Rookie Camp Impressions, and a few thoughts on Raymond

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The Leafs wrapped up what was a pretty good weekend by imploding in the third period and losing handily, but that doesn’t take away from some of the positives that were shown overall.

There were some youngsters who had good weekends, others who had very good weekends, and a few who struggled. In other news, the Leafs also have a new player coming to training camp in Mason Raymond.

You know hockey is back when there are actual relevant games and players to talk about all of a sudden. Here are some scattered thoughts on the weekend that was:

– It was a shame that Matt Finn got hurt and only played a little over a game. He was effective at moving the puck and found his groove during the first game. His injury probably wasn’t a big deal, and I’m guessing they sat him as a precaution, but hopefully he’s able to stay healthy this year. You don’t want to see kids ever struggling with injuries, let alone in their big development years (he missed a lot of hockey last season).

– In the first game of the tournament, I felt the Leafs kind of buried McKegg by playing him with Brown and Broll (he was trying to give-and-go but wasn’t getting the puck back). In his second game – the final game of the tournament — he wasn’t a standout either, this time playing alongside Leivo and Ross. McKegg is on the older side of players participating in that tournament – being 21 – and he’s had a full season in the AHL. He should have been dangerous consistently and stood out; he didn’t, which is a bit concerning. I still think he’s primed to have a good year for the Marlies on account of the likelihood that he’s going to get an opportunity to play in a scoring role consistently. But this wasn’t a great weekend for McKegg and if he doesn’t have a strong year this will be the first thing I’ll point to.

– Similarly, Granberg wasn’t very impressive, either. Billed as a big shutdown type of defenseman, he wasn’t overly physical and his foot speed was lacking. In game 2 particularly, I noted a few times where players dumped the puck into his corner and beat him to it handily. Perhaps he wasn’t used to the ice and took the chance to play against lesser competition a little too easy, perhaps focusing on making adjustments to his game to better help him adapt for pro camp, but he wasn’t sharp this weekend. Percy carried him in game 2. It wasn’t exactly the three games you would expect from a guy who is supposed to push for an NHL roster spot on a crowded defense. In fairness to him, it’s tough for a defensive type of defenseman to standout in that kind of tournament.

– Granberg is a year younger than Blacker, but I’m betting if Blacker was in this tournament he would have dominated it. We’ll see what Granberg does in camp, but right now I’d put Blacker ahead of him.

– Interestingly enough, I thought this would be a bad tournament for Stuart Percy because this hockey is pretty unorganized and he plays a very structured and positional game. In game 1 he struggled and was actually at fault on one of the goals; Granberg went for the reverse and Percy was standing in front of the net. As Granberg’s partner, Percy has to give him an outlet for either the D-to-D pass, or the reverse; not being an option whatsoever cannot happen. To Percy’s credit, he was great after that for the rest of the tournament.

– When it comes to Percy, I always personally revert back to watching him live in the Marlies Calder run to the finals, when he played in the first round and was exceptional at moving the puck up ice. He isn’t a guy who you will know is ready to move up to the next level on account of him dominating, but I bet if you throw him in the fire he figures out how to adjust and be successful. He’s just so smart out there.

– The next best performer was easily Brad Ross, who was all over the ice. His first period in game 2 was the single best period any Leaf had this weekend as he was a missile and hit anything and everything in sight on every single shift. He really needed to have a good tournament given D’Amigo and Ashton are probably ahead of him on the depth chart and Tyler Biggs isn’t far behind. If Ross has a good NHL camp now, and then starts strong in the AHL, he’s going to be hard to keep down for long.

– Ross’ skating also looked unbelievable this weekend. It’s tough to tell if that’s because he was on the ice against weaker/younger players, but it just appeared like anytime he wanted to turn it on he could separate from his opponents.

– Josh Leivo was another guy who had a strong tournament. He was one of the only Leaf forwards who was regularly dangerous with the puck. When he missed the third period in game 1 it really changed the complexion of the game. He was the best player on the ice until then, and once he was out it really swung momentum. He should carry this tournament into NHL camp and then onto the AHL; I think everyone is expecting big things from Leivo and for good reason.

