Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Alex Tran

Alex Tran

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Alex has been a part of the original MLHS team since way back in 2008. He has contributed to the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals with a special interest in junior hockey and player development.

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Here’s a crazy statistic courtesy of CBC Sports. From the beginning of the season through only December 24th (the Maple Leafs had played their 35th game of the season the night before), 457 man-games had been lost to concussions; players had been suspended 77 games, forfeiting nearly $1.3 million in wages.

But what does it mean to have a concussion? How do we get them? Here’s your guide to a basic understanding.

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Marcel Mueller
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

An update on the Maple Leafs of tomorrow:

Who’s Hot:

– After being passed over by the Maple Leafs coaching staff to begin the year, Nazem Kadri has made it his mission to claw his way back to the NHL. He had a superb month of November with 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 12 games played. Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins has been working closely with the youngster to help him simplify his game and cut down on the mental mistakes he was prone to making last year. With that said, the team has been careful about not keeping Kadri on too tight a leash offensively. He should be ready for a return to the NHL early in the new year.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have called up top prospect Joe Colborne and he is expected to make his season debut tonight against the Washington Capitals. The “Paperboy” (as nicknamed by his teammates – because he looks twelve and always delivers) had gotten off to a torrid start in the AHL with 19 points in 12 games played before sitting out a handful of games to injury. He is expected to skate alongside Joey Crabb, with whom he demonstrated plenty of chemistry while on the Marlies’ top line, and David Steckel. The trio should be able to generate a strong cycle game down low.

Per NHL. com, “Last 10: Washington 3-6-1; Toronto 4-5-1

This is the first meeting of the season. The Capitals won three of four against the Maple Leafs last season, but three of the four contests went to a shootout. Two teams going in the wrong direction after great starts meet up for a Hockey Night in Canada clash.

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Quick thoughts on a couple youngsters:

Who’s Hot:

– Joe Colborne has been different player this season. After getting a brief taste of NHL calibre action, he has integrated that knowledge and experience into a more well-rounded and flat out dominant offensive game. He’s taking the rush hard to the net, he’s displaying impressive puck protection ability down low and quicker instincts in tight. He has 3 goals and 4 assists for  7 points through 4 games with the Marlies thus far.

– Stuart Percy hasn’t missed a beat since dominating at last year’s Memorial Cup tournament. The young blueliner has garnered glowing reviews for his maturity and poise. Thus far, he’s demonstrated an improved offensive game marked primarily by increased confidence to be more aggressive, particularly on the Majors’ top powerplay unit. He boasts a robust 7 points and +12 rating through the first 9 games played.

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Photo: Bridget Jones/Flickr

The Toronto Maple Leafs announce that they have acquired centre David Steckel from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 4th round draft selection. Although Steckel offers little in the way of offense, the 6’5 forward provides the team with a big body for the checking lines, a solid two-way game and the skills of one of the game’s elite faceoff men. The 29 year old Wisconsin native carries a $1.1 million cap hit for this season and next.

This is a minor but shrewd acquisition that should align nicely with Burke’s traditional top six bottom six methodology. During his time in Washington, Steckel was consistently the team’s go-to faceoff man in key defensive situations and led all forwards in penalty kill time.  He is also one of only a handful of checkers around the NHL who can boast 100+ hits, 30+ blocked shots and a positive takeaway/giveaway ratio.

Given the surplus of depth up front, this could be a precursor to another roster clearing move.

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    Despite a lineup heavily laden with inexperienced youth, the Maple Leafs responded in a big way in the second half of a home and home against the Flyers. Solid performances from the like of Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin, Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner propelled the young team to a 4-2 victory. Some quick thoughts on individual players after the jump.

    Mike Komisarek – He continues to make positive progress in his game with the hopes of regaining his form from 2-3 years ago. The positional play was solid, he did a good job playing the angles along the boards and was effective in winning pucks out of the corners. Offensively, he’s still treating the puck a little bit like a grenade on his stick, making several rushed decisions that either resulted in a turnover or put his defensive partner in a tough position. The physical tone isn’t quite up to the level it was, but at least he’s cut down on defensive miscues.

