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The resolution to the NHL lockout combined with the commencement of the second half of the CHL season has predictably stirred up some player movement in the NHL’s development leagues.

As far as Leaf property, third round pick in 2011 Josh Leivo was traded to the Kitchener Rangers in a deal that saw the Sudbury Wolves move their top forward in Leivo, top defenceman in Frankie Corrado and starting goaltender Joel Vienneau in one swoop.

At this point in time, it is probably fair to call Morgan Rielly the most hyped Leafs prospect since Wendel Clark. I don’t know whether or not that’s fair, but with great hype comes great expectations.

To this point, Rielly hasn’t done anything to really quash the excitement that is building for him. He’s scored electric goals, he’s played well for Canada in the past, and now he’s on the World Juniors team.

In essence, Rielly is following the path of many elite defensemen before him. With that in mind, I collected some stats on how players he’s been compared to have performed in this tournament. Hopefully, it will serve as some sort of barometer on what to expect from the young Leafs prospect.

Welcome back, Josh Leivo.

After missing time with a concussion, Leivo returned to the Sudbury Wolves lineup last week and he did so with a vengeance.  The Wolves had 3 games in 3 nights this weekend and Leivo put up 2 goals and 5 assists.  Leivo now has 34 points in 29 games on a pretty weak Sudbury team.

With World Junior selection camps getting under way this week, a handful of Leafs prospects will be leaving their CHL teams to join up with their national all-star teams.  If you’d like a quick breakdown on the Leafs prospects who will be involved in the World Junior Championships, here’s a short post I put together over at Pension Plan Puppets.  This natural break in the schedule seems like as good a time as any to check in with where our kids are sitting among their peers at this stage of the season.

The Marlies broke their three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win in Rochester last night. Matt Frattin continues to score pretty much every game since returning from injury, notching two last night including the game winner, his sixth and seventh in six games so far this season. Jerry D’Amigo and Carter Ashton rounded out the scoring. Ben Scrivens stopped 28 of 29 shots.

The Marlies face the Amerks again back at home tonight at 7 p.m. EST. You can catch the game on Sportsnet One.

A slow start to the AHL year was probably the last thing Nazem Kadri needed.

Kadri is the most polarizing Leafs prospect in recent memory and at 22 has yet to stick as an NHL regular.  After spending the tail end of the summer training with fitness guru Gary Roberts, Kadri came to camp only to have his fitness criticized by head coach Dallas Eakins.  Cue the fan unrest.

Through nine games, Kadri had put up a very pedestrian 3 points (0G, 3A) and found himself on the healthy scratch list. The ‘Bust’ set were starting to get loud again.

One week later and Kadri is back to his old ways.  In his last 5 games, Kadri has put up 11 points (2G, 9A) and is now tied for 14th in AHL scoring after an abysmal start.  This production, while impressive, still has room for improvement as Kadri’s shooting percentage is sitting at 6.3% when he’s closer to a 15% shooter over a large sample.  I’ve maintained all year that Kadri has looked good in the games that I’ve seen him play and was taken by surprise when he was singled out for a benching (though I didn’t see the game that preceded it).

In February, I wrote a piece comparing Kadri’s production against other high picks from the 2008 and 2009 draft classes and the results may surprise some of the more anti-Kadri among you.  My opinion on Kadri is that he’s doing just fine and I genuinely feel that he’s deserving of a spot on the 2012-13 Leafs, if the league ever gets around to playing hockey.

Things in the CHL were a little uneventful this week.  Morgan Rielly was involved in the Subway Super Series and his Moose Jaw Warriors had a 9 day break between games (they’ll get back under way on Wednesday).  Josh Leivo picked up a pair of assists in yesterday’s game, including a beauty cross-crease number (I’ll tweet out the highlight pack if it comes available) and he continues to fire at a point-per-game clip on a bad Sudbury team.

Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy faced off against each other last night in Oshawa with Percy coming out on the better end of the encounter.  Biggs started the game chasing Percy around the ice a little bit which I’m sure some people enjoyed but I found a little annoying.  One of my favourite things about Tyler Biggs is how he seldom takes himself out of position to make the big hit but for some reason last night it looked like he was trying to prove something to someone.

Percy ended the game with 3 assists, 2 on the powerplay and none of them spectacular, and played a prototypical Stuart Percy game.  He’s a good positional defender, he’s struck the right balance between physicality and finesse when dealing with opposing forwards, but he’s still far more apt to try and skate the puck out of the zone than to make a good, crisp breakout pass.

As always, if you’re on The Twitter and want to chat Leafs, prospects, or good books, you can catch me here.

