Photo Credit: Hockeynews.com
Morgan Rielly is a Canadian defenseman who played his junior career for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. This 18 year old, 6 ft, 190 lb defenseman was born in West Vancouver and was Moose Jaw’s second overall selection in the WHL Bantam Draft.
His honors include a bronze medal in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge and a selection to the 2011 Subway Super Series. Riellyâ€™s season was cut short by a torn ACL as the D-man played only 18 games for the Warriors scoring 18 points during that stretch, including 3 goals. We needed to add some more mobility on the back end and we got it now.
Photo: The Canadian Press
Being a Leafs fan in Northern Alberta offers few benefits. I get to see the team play live only once a year. I have to subscribe to Center Ice or track down feeds online if I want to catch Sportsnet or Leafs TV games, and I never know what is happening with the Marlies. To make matters worse, the Leafs scouting staff rarely selects players from the WHL so I get few chances to watch prospects, and rarely have hope that a Western player will be selected in the draft by the Leafs (All QMJHL fans are playing a tiny violin for me right now.)
It has been a different story the past couple of weeks, as the Portland Winterhawks have been playing my local Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League Finals, and that has meant a lot of Brad Ross viewings.
Photo: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star
For the first time in these playoffs, the Toronto Marlies lost a game.
Okay they’ve only played four, so it’s not a big deal. And if you asked the Marlies last night, they didn’t see it as too big of a deal either, yet.
The general sentiment echoed throughout those who spoke after the game (Eakins, Frattin, Gardiner, to name a few), was that yeah they lost, but that the chances were there for them to win the game and they really only made a few mistakes which unfortunately led to Abbotsford goals.
Jerry D’Amigo and Ryan Hamilton both missed tremendous scoring opportunities in the slot in the third period and the team in general was swarming inside the Heat’s zone for pretty well the entire third period. But Heat goalie Danny Taylor really played well and shut the door.
It’s one game and from the Marlies view, they outplayed them but just couldn’t bury. From the Heat’s view? They probably didn’t play their best but still found a way to win. We’ll see where this goes next.
Leafs fans are showing heightened interest in the Marlies lately, and deservedly so as they have officially begun their run for the Calder Cup. While AHL success in the playoffs is always a fantastic experience for any player – especially young ones – fans of Toronto hockey at the end of the day are asking themselves one thing: How does this help the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Earlier in the year, I wrote a piece looking at Calder Cup Finalists translation to NHL success. That leads into the current edition of the Marlies as we look at who on this team is being counted on to help the Leafs moving forward and which players are likely to become productive NHLers and part of the long-term solution here.
Now, I want to stress that there is a difference between a long-term NHLer, and a fringe AHL-NHL tweener. A player like Darryl Boyce is an AHL-NHL tweener, meaning he’s a very good American league player, but struggles to get into a National league lineup consistently. Usually players that struggle to translate their games are missing one key ingredient that they can get away with in the AHL, but not the NHL – Be that a lack of speed, size, vision, strength, shooting ability, defensive ability, and so on.
So, inevitably, when someone says “where is Greg Scott,” well, Greg Scott brings a lot to the table, and hey, he could potentially make the Leafs as their 12th or 13th forward, but he is not a long-term solution to anything for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, when we are looking at the players below, we aren’t just looking at players who may or may not crack the Leafs next season, we are looking at players who are being counted on to be contributing Toronto Maple Leafs for years to come in the ongoing quest to make the playoffs.
It was another 4-3 game in which the Marlies gave up a two goal lead and Jerry D’Amigo scored twice, including the game winner in the final minutes. In many respects it was like watching the same game as Thursday night’s. Did we mention that Zigomanis scored and Foligno, Verone and Brennan were the same Rochester goal scorers from Game 1? All that matters from the Marlie perspective is that it was the same result and they now hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
An announced sell out crowd of towel wavers provided a good atmosphere, particularly in the final moments following the D’Amigo winner. Onto the notes:
-For whatever reason the Marlies have let up on those – cliched, but true – always dangerous two-goal leads, but you can tell when it comes down to it, and when the Marlies need to score the next goal, they seem to believe in the game plan and that they’re capable of pulling it out. Winning a game despite giving up a two goal lead – and giving up leads in the third on both occasions – is not as easy as the Marlies have made it look the last two games. That type of resilience and abiding belief in their abilities should help take them deep in these playoffs.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
An update on the Maple Leafs of tomorrow:
- 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.
Quick thoughts on a couple youngsters:
- 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 forÂ 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.