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    As you may be aware, the Maple Leafs’ regular season tickets officially went on sale this morning. Unsurprisingly, the sales went fast and furious. So if you were like me (curse Ticketmaster!) and didn’t land the games you wanted, not to worry! I’d like to announce a bit of a community feature I’ve been working on.

    I know a few season ticket holders who will occasionally look to unload tickets at more reasonable numbers than what you’d find on StubHub and what not. These will typically on shorter notice as they figure out which games they will not be attending. Those of you who have been part of the community for a couple seasons now will know that demand for these is usually way more than can be accommodated, so I will send out notices via email and everything will function on a first come first serve basis.

    It was fantastic to be able to provide several parents last year with the opportunity to finally afford to take their kids to their first game. Everybody deserves a chance to get out to a game this year. Let’s make it happen. If you are interested in getting on the email notification list for tickets, please drop me an email at TranMLHS (at) gmail.com.

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    (PHOTO: Toronto Star)

    The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced their roster for the upcoming rookie tournament running from September 10th through September 13th. The tournament will feature games against prospects from the Blackhawks, Senators and Penguins organizations.

    Notable Forwards: Jerry D’Amigo, Matt Frattin, Greg McKegg, Josh Leivo, Sondre Olden, Bradley Ross, Josh Nicholls and Kenny Ryan

    Matt Frattin being here is merely a formality. Given the age and level of the competition, he should absolutely dominate this tournament and little should be read into his performance during this trio of games. Jerry D’Amigo has been working on slimming down and regaining some of that explosiveness and agility that seemed to evade him last season and should be an intriguing player to follow. Sondre Olden has had another season to bulk up and add some upper body strength and should demonstrate improved play in front of the net and along the boards.

    Notable Defensemen: Jesse Blacker, Jake Gardiner and  Stuart Percy

    Jake Gardiner will very likely be the shining star of this Maple Leaf rookie squad as arguably the most NHL ready player of the bunch. He has an NHL ready set of physical skills and his mental game isn’t far behind. Jake was Director of Player Development Jim Hughes’ pick as breakout player for the upcoming season. Stuart Percy should also draw plenty of interest and scrutiny after being generously talked up by various executive members of the Maple Leafs’ staff. The young blueliner plays with a ton of intelligence and poise.

    Goaltenders: Mark Owuya and Garrett Sparks

    Newly signed Mark Owuya will look to make a positive first impression his new organization and perhaps win a job with the Toronto Marlies. He will be in tough against the likes of Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens, both of whom made tremendous strides in their development last season. Garrett Sparks was the Maple Leafs’ 7th round pick in this past June’s Entry Draft and will look to parlay a strong tournament performance into a breakout year with the Guelp Storm.

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    Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Earlier this month, Gus projected Nikolai Kulemin as Toronto’s top scorer for the upcoming season in his 2011-2012 Maple Leaf player projections. Now it’s time for me to share my projections, but I’ll be taking a bit of a different approach. In an effort to make this as systematic as possible, I’m going to use a makeshift formula that I’ve created myself to take into account a few determining factors.

    I’m going to start by placing value on a player’s last three years of production, with the more recent years worth more than the earlier years. Year 1 will make up 20% of the total, Year 2 will make up 30% of the total and Year 3 (the most recent year) will make up 50% of the total. This helps take into account a player’s improvement while also buffering for the possibility of overvaluing a career season.

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    Brian Burke / Tyler Biggs / Dave Morrison
    Photo: National Post

    As mentioned earlier, I had the privilege of chatting with Maple Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting, Dave Morrison this morning to glean some his insight for an upcoming piece in this year’s edition of the Maple Leafs Annual. For that content, you’ll just have to wait until September. However, I was given the go-ahead to pass along for your enjoyment some of the content that will not be used in the Annual. Bear in mind, the flow of the interview may appear a little off as these are excerpts pulled from various sections.

    James Reimer really burst onto the NHL scene with a fantastic stretch of games as a rookie, but seemed to struggle a little bit toward the end there. Is conditioning one of those things James needs to work on in order to solidify himself as a true number one goaltender?

    Morrison – You’re right Alex, this was his first real extended stretch of games at the NHL level and that was a big challenge. He certainly proved himself at the AHL level, but the workload he shouldered there at the end… any goalie would start to feel the effects of that. That part of James’ game and the process of him learning how to be THE guy are going to come with experience and maturity. He understands what he needs to do. The management staff as well… they’re going to work with James as well to know when he’s okay to play and when he may need a night off here and there.

    After James Reimer was promoted to the big club, it was Ben Scrivens’ turn to steal the show as a rookie goaltender with the Marlies, putting up some very impressive numbers. Should Jonas and James be looking over their shoulders a little bit at the NHL level?

    Morrison – Haha, well any goalie should be always looking over their shoulders. The skaters should be too. There should always be an element of competition there at all times because it forces everyone to stay honest and continue to want to improve. We know Scrivens is a very good young goaltender and that he’s chomping at the bit to see some NHL action. At some point, he will push for an NHL job and that could be as early as sometime next year, but I certainly expect James and Jonas to be prepared for that possibility and to work their butts off to keep their jobs. We’re in a great situation with a bevy of good young goalies moving forward.

    Jesse Blacker seemed to have quite the breakout offensive season in the OHL this year thanks to increased ice-time and responsibility. How does he compare to Stuart Percy and Jake Gardiner in terms of puckmoving ability and offensive upside?

    Morrison – Oh boy, that’s a tough question. Well Jesse’s definitely a good one. All three of those guys are excellent puckmoving defensemen but each of them approaches the game with a bit of a different feel. Stuart’s not as flashy as Jesse or Jake but his intelligence more than makes up for it as he possesses an excellent understanding of the game. That’s not to take anything away from the other two, but Stuart just seems to incorporate it more into his game. Jesse and Jake on the other hand, are a little stronger on their feet in terms of agility and rushing ability. I suppose in the end, one of them will end up being the best of the group, but it’s doesn’t matter who. We’re in a great situation to have three high upside defensemen who should all be able to contribute at the next level.

    You traded up for your top selection of this year’s draft, snagging power forward Tyler Biggs, a ferocious checker, with the 22nd pick of the first round. What were some of the skills you saw that really drew you to him? Word is you guys actually had Percy rated a little higher than Biggs, but you called a draft floor audible to make sure you got both. Tell us about that.

    Morrison – Like you said, Tyler is a big, strong guy with a great physical element to his game. He’s got the upside of a power forward because he can play with a hard hitting, nasty edge but he’s also got the offensive skills to complement a scoring line. We love that he goes out there and gets his nose dirty in the corners. These types of players are very hard to find because teams just don’t let them go.

    We were sitting there at the draft table with picks 25 and 29 coming up and we knew there was no way we were going to get both where we were. So after trading up for the 22nd pick, I just had a feeling that Biggs was going to go before Percy within the next few picks. This is just one of those instincts you develop after years of experience and being on the floor for several drafts. It was something I discussed with my colleagues, who also shared the feeling. So we went ahead with our selection and just crossed our fingers, hoping that Percy would make it to 25. We really had no idea if it was all going to work out but we’re very thankful that it did.

    Let’s switch gears a little bit and finish off with some draft related questions. There was talk this year of teams putting a lot more time and effort into the interview process, even meeting with players that were significantly out of their projected range. Was this simply a matter of the 2011 draft class being one where there was little difference between say picks 20 through 50, thus prompting the need to be prepared for any scenario?

    Morrison – Absolutely Alex. That’s one part of it. You always want to be prepared for anything, whether that’s a player being unexpectedly available or trade options presenting themselves. The other aspect of it may simply just be the evolution of scouting as teams realize the importance of drafting well in the cap era. More time and money is being invested into the process and the teams that do so will reap the benefits later on down the road.

    With the recent regime change in the management team of the city’s baseball team (Blue Jays), current General Manager Alex Anthopoulos talked about a new approach to drafting where the organization sought out players with a 10% chance at developing into a star preferentially over players with a 50% chance of developing into an average player. What are your thoughts on such a drafting philosophy? Is it realistic to draft that way in hockey?

    Morrison – That’s an interesting question. My team and I are always trying to find that diamond in the rough… a true difference maker as it were. But like with baseball, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different ways for a player to positively impact a team. Some organizations have gotten especially good at identifying those riskier, high upside guys. Over the years, our team has been targeting increasingly higher risk-reward type players, much more so than four or five years ago. It becomes a lot easier to do so when you manage to acquire depth through free agent signings like Tyler Bozak, Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas. That frees you up to get a little more adventurous on the draft floor.