– Rielly got beat on the outside again in game 1 by Phillip Danault, but otherwise he was fantastic with the puck. In the world juniors, AHL, and now this camp, I’ve seen Rielly get consistently beat wide on one-on-ones and it’s concerning and confusing considering he’s so fast. In the WHL, it obviously doesn’t happen because he dominates and is faster than pretty well everyone, which makes up for many problems. At the higher levels he’s getting beat. His vision and ability to hit teammates in stride is unbelievable, though. Rielly also puts a ton of pucks on net and creates offense as good as any player in the game, be it a defenseman or forward.

– MacWilliam had a solid second game and was really physical after having a pretty average first game. I think he will be better in the preseason because it’s more suited to his game and he’s going to be a horse against men. It was also nice to see him go after Robinson (Ottawa player) for tripping the Leafs’ goalie. MacWilliam is limited as an overall player because he doesn’t have offensive upside, but he’s a strong, physical player who could probably model his game after Mark Fraser.

– Gauthier showed flashes and more or less looked like a guy who had just been drafted. On the Percy goal in the final game, he gained the zone with the puck and controlled it by himself while no other Leaf was in the zone and managed to maintain it and make a smart play. On another play in game 2, he took a feed from Connor Brown in the slot, pulled the puck back with his reach, and dished it across to Dave Broll on a nifty setup. In other words, he showed little flashes of being able to hold onto the puck and make great plays, he just needs to learn how to create offense on his own and be dangerous offensively. During the weekend he said he wasn’t the skilled player growing up so he worked hard on his defensive game; now, it’s time to work on the offensive side of things.

– A lot of people were excited for Connor Brown as he lit it up with Erie, but this weekend kind of highlighted my concerns with him. He isn’t elite at anything and when you don’t have a dominant trait it’s very hard to be productive in the NHL. It was difficult for him to get the puck in open space or make an impact, but to his credit he was crafty when the puck did get to his stick (setup the Percy goal, for example).

– Fabrice Herzog reminded me of Sondre Olden from a few years ago: big, very skinny, and has some skill. I’ll be interested to see how he develops this year, but if he too doesn’t pan out are the Leafs going to stop drafting these types of project players from Europe?

– Tyler Biggs had a solid weekend and played his type of hockey. He got into a fight, was physical on the forecheck, was a net presence on the power play which led to a goal, and made a good outlet pass off the breakout leading to another goal, to name a few things. He doesn’t play flashy hockey but he’s good in a defensive role and he’s a good skater for a big guy.

Mason Raymond

– Raymond was a good NHLer until Boychuk broke two vertebrae in his back, something he has even admitted he’ll never be fully the same from. I’m betting he has the “damaged goods” label on him at this point because his age and track record of production should have earned him a contract.

– Perhaps his play will give the Leafs leverage with Kadri, but I really just consider his PTO to be a true tryout to see whether or not he can fit into the line-up and serve a purpose in Toronto. The Leafs don’t have a ton in the way of scoring options who are ready to play in the NHL on their farm team, so if he does pan out he could give them some flexibility and depth. We’ll see how he does in camp before we really get into his game.

– Although different situations, we’ve seen Jason Allison and Steve Thomas tryout for the Leafs and not make it, so let’s not go overboard with speculation on what this means. Like I said, I consider it a “true tryout” at this point.

  • mcloki

    SO most important question. Which 5 rookies get an invite to camp.
    my picks. Rielly, Percy, Leivo, Biggs, Raine, McWilliams.

  • Burtonboy

    mcloki Why only 5 ?

  • mcloki

    Burtonboy mcloki Make it harder to pick. Forces you to make a decision on some guys. I don’t think anyone outside of Rielly make the team, And even then he is an outside shot to get 9 games.

  • Burtonboy

    mcloki Burtonboy Have the Leafs actually said how many invites there will be ? Jus curious

  • Cameron19

    mcloki Burtonboy They will still send way more to camp though.  They all have to learn what NHL competition is all about.  And the preseason games are a drag for many of the proven NHL’ers.  Kessel for example always just mails it in. You don’t want your roster guys playing more than a few games in case of injury. So you need a fleet of rookies to give ice time to.

  • mcloki

    Burtonboy mcloki i herd mention of 6 possible 8, but that could just be announcer talk.

  • Cameron19

    mcloki Burtonboy I guess that doesn’t count the AHL guys who weren’t in the tournament, like Blacker, D’Amigo, Ashton, Abbott, Smith, Marshall, Brennan, McIntyre, Bodie. So maybe you;re right, with those guys, plus 8 rookies, we could still have a pretty massive camp roster.

  • Zep2

    Morning all. Thanks for the write up Anthony.
    I didnt see any of the games except a few hilites . 
    On the offensive side of the puck, other than Leivo ,we are stocked with role players, though Gauthier could turn into a two way centre.
    One guy who caught my eye and was receiving positive comments was Devane. Is the 4th line his ceiling or is it a bit higher
    Finn hopefully isnt injury prone.

  • Burtonboy

    Loiselle on the fan right now.

  • Great Dane

    Burtonboy anything interesting?

  • Burtonboy

    Great Dane Burtonboy Not yet .

  • Burtonboy

    Loiselle flatly refused to talk about Kadri. I’m doing the negotiations and I don’t talk about it in puplic

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    TheCanucksnaphook Probably a small shot across the bow to Kadri and his agent more than anything.

  • Mind Bomb

    -Keon- Good morning Keon, I was surprised at Crescenzi, Bigger than I though, and more talented as well, He stood out through My drunken Haze, still hung over lol. Ross also was fantastic on Saturday

  • Knights2Leafs

    Always enjoy your stuff Anthony.  I do take issue with the comparison between McKegg and Granberg.  It might not have been intended but the impression was that McKegg and Granberg were equally weak. 
    I agree McKegg might have shown more but it was obvious from the 2 games I saw him that he and Leivo are miles ahead of the other rookie forwards and that includes Ross who was great on Saturday, but invisible last night.  I could see McKegg and Leivo together on the Marlies being quite effective.  I really believe McKegg is one of those players that needs other skill players around him to pass to.
    I will give Granberg the benefit of the doubt regarding adapting to the NA ice, but he made 2 giveaways in the first period that were absolutely brutal and it was due to him simply misjudging the speed of the attacking forward.  Yes, he’s a defensive dman, but that means he should be good by not being noticeable. So far he has been more noticeable because of bad plays.  Having said that, there’s lots of time for him to grow but to date he has to be a notch below Blacker.  As I’ve said several times, let him take the position away from Blacker – we can’t just give it to him.
    Interesting comments on Connor Brown. I think you have hit the nail on the head.  He has all sorts of skill but has difficulty putting it together.  The one thing I notice is how small he is in stature and I can’t help wonder if he put on a few pounds and was stronger on the puck how this might make his skills more effective.  To his credit, he showed me enough skill to know that all the points he scores in junior isn’t just from riding the coattails of McDavid.

  • Greg Fenton

    TheCanucksnaphook You can’t have a farm system made up nothing but young prospects.

  • MikeGartner11

    -Keon- +Devane keeps surprising me with the puck.

  • mcloki

    Where is everyone this morning?

  • dlb eh

    TheCanucksnaphook 
    you’ll get your wish

  • dlb eh

    mcloki
    i’ll play the pick 5 game with you…players from the rookie tourney only
    Rielly, Finn, Percy, Leivo, Biggs, Broll, McWilliams, Ross and McKegg
    i brainstormed then bolded the guys i’ll pick. reasoning: players most likely to play an NHL game this season, get an early look and give them an early taste.