Be sure to check out Mislav’s recap of the Leafs-Sens rookie game last night. Garrett has your Luke Schenn contract update here.
Alas, the Rookie tournament is over, but thank god for a sighting of hockey players wearing the blue and white. The Leafs showed well, winning twice over the weekend before succumbing to a hard fought loss against the hated Ottawa Senators.Â The loss, while disheartening, showed more about the Leafs than either of their two wins.Â Turnovers and defensive lapses put the baby buds into a hole early, but they fought back to tie it twice.Â While ultimately unsuccessful, the kids showed they had character and determination.
Iâ€™ll admit that I actually spent three good nights watching the guys play, and after the jump, weâ€™ll take a look at some parting thoughts from an exciting, optimism inducing Rookie Tourney.
(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 andÂ 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.
Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Last week, Steve Dangle sat down with James Reimer for a rookie spotlight piece for the 2011 Maple Leafs Annual. The interview went so well that a lot of good material ended up hitting the cutting room floor. Lucky for you, MLHS and Steve Dangle.com readers, we can pass along the leftovers for your consumption. Consider it the next bonus feature to your copy of the Annual. Interview excerpts with Poulin, Dudley, and Morrison can be found here. Keith Aulie excerpts will be coming later today. Enjoy:
Steve Dangle: How do you spend your summer?
James Reimer: Mostly in B.C. I mean I try and visit back home to Manitoba a couple of times, but I spend most of my summer out in B.C. Just working out at a gym called Fit Life and hanging out and relaxing a little bit.
SD: Why B.C.? When did that come into the picture?
JR: Mostly with my wife, I started coming out here when we were dating, and we really liked it over the years and kind of just kept coming back so it’s nice. It’s where she’s from. She feels comfortable here plus I found a great gym so it’s those two reasons, mostly.
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 â€“ Youâ€™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 endâ€¦ any goalie would start to feel the effects of that. That part of Jamesâ€™ 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 wellâ€¦ theyâ€™re going to work with James as well to know when heâ€™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 Scrivensâ€™ 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 â€“ 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 heâ€™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. Weâ€™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 â€“ Oh boy, thatâ€™s a tough question. Well Jesseâ€™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. Stuartâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 itâ€™s doesnâ€™t matter who. Weâ€™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 yearâ€™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 â€“ Like you said, Tyler is a big, strong guy with a great physical element to his game. Heâ€™s got the upside of a power forward because he can play with a hard hitting, nasty edge but heâ€™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 donâ€™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 weâ€™re very thankful that it did.
Letâ€™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 â€“ Absolutely Alex. Thatâ€™s one part of it. You always want to be prepared for anything, whether thatâ€™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 cityâ€™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 â€“ Thatâ€™s an interesting question. My team and I are always trying to find that diamond in the roughâ€¦ a true difference maker as it were. But like with baseball, itâ€™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.
Letâ€™s say youâ€™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 itâ€™s quite important to ensure you leave the draft floor with at least a few NHL contributors?
Morrison â€“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 playerâ€™s abilities?
Morrison â€“ You see Alex, it honestly depends on the game. Sometimes itâ€™s one gameâ€¦ sometimes itâ€™s two gamesâ€¦ sometimes itâ€™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 Iâ€™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. Whatâ€™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 â€“ Thatâ€™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 â€“ My pleasure Alex. Anytime.
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.
Photo Credit: www.erieevents.com
The Leafs’ former third round pick in 2010, Sondre Olden, has been drafted 31st overall by the Erie Otters (pick acquired from the Plymouth Whalers)Â in the CHL Import Draft. The Olso, Norway native is a lanky 6’4″, 180-pound center who made three appearances for SEL team Modo as an 18-year-old but mostly played last season with Modo Junior (Modo J20). If he reports to Erie he’ll be playing with Greg McKegg which undoubtedly makes Leafs fans very happy. Chemistry is best built early on.
MLHS’ Mislav Jantoljak wrote this in his spotlight piece on Olden:
“He struggles winning puck battles mostly because he gets out muscled and outworked, and needs to realize that the only way to the NHL is by filling out and getting stronger. That said, the raw talent and frame didnâ€™t go anywhere and is still visible in some of the moves he makes.”
It’s hard to say where Olden might have gone in the draft order if he had more than one year of junior eligibility remaining; regardless, it’s always good to get these European prospects over for some development at the junior level on North American ice, and it seems particularly apt for Olden given the areas of his game most in need of work. He must gain strength and better embrace the physical and two way elements of the game. Mislav tells me Olden seemed pushed to compete against men for Modo earlier than his time despite apparently lacking the necessary upper body strength, and it may have set him back confidence-wise. Given time to develop at his own pace, gain strength and develop a better understanding of a two-way, physical game, Olden has the raw tools – the frame, the reach, the hockey sense, the soft hands – to suggest the Leafs may have something in their 79th overall pick from 2010. He’s a project to keep an eye on.
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.
Photo Credit: Marie Hallman, nyheter24.se
Photo Credit: Marie Hallman, nyheter24.se
Itâ€™sÂ typically a fan problem, if you can call it that. Many fans, long time or casual, only care about the flair, the spotlight. They care about the guys who make the big bucks and pull us out of our seats on a nightly basis. Nobody is immune to the highlight reel goal that a certain highly touted Finnish prospect scores in a World Championships semifinal but even the casual fan understands the game is about more than that, even if he/she doesnâ€™t care about Mike Brown.
A team can never have too many energy players that can put the puck into the net. Secondary scoring, grinding and puck pursuit is a vital cog in any teamsâ€™ success. Not that we lack historical examples, but just ask Tampa Bay and Sean Bergenheim for a more contemporary one. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Daniel Brodin.
32 games (SEL): 2.18 GAA, 0.927 SV%
Exciting game sevens be damned, Brian Burke has shown an active hand in the undrafted free agent market once again, inking Swedish tender Mark Owuya to a two-year contract. The 21 year-old has been moving steadily through the Djurgarden system, beginning with their U18 team in 2005-2006. Owuya quickly moved onto the U20 incarnation of the Djurgarden franchise and even made his first appearance in the Swedish Elite League early in 2008. Yet the 6′ 2”, 198 lbs netminder bounced around various teams on a loan basis before entering this campaign’s preseason competing with Stefan Ridderwall for the number one slot.
According to the Swedish news outlet Aftonbladet, the Maple Leafs are looking to add once again to their very deep pool of goaltending prospects. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks are reportedly the two front runners for the services of Mark Owuya, a young standout netminder out of the Swedish Eliteserien. Playing as a 21 year old rookie, Owuya stole the starting job for the Djugarden hockey club and went on to post a 2.18 GAA and .927 SV%, good for third and first overall respectively among qualifying goaltenders this past season. For comparison’s sake, Jonas Gustavsson recorded a 1.97 GAA and .932 SV% during his last year in the Eliteserien, albeit at 24 years of age.
According to the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox, the Leafs are expected to sign 24 year old forward prospect Leo Komarov to an entry-level contract at some point in the near future. The Maple Leafs hold Komarov’s NHL rights as a 6th round selection, 180th overall back in 2006. Komarov was born in Estonia, but grew up playing hockey in Finland where currently holds a duel-citizenship along with Russia. He has spent the last two years playing in the KHL, earning himself an all-star appearance this past season. In 52 games played for OHK Dynamo Moskva, he recorded 14 goals and 12 assists, in addition to 70 penalty minutes. Komarov also impressed during a brief playoff run, scoring 4 times and adding 2 helpers in just 6 games.
Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Sondre Olden is a young player I started watching in the first game of this seasonâ€™s rookie camp. He scored a somewhat lucky goal, but otherwise looked lanky and awkward. A game later, I started to take notice.
Smooth passing skills and a good frame, the kid even reminded me of Mats Sundin on a couple of occasions. This of course doesnâ€™t mean heâ€™ll be anything close to what Sundin was (few will) but that doesnâ€™t mean that his movement and handling of the puck didn’t ring some bells.
Olden was born in Oslo, Norway on August 29th, 1992. His natural position is center, but he can play any forward position (has played RW on more than a couple of occasions and was even listed as a RW on Norwayâ€™s roster for the 2010 World Junior Championships). A left handed shooter, he is currently listed as being 6ft4, 178 lbs.
Photo Credit: Sportsnet
Photo Credit: Sportsnet
With just seven games left on the schedule for the 2010-2011 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Currently sitting five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Leafs need to keep winning and hope that they get the help they need from the teams ahead of them to sneak into the postseason. Buoyed by the excellent goaltending of James Reimer, the Leafs are looking like a cohesive team committed to pushing as hard as they can towards the common goal of a playoff berth. With any good team, every player has to contribute and commit to the all-important team-first philosophy. Nazem Kadri, recently recalled for his second stint with the big club, is showing he is ready to stick around this time.
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