    Let’s say you’ve selected a couple of higher risk players in the early rounds. Do you seek to contrast those selections with some safer guarantees with defined roles in the later rounds? I would imagine it’s quite important to ensure you leave the draft floor with at least a few NHL contributors?

    Morrison –Maybe in the past we would do a little more of that. Now, we feel pretty confident taking high risk players because of all the homework we do to learn about a player, from a personal, medical and physical standpoint. A certain player may be further away from becoming an impact player but if we see that they have the right mentality and character to put in the work to get there, that makes us feel a lot better about a particular selection. Extensive homework is what gives us a better chance with these high upside risks.

    When scouting a player, on average, how many games do you feel are required in order to make a proper assessment of that player’s abilities?

    Morrison – You see Alex, it honestly depends on the game. Sometimes it’s one game… sometimes it’s two games… sometimes it’s six games. I read and receive a ton of reports everyday from all of our scouts and those are extremely important. If I were to go see a player, there could be any number of factors in play that could skew what I’m seeing. It could be a Sunday afternoon game for example where that player is tired after three games in two and half days, so perhaps I would consider coming back and watching him play on a Friday night.

    One last question.There seems to be considerable hype building for the upcoming 2012 draft class. What’s your early impression of that next crop of young players? Could it be realistically likened to the 2003 class where you see several all-star calibre players like Getzlaf, Perry, and Parise being selected in the late first round, or is that a little on the optimistic side?

    Morrison – That’s probably a little optimistic. I will say that the next group of players certainly looks very good and that throughout the course of this past year, the reviews on some of these underage players have been jumping off the page. However with any young player, a lot can change over the course of a year, so I like to stick with a wait and see approach before passing any final judgment.

    Well, that’s it from me. A big thank you from both MLHS and the Maple Leafs Annual for letting us interrupt you during your much deserved time off.

    Morrison – My pleasure Alex. Anytime.

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    Good morning folks. Maple Leafs scouting director Dave Morrison has set aside some time today for me for a quick Q&A for the Maple Leafs Annual. While you’ll have to wait for this year’s edition of the Annual for that particular piece (as if you needed another reason to longingly await September), I will also be transcribing some of the material on MLHS. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask him, please post them in the comments section below.

    Update: Thanks for all the questions. I’ve spoken to Dave and tried to sneak in as many as I could. The Q&A notes should be up sometime this afternoon.

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    After failing to agree to terms on a new contract, the Blackhawks have chosen to walk away from defenseman Chris Campoli’s $2.5 million arbitration award. The 27 year old puck-mover will become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any club. However, the Mississauga native has expressed an interest in joining his childhood team, the Maple Leafs.

    Much like with the Clarke MacArthur signing for $1.2 million last summer, the Leafs appear to be in prime position to land a capable young player at a potentially reduced salary should they so choose. The problem lies in the current backlog of potentially seven NHL calibre defensemen already cluttering up Toronto’s blueline. That’s not including Matt Lashoff or top prospect Jake Gardiner, whom GM Brian Burke believes may be ready to see some time with the big club at some point later this year. With that said, it should be noted that through various trades and injuries, the Maple Leafs dressed 10 different names on their blueline in 2010-2011.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the Leafs choose to explore this route, as it’s not very often you see talented young players become available for only money, and potentially reasonable money at that. Campoli has developed into a fairly well-rounded second pairing defenseman over the past few seasons, playing 18-20 minutes a night, displaying good offensive instincts and mixing in a little sandpaper to his game as well. For anything around the $1.5 million range, I’d take a gamble on a talented young guy who wants to be a Maple Leaf and let the depth issues sort themselves out through injury or trade later on down the road.

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    James Reimer (photo credit: Reuters)
    (Photo Credit: Reuters)

    After an impressive run of games to close out the season, it’s hard not to get giddy and optimistic about the Maple Leafs’ chances this fall. The biggest difference in the last thirty or so games of the year compared to recent Leaf teams has been the long-awaited installment of a reliable goaltender who gives you a chance to win every night. James Reimer gave this team that every night and more. Although he was hands down an inspiration between the pipes during that stretch, it may be wise to temper our expectations of the sophomore netminder heading into his first full season in the NHL. Let me tell you why.

