Thoughts from the Leafs’ Rookie Tournament Opener
As much as I tried to just sit back and enjoy the game as a fanÂ last night, I couldn’t help but take a few notes (this might have been because we ended up sittingÂ among the scouts). So without further ado, here are a few additional observationsÂ from last night’s tournament opener to supplement Derek Harmsworth’s excellent coverage.
- Aulie sitting out was no surprise asÂ he was only cleared for contact recently.Â No sense running the risk of re-injury for this sort of anÂ event. His spot on the Marlies is already set.
- No Liambas. For shame. I was kind of hoping to see what would happen if Kyle Beach looked at him the wrong way.
- At first glance, Rynnas looks a lot like Gustavsson. Similar style, similar flaws. DropsÂ to hisÂ kneesÂ too soon, kicks out far too many rebounds.Â He is incrediblyÂ quick for a big guy.
- I wonder if the rebound issue has more to do withÂ playing on the larger ice surface in Europe,Â than anything else.Â More space equals less traffic in front,Â and aÂ greater chance the defender is able to make a play on a long rebound thanÂ an opposition forward.Â
- Kadri was clearly the most NHL-ready – and most talented – player on the ice for either team.Â But he was trying to do too much by himself.Â Â Not that I would readÂ a whole lotÂ into that; I suppose it isÂ simply the nature of this type ofÂ tournament. WithÂ the entire brassÂ watching and evaluating,Â aÂ lot of players can get caught up trying toÂ make the highlight reel play instead of theÂ smart play.Â
- Speaking of highlight reel plays, McKegg’s deke offÂ a 2-on-1 for the third Toronto goal was a thing of beauty.Â Great hands.
- D’Amigo was strong on the puck all night. VeryÂ instinctive and unafraid to jump into the high traffic areas, he is one of those players whom the puck always seems to find, as the old saying goes. Â He and Kadri seem to have gelled quickly, and looked veryÂ good together as linemates.
- Irwin and RossÂ didÂ aÂ very good job getting to the net, creating traffic and setting screens. Both were able to effectivelyÂ use their size to their advantage throughout.
- CarrickÂ showed a lot of heartÂ taking on a guy who hadÂ 4 inches and 35 pounds on him. Didn’tÂ fareÂ too badly either.
- Didn’t see much ofÂ Devane after the first period. WordÂ was circulating thatÂ he may haveÂ hurt himself early on.Â
- RyanÂ wasÂ terrific away from the puck, but definitelyÂ needs a distributor to be effective offensively.Â Doesn’t seem to create well on his own.Â Did a great job getting to the right place at the right time for his tip-in goal. Antropov-esque.
- Olden (a winger)Â was being used on the point on the secondÂ powerplay unit. Would have thought defendersÂ Paris or Jackson would see more time in that role. Interesting.
- Mueller seemed toÂ improve as the game went on. HisÂ play along the boards was excellent.
- Gysbers doesn’t have the hardest shot, but heÂ canÂ put the puckÂ on net and knows how to put it through a screen. He timed his release perfectly on his goal, a floater that somehow went untipped through a maze of players.
- BlackerÂ didn’t look too bad at all. He could probablyÂ benefit fromÂ becoming more assertive, especially in one-on-one situations.
- HolzerÂ came as advertised: sound positionally, willing to engage physicallyÂ and a very good passer. His stickwork (receiving, handling), however,Â left a lot to be desired.
- Player that impressed me most: Andrew Crescenzi. Was an excellent penalty-killer / energy forward for Kitchener (OHL), and filled a similar role in the tournament opener.Â Was positionally sound on the PK, blocked shots, and even threw aÂ rather loud andÂ impactful hitÂ at one point. An effort guy who will always be on the bubble, Crescenzi reminds me a lot ofÂ former Kitchener gradÂ Gregory Campbell (now with the Boston Bruins).Â
- Player that impressed me least: Barron Smith. He just doesn’t haveÂ enough footspeed. On far too many occasions he tried to jump up into the playÂ to grab a loose puck, only toÂ find himself unable toÂ recover quickly enoughÂ when the opposition beat him to it.
The Leafs‘Â rookie tournament openerÂ was a terrific game overall, and the fans kept theÂ John Labatt Centre rocking all night.Â Stay tuned to MLHS for Derek’s continued coverage of the tournament. I’ll try to chip in here and there also as I am able.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,