymond who has been a nice surprise but Bolland has been the Maple Leafs’ best forward through three games.

Always renowned as defensively sound he scored twice against Philadelphia and has shown flashes of offensive flair that had none other than Don Cherry single him out on Coach’s Corner — comparing him to Doug Gilmour an iconic name in Leaf Nation.

“Oh that’s a little out there being in that kind of category” Bolland says of Cherry’s Gilmour comparison. “But I think Dougie’s a great player . . . when I was younger I sort of modelled myself (after him on and off) the ice.

“Any way I can play the game like him I (could have) a nice career.”

Gilmour who wore No. 93 as a Leaf started his career as a checking centre in St. Louis before blossoming offensively with Calgary and Toronto. Bolland who wears No. 63 could follow the same path. His role has always been primarily as a checker against the other team’s top lines.

“When I was coaching in Anaheim when I had (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry on the ice (Blackhawks coach) Joel Quenneville chose to have either Jonathan Toews or David Bolland on the ice to match up” says Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “A little light goes on for the respect that he earned from his coach and the two Stanley Cups are part of his resume. It makes it pretty easy to say yes to the player.”