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    Some quick tidbits from Brad Richards’ interview with Hockey Central late Friday night:

    – When pressed on the factors most important to Brad’s decision making process, he listed a stable ownership group and a commitment to win both in the short and long-term. He specifically cited the Tampa Bay situation where the team was blown up just two years after taking home the Cup as something he does not want to go through again.

    – A decision will most likely come sometime earlier in the day on Saturday. Brad had originally hoped to have the matter resolved on the first day, but the overwhelming presentations needed a little more time to be digested. He apparently slept on it last night and will now talk to his family this morning and make a decision shortly afterward. Richards: “There’s no need for it to drag further than tomorrow. I don’t want this to become a sideshow.”

    – The field has apparently been narrowed down to four teams. They are believed to be the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Kings and Flames. The first three teams have all met in person with Richards and his group while the Flames conducted a phone session with Brad’s former GM Jay Feaster.

    – The Maple Leafs’ offer has been rumored to be the largest of the bunch, but is structured more evenly without the backsliding element or bogus years of its competitors. With Burke on record against those type of deals as a form of cap circumvention, and having testified against the Kovalchuk deal, we will see if it takes the Leafs out of the running. The consensus amongst industry experts appears to be that the Rangers are the current frontrunners to land the all-star centreman’s services.

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    The Maple Leafs wrapped up a busy two days in St. Paul, Minnesota, adding a total of nine young draftees to the organization, eight of whom boast Canadian or American passports. With the nine selections, the Leafs targeted four forwards, four defensemen and a goaltender. While this year’s crop likely won’t yield much star power, the multitude of draft picks should help bolster organizational depth and provide at least a couple valuable contributors in a few years time.

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    After much posturing and pondering, the Maple Leafs did indeed manage to pair two of their top three selections to move in the first round. With the 22nd overall pick, the club selected American power forward Tyler Biggs and followed that up with the selection of Memorial Cup standout defenseman Stuart Percy.

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    It’s Draft Day folks! Passing along some draft notes for a few more of the names that figure to be in discussion for the Maple Leafs’ top three selections. Featured names include two-way blueliner Oscar Klefbom, power forward Joel Armia and powerplay quarterback Joe Morrow.

    Oscar Klefbom (Defenseman)

    Strengths: Excellent skating ability and upside as a two-way defenseman. Gives 110% every shift and plays with a considerable amount of physicality and grit. Solid positional instincts. Untapped offensive upside. A potential high end power play quarterback.

    Weaknesses:  Very raw skillset. Physical tools are there but will take some development time and coaching to maximize upside. Average point shot but should improve as he grows into his body.

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    According to a Swedish source, it appears as if Maple Leaf forward prospect Sondre Olden will cross the pond and play in the CHL this fall. The tall, lanky Norwegian born winger was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the 3rd round, 79th overall of last year’s entry draft. The 18 year old spent this past season primarily with the Modo J20 team, but did see a few games with the senior squad in the Swedish Elite League. Olden also represented Norway at the World Junior tournament in Buffalo. Considering his skillset and experience, Olden will likely be a high selection in the CHL’s Import Draft.

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    A few days ago, we learned about the playmaking Portland Winterhawk forward Ty Rattie. Today, let’s talk about another very talented draft eligible player from that line: goal scoring machine Sven Bartschi. With goal scoring instincts and natural ability reminiscent of rookie phenom Jeff Skinner, Bartschi is quite arguably one of the best pure goal scorers of the draft class.

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    PHOTO BY AARON BELL/CHL IMAGES

    In the fourth installment of the MLHS 2011 Draft Profile series, we’re going to take a quick look at Portland Winterhawk winger Ty Rattie. Our very own Brian Huddle informs us that the Maple Leafs have been showing Rattie around the city, much like they did with Leaf draftee Greg McKegg last year, which may perhaps tip their hand. Rattie is a crafty and skilled winger with tremendous offensive upside but his small stature and average skating may push him back toward the latter third of the first round.