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For most of the Leafs CHL prospects, this was a pretty lacklustre week.

Tyler Biggs picked up a pair of assists in Friday’s game but was held pointless in a pair of losses on Saturday and Sunday.  David Broll had a 3-point weekend with 2 goals and 1 assist.  Rielly plays an afternoon game tomorrow and after 1 assist in his last 3 games, he’ll have to put up some crooked numbers for his weekly production to be in any way noteworthy — though his play was, as always, solid.

While the group-wide production was uninspiring, there’s still plenty to talk about.  First of all, after being benched following what I’ve been told was a sub-par effort, both Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri bounced back in a big way on Saturday night, putting up 5-points between them and from what I’ve heard, looking very good while doing it.  The highlights were nice, especially the nifty tic-tac-toe number that Colborne, Gardiner, and Kadri put together at the 1:19 mark of that video.   With my CHL commitments, I’ve only seen about half of the Marlies games so far this year but Kadri and Colborne have looked good when I’ve tuned in — I’m just lucky, I guess.

The story of the week as far as Leafs prospects goes was without a doubt Connor Brown.  I confessed last week to having not paid too much attention to him in the early stages of this season but I saw him this week and he looked good.  In 2 games, Brown put up 2 goals and 5 assist and all of his assists were of the primary variety.

The question that I’ve been asked most often this season is whether Brown is actually this good or whether he’s a product of another Connor; namely, Connor McDavid.  First of all, it’s impossible to take team or line effects out of Junior Hockey.  Who’s responsible for whose production?  It’s possibly the most maddening question to try and sort out.  Does it help Brown that he’s skating with the OHL’s super rookie? Of course.  But as good as McDavid will undoubtedly be, he’s still only the 15th leading scorer in the OHL as of tonight and that puts him 3 slots behind Brown, for now.

What I’ve seen from Brown in a small 3 game sampling is some good vision and creativity as well as a strong understanding of when it’s appropriate to shoot and when it’s better to pass.  His skating doesn’t really standout and he’s a bit undersized but he has a knack for finding and hitting the holes in the offensive zone coverage.

At the end of the day, despite his early production, I see Brown as a bit of a longshot.  He plays smart and he’s capable of making some high-skill plays but at his size and without exceptional speed, it’s going to be tough sledding for him to make The Show.  While he was full-marks for his points over the weekend (I’ll tweet the highlight pack or plays of the week once it comes out — one of his assists against Oshawa was magnificent), 11 of his 16 goals have come on the powerplay and things like that tend to even themselves out over the course of a season.

For now, I’m happy to see that he’s producing in his draft+1 year but my expectations are still tempered by his size and draft slot.  Not a lot of 6th rounders make it but for the time being, I’m just enjoying the ride.

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Forget all that I’ve said about Tyler Biggs to date because he’s decided that he’s a completely different player.  It’s almost as though he read what I wrote in this space a week ago.  In 3 games last week, Biggs wasn’t rushing with the puck on his stick, he parked himself inches from the goalie’s face when setting his screens, and generally just asserted his will on the game in a way that I had rarely seen in the first 15 games of the year.

Well, Biggs was rewarded with 6 points in 3 games including a 4-point effort in Sunday’s game.  He’s back to being a point-per-game player in his first season in the OHL after his line went through a mini-slump for a few games recently.  If he can keep this up moving forward, I’ll have to re-evaluate my projections for him.  It’s only a 3 game stretch but suffice to say, I was very impressed with what I saw.

Connor Brown is a prospect that I have to admit, I haven’t tracked as closely as I should.  Erie sucked hard last year and Brown being drafted in the 6th round didn’t really inspire me into wanting to put a lot of effort into keeping up with the Otters.  My loss, apparently.

Brown has lit up the league in his draft+1 season and last week was no exception.  In last week’s games, Erie scored a total of 5 goals and Brown picked up 4 of those 5.  I’ve had a lot of people asking me whether Brown has been making a living off of exceptional underager Connor McDavid.  Truthfully, I’m ill-equipped to answer that one right now.  I’ll be watching him at least once this week and maybe twice and I’ll keep this in the front of my mind while I do.   Safe to say that Brown has made me take notice — mea culpa.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably Thursday and if you haven’t made plans to watch the Subway Super Series tonight, I’d urge you to clear some space on your schedule and the couch.  Leafs prospects Josh Leivo, Stuart Percy, Matt Finn and 2013 draft eligible Sean Monahan will be playing for team OHL so if you call yourself a Leafs fan then you call that game a must-watch.  You can catch the game on Sportsnet at 7:00 EST.

Had some great conversations during the Friday Night Hockey game between Oshawa and Guelph, and hope you’ll join me on Twitter for more of the same.