  • dlb eh

    mcloki 
    i know right?  after a loss like yesterday this place should be packed

  • MikeGartner11

    dlb eh mcloki The real bridge jumpers show up after the first preseason loss

  • colino17

    When does camp start and when do we find out the invitees

  • Great Dane

    @MikeGartner11 dlb eh mcloki  Where !!!!!!!!   LOL

  • mcloki

    colino17 I think medicals are Wednesday. So we should start to hear about invitees over the next 3 days.

  • Mind Bomb

    Article on Gauthier

  • colino17

    mcloki colino17 Awesome, thanks. And first pre-season game in Sunday right?

  • colino17

    @MikeGartner11 dlb eh mcloki Maybe it’s so quiet here because after last night they all finally jumped

  • MaxwellHowe

    Playing the role of Clarke MacArthur for your 2013 Maple Leafs, Mason Raymond.  Another guy with two last names who can drive Carlyle crazy with his inconsistency.  On the plus side, he has playoff experience and he is a great skater. And he is probably cheaper.

  • colino17

    MaxwellHowe Or two FIRST names #MINDBLOWN!

  • JoeLeaf

    MaxwellHowe “Another guy with two last names” LOLZ XD

  • peterbleafs

    dlb eh mcloki You’d think so!  I saw yesterdays slaughter as more of our understaffed defense showing its weakness as the game went on.  And as soon as we trailed, we tried to lean offensively and got burnt by very skilled opposition

  • Mind Bomb

    MaxwellHowe  Hmm Morning Max, I would rather just give D”amigo Roster spot.
     Not Everyone loves Raymond P

  • colino17

    Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe I think we should sign the guy just for the jokes alone. I feel like there is an inappropriate joke about him being spineless up for grabs.

  • Mind Bomb

    colino17 Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe haha well there is that, I just feel we are developing our own good prospects now, we dont need other teams cast offs anymore

  • Leafs rule

    Luke richardson has high praise  for sens prospects,re twitter SHit not what I wanna hear Luke

  • MaxwellHowe

    colino17 Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe You guys are on today.  Everyone loves Raymond.  Spineless.  Fuck Nonis better sign this guy for the comedic features alone.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Leafs rule I seem to recall that Richarson himself was once an overhyped prospect.

  • Dink

    If Mason played on a line with 2 Richards it could be called the Mason Dick line

  • Dink

    you had to be there

  • dlb eh

    Leafs rule 
    it’s ok to admit the Sens have some good players in their prospect pool.
    Fenton will tell you not to dismay, because while they have plenty of Kadri types, they still lack the Towes and Crosby types just like us.
    so there’s nothing to envy or be worried about.

  • Leafs rule

    MaxwellHowe Leafs rule But I liked him as a leaf seems so long ago now ,crap Im gettin old lol

  • dlb eh

    D’Amigo and Ashton and Smith … are those the Marlies’ veteran top 6 players?  who am i missing (and assuming Smith can’t crack the Leafs which is possible i suppose, why not?)

  • colino17

    Murph2417 I just refreshed and its messed for me too

  • GeorgeCastanza

    shitty result last night. I’m pissed that we lost to the senaturds. hate that fucking team!!

    16 senaturd players are AHL regulars which explained a lot of cohesion on that team.
    Poor fucking Bibeau. A little too much for our youngest and rawest rookie. shoulda had Sparks start against these assholes and Bibeau in game 2.
    No Rielly and Finn. Bummed me out cause I wanted to see Finn against ceci to compare them.
    SHoulda fucking scored on that 2 man advantage.

  • Leafs rule

    dlb eh Leafs rule But its the sens  ,I mean the turds lol Im happy when prospects become regular NHL types ,But …….

  • Leafs rule

    dlb eh mcloki lmao ok some of us hav to work to eh

  • skippysleafs

    Nobody is talking about the walk-ons, M Rupert, Yuen, and Raine I thought stuck out. Could sign them just to the marlies…Thoughts

  • wendelsway1

    dlb eh Leafs rule LMAO…..no worries here  lol  :)

  • Dan39

    skippysleafs Yuen looked good, for sure. Raine looked decent but made some mistakes. And he’s older, right?