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Brayden Irwin

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Day Two of on-ice participation is now in the books .. the sessions all had a purpose, as camp not only winds down, but clear decisions need to be made on who will remain with the main roster and who will be going to the Marlies or back to their original junior team.

A breakdown of the drills and more observations from the intra squad game after the jump.

Sunday Training Camp Day 2 practice

Teams A and B practiced with Team A on the main ice. (Breakdown of teams is here.

The drills weren’t very different from the previous days, they all focused on a real-game situation and the coaching staff made variations along the way.

Bring On Training Camp!

The Toronto Maple Leafs held their on-ice portion of training camp today. Players have been split into three squads to accommodate the 63 players invited to camp.

Among the contingent of fans outside the ice surface at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence was a throng of media and of course, Leafs staff.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning have made some minor league moves this afternoon, with the Leafs sending Marlies’ forwards Alex Berry and Stefano Giliati in exchange for minor league defenseman Matt Lashoff.

In Lashoff, the Leafs are getting a young, depth guy who will likely play out the year for the Marlies.  A former 1st round Bruins draft pick, Lashoff has some size and offensive skill, but couldn’t translate his ability beyond the AHL level for any extended period of time.  In 63 NHL games between Boston and Tampa, he’s tallied 1 goal and 14 assists and is a career -15.  Still young at 23, he’ll have stiff competition for a spot on the Marlies blue line and a chance at a fresh start after showing promise in both Norfolk and Providence.

The Leafs lose two foot soldiers on the forward ranks in Berry and Giliati.  Meat and potatoes type of players with little NHL upside, they will be missed for the leadership and experience.  However, the move offers more opportunities for up and coming forward prospects such as Jerry D’Amigo, Marcel Mueller and Brayden Irwin.

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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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- If the TSN reports that Frolov could sign a 1 year deal comparable to that of Afinogenov last season ($800,000) are true, then why weren’t the Maple Leafs heavily involved in discussions with Frolov’s agent? He’s a big guy who can win some pucks, plays a well-rounded game and would fit perfectly in the top line left wing role at a bargain basement price. Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about a deteriorating market? This potential signing may just be the beginning.

- The Toronto Sun reports that the Maple Leafs’ Rookie tournament will take place at the John Labatt Centre in London from September 11th-14th this year.

- The Hockey News makes the case for the Maple Leafs as a surprise playoff team this coming season.

- On to the FanPosts. Andrew Edwards (AKA Crazyaces) proposes a solution for these ridiculous long-term contracts, while Michael Cuttell continues his preseason synopsis by evaluating the Leafs’ current forward group.

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- The Toronto Star has a nice piece up about Kadri’s offseason workouts and training regimen. The youngster has bulked up to an impressive 185 lbs, up from 170 lbs at this time last season and credits his success to being able to train regularly with Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel. The Maple Leafs player development staff are quite pleased with Nazem’s progress, as he continues to vie for a role in the team’s top six forward group.

- Not to give away too many details, but I conducted my interview with Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison yesterday for the 2010 Maple Leafs Annual and he confirmed that if Kadri does not make the team out of camp, the organization will send him to the Marlies rather than back to the Knights.

- The Montreal Gazette provides some insight into how prospect Brayden Irwin, a late season NCAA free agent signee, is preparing for upcoming year.

- CapGeek notes that the Maple Leafs have re-signed forward Tim Brent to a 1 year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Brent will likely provide some scoring depth for the Marlies, having scored 28 points in 33 games last season.

- Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski confirms that the lack of movement on the free agent front is due to fact that several teams are facing financial restrictions. Free agents were aware that several teams were trying to offload cumbersome contracts, but were surprised at the lack of success in doing so. The teams trying to climb to the cap floor are preferring to do so by bidding on second or third tier players, which in turn is inflating the market for these secondary contributors. Several teams are in the “wait-and-see” mode with an eye on scooping up bargains around July 10th.

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Some reading material for your weekend enjoyment:

- The boys over at PPP provide us with a nice piece about European free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnas. The 6’5 22 year old is coming off an impressive season in the Finnish Elite League, posting a 2.50 GAA to go along with a league-best 0.929 SV%. For comparison’s sake: Mikka Kiprusoff posted a 1.86 GAA and 0.936 SV% during his age 22-23 season in the SM-Liiga. Jussi is in the midst of a five city North American tour, with Toronto not being one of the destinations. However, Burke and Nonis have both made the trip out to Helsinki and later brought Francois Allaire along to speak with Rynnas during his stopover in Montreal. Rynnas is not as highly regarded as Gustavsson was last offseason, and will likely be playing for an AHL team next season. The scouting report on him is that he’s a big guy who can struggle at times with rebound control and positioning, much like our own Gustavsson, and his style of play has been compared to that of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

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Prior to the lockout, undrafted college free agents were a rare, straight to NHL commodity. Either serving out their apprenticeships as minor league signees or plying their trade overseas, few players transitioned directly from the ranks of college hockey to the NHL without enduring prolonged development curves. However, in a post-lockout landscape where GM’s clutch their most valued assets and superstars to their clubs with dynasty length deals, and where dollars and ice time are apportioned in equilibrium, graduate aged (or younger) players progressing from the NCAA as free agents are providing comparatively cheap labour in an increasingly scrutinized marketplace.

Not too surprisingly, considering both his hockey heritage as a former captain of the Providence College Friars and his somewhat condensed timetable for rebuilding the Leafs, Brian Burke has been one of the first to plunder the verdant college market in recent seasons, in turn providing a quantum shift from the conventional dominance of the CHL at the junior level.

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    Phil Kessel has but one point in five games against his former side while recurrent Leafs nightmare Tuukka Rask, league leader in goals against average and save percentage, stands 3-1-0 against the club that drafted him. This match-up tonight marks the final opportunity this season to get a little bit of that sour taste out of the fan base’s collective mouth and perhaps symbolize that we, too, can make good trades.

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      Unrelated Update: New signing Brayden Irwin to play tomorrow night against Atlanta (link).

      #36 in Blue and White is proving to be everything his number-sake Anton Stralman never became in Toronto. Hear me out, Andrew R.

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        Irwin that is. It was reported last night that the Maple Leafs had agreed to terms with 23 year old free agent forward Brayden Irwin, a former teammate of Viktor Stalberg at the University of Vermont. Irwin is Toronto native power forward, standing at 6’5 215 lbs, but does possess a bit of skill, a good shot and skates well for his size. He had a breakout 2009-2010 campaign in which he recorded 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points in 39 games played, totals that would surpass his two previous seasons combined. Irwin also leads his team in shots, penalty minutes and boasts a team-best 55% win percentage in the faceoff circle. Irwin struggled through a terrible junior season, but Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon believed from the start of the year that Irwin had all the tools to become one of the top players in the league. Guess he wasn’t too far off.

        While it’s not quite as high profile a signing as Minny’s Casey Wellman, it’s still a step in the right direction: the accumulation of free assets, in this case a player with some interesting skill and size. Personally, I’m still holding out for New Hampshire sniper Bobby Butler or my personal favourite from this year’s crop: Stephane Da Costa out of Merrimack College.