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Brought to you by Blue Chip Prospects

With Sportsnet televising Tyler Biggs’ Friday night showdown with Matt Finn (also: Garret Sparks will likely man the pipes for Guelph), I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to share some things that I’ve noticed about the two Leafs prospects in the early stages of the year.  Think of these points as some things to watch for or consider while taking in the game — I’d love to hear where you agree, disagree, or if you’d just like to talk things out.


 Friday Night I had the opportunity to take in the Edmonton Oil Kings game.  Their opponent just so happened to be the Moose Jaw Warriors and one Morgan Rielly. The Oil Kings proceeded to pummel the Warriors 5-1 and by the end of the second the shot total was 30-10 for the Oil Kings. As you can imagine, this doesn’t lead to a glowing review of Rielly or the Warriors in general.

My notes on Rielly below reflect what I witnessed in what clearly a lackluster night for him. They may seem harsh, but it doesn’t change the fact that I believe that Rielly will soon be the top unit powerplay quarterback for the Leafs. The viewing did not change my prior concerns that he may not be a defensively sound player.

Also, a while back DefenseWinsChampionships penned this thoughtful piece on his viewing of Morgan Rielly. I’d encourage everyone to use that as a basis for comparison and I think it accurately captures a typical game Rielly puts up in the WHL.


We had a shift-by-shift look at Josh Leivo and one of his goals from Saturday up on the site yesterday. On Sunday, Leivo went out and scored a hat trick for the Sudbury Wolves, leading them over the 67′s and earning him OHL’s Player of the Week honours in the process. His performance included two brilliant individual efforts that really wowed onlookers. Leivo also scored twice on the Thursday against Peterborough.

It’s important to temper expectations and keep the odds in mind of these mid to lower round picks (Leivo was a third in 2011) becoming NHLers let alone higher end ones, but this is a prospect I’m getting pretty excited about. His combination of size and a gifted set of hands is intriguing.The fact that he’s willing to drop the gloves and work hard killing penalties just about completes the Leafs fan wet dream.

Always be weary of the big picture when a 19-year-old posts big junior numbers, but you never know; Leivo was a late birthday and perhaps the Leafs found a player here who needed the extra time beyond his draft season to really harness the tools at his disposal.

From the OHL:


Update: Josh Leivo led his Sudbury Wolves over the Ottawa 67′ers with a hat trick Sunday afternoon, including two brilliant individual efforts. We’ll scour the web for some video and post the highlights. Great display of skill.

MLHS user “J” attended the Sudbury Wolves win over the Kingston Frotenacs last night and tracked Josh Leivo’s shifts on video as well as his game-tying goal (his fourth of the season).

From J: “Leivo did not disappoint as he finished the night with the game tying goal and was a constant force to reckoned with. He made quite a few nice passes that could have easily been goals had other players finished the play.

He played on the 2nd line 5-5. He was on the second powerplay unit as well as the 2nd penalty killing unit. Notable:there were quite a few (6) Frontenac powerplays and they failed to take advantage.

I was able to take a few pictures and I taped most of his shifts. Check out his hard work on the PK and goal at the end of the video:


Last night in Leafs Prospects (Saturday, October 6):

Morgan Rielly: two assists in a 4-2 Moose Jaw win over Portland, bringing his season total up to seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 6 games.

Connor Brown: a goal and an assist in a 4-3 Erie loss to the London Knights. His stat line sits at 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 7 games played. Strong start to the OHL season for the Leafs’ sixth round pick in 2012.

Tyler Biggs

Last night in Leafs Prospects (Friday, October 5):

Tyler Biggs put together a two point Friday night as his high flying Oshawa Generals downed the Kingston Frotenacs 6-4. The Generals were trailing before Biggs assisted on a goal and dropped the gloves to help turn the tide. He added an empty netter to polish off the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

The Generals are the scoringest team in the OHL with 30 goals through just six games, ten more than the next best in their Conference. Biggs scored twice and added a helper in a 7-4 romp of the Battalion earlier in the week and should have a good chance to post good numbers playing on a potent Oshawa team in his first season in the O. Biggs now has eight points in six games and is a combined +8.

Friday night in Leafs Prospects:

David Broll – 2 assists

Garet Sparks – Win

Matt Finn – 1 assist

Connor Brown – 2 assists

Ryan Rupert – 2 assists

Stuart Percy – 1 assist

Morgan Rielly

From MLHS user DefenceWinsChampionships:

As some of you may already know, I got to see Morgan Rielly play last night in Regina. He scored Moose Jaw’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Pats. Here are some things I noticed throughout the night: