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On Saturday, I took in the Marlies 4-2 win against St. John’s with McKeen’s Hockey pro scouting coordinator Gus Katsaros. First off, he’s an excellent hockey guy who you should follow on Twitter @KatsHockey, if you aren’t already. More relevant to this piece, we discussed numerous Marlies and Leafs-related matters that I’ll go over here as points of discussion and analysis.
Photo: Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Photo: Aaron Bell/OHL Images
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: Mike Peake/Toronto Sun
With the quirky best-of-five quarterfinal arrangement in the AHL playoffs, holding serve at home puts the higher seed one win away from the Conference semi finals. Following a 4-3 win on Thursday, the Marlies look to put themselves in the driver seat this afternoon with a Game 2 win over Rochester at Ricoh Coliseum.
In keeping with the ten regular season meetings between the two sides, a one-goal margin decided Game 1. Like in seven of the those ten games, the Marlies came out on top. Jerry D’Amigo scored twice, Matt Frattin and Mike Zigomanis added to the total as the Marlies staved off an Amerks comeback from 3-1 down to win 4-3.
The Marlies outplayed, outchanced and outshot the Amerks for large spells, and the game plan will be to replicate that success without the slip ups and penalty trouble that allowed the Amerks back in it after the Marlies scored three unanswered to lead 3-1 in the third frame.
There’s an expected sell out, or close to, today, with Ricoh hopefully providing the seventh man for the Marlies. Myself and Anthony Petrielli will be in attendance. I’ll be interacting in the comments throughout and Anthony will have your game story later on.
In case you haven’t heard, the Toronto Marlies beat the Rochester Americans last night 4-3 to take a 1-0 lead in their first round best of five playoff series.
The game story and video highlights can be found here on the Marlies website. The readers digest version goes like this: the Marlies took the play to Rochester in the first, yet it was Rochester who finished the first period with a 1-0 lead. The Americans’ goalie, David Leggio, was peppered with shots throughout the game and the Marlies D’Amigo finally broke through in the second period as the two teams went into the third period tied at one. The Marlies then scored two goals to take what looked like a commanding lead, only for Rochester to storm back and tie the game. D’Amigo scored once again with under five minutes to take a final 4-3 lead as the Marlies held on for the win.
I linked the game story because I don’t plan on writing them. Below I have some game notes, interesting tidbits and takeaways from conversations I was lucky to have with the players. I want to supplement the standard game stories that can be found on numerous websites rather than duplicate them. So here it goes:
Be sure to check out Nikhil’s post-game thoughts from last night.
Tuesday night, September 21st, about 6:40 p.m.Â I am dancing – yes, dancing, provided you can call a kind of frenetic spasticism punctuated with finger snaps and some twirling hands “dancing” – to no music in my kitchen as I cook our pasta for dinner.Â I am in a rush, and I am excited, because after a long summer of legal wrangling over the Kovalchuk contract, eternal speculation about Tomas Kaberle’s status and apparently endless MSM vs. blogger hissy fits, the puck is finally dropping on the preseason.Â Don’t get me wrong, I know that the preseason sucks.Â I know it’s not reflective or in any way predictive of how the team will do during the regular season – I’ve been a hockey fan long enough to know that, and last year’s brilliant exhibition campaign is still fresh in my memory.Â Almost as fresh as the oh-and-eight start that followed it, once the games counted.
Matt Fratin, seen here hosting McNaughton Cup (WCHA Regular Season Title) is a breakout candidate for 2010-2011
At this time last year, Jerry D’Amigo was a little known Maple Leafs’ draftee who had been passed over 157 times by other clubs only a few months before. After a banner year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the NCAA and a brilliant run at the World Juniors, the not even 20 year old D’Amigo currently finds himself with an NHL contract, an invite to training camp, and a legitimate shot at making his dreams come true as soon as this fall. That was last year. Now let’s take a look at some of the names that could be making some serious headway up the Leafs’ organizational depth charts in 2010-2011.
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.
The following is a live, up to the minute game blog featuring the rookie tournament game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Â Remember to hit refresh for the latest updates.
After the jump, Derek Harmsworth recaps last night’s action in the NHL Rookie tournament, including locker room access, and looks ahead to today’s action.
Finally the day many of us have been waiting for has arrived. Â The NHL Toronto Maple Leafs rookie tournament kicks off this afternoon in London, Ontario, and for many it’s a chance to catch on ice hockey for the first time in quite a while.
Today’s action features the Pittsburgh Penguins rookies taking on the Ottawa Senators rookies in afternoon action. Â Also on the bill today, the Maple Leafs rookies will play the Chicago Blackhawks rookies in the nightcap.
Here is all you need to know about today’s games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will host their rookie tournament this year in London, Ontario from September 11th to the 14th, and Maple Leafs Hot Stove will have unprecedented, wall-to-wall coverage of the event.
Join us here for live game blogs, game previews, game reviews, exclusive interviews, and more! Â Today, we will look at the top ten Leafs players who will be worth paying extra close attention to at this weekend’s event.
In part seven of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at how the new faces will fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brian Burke has always argued the fact that July 1st is his draft, the time where he does his best work in bringing in key pieces that will push his team to that next level. Â While he isn’t inept on the draft floor, it isn’t his strength. Â To his credit, it’s something he doesn’t necessarily hide either.
And while this summer’s free agent frenzy is more calm than in the previous years, there is no doubt that through free agency, and the days leading up to it, that Burke took steps towards continuing to shape this team in his vision. Â The moves have been made, and barring any sort of changes, this may well be the team we see enter training camp in under a month. Â With that in mind, it’s time for Leafs Nation to ask, exactly how will the new faces fit into place in Toronto?
In part six of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, and whether he can hit the 40 goal plateau.
While January 31st 2010 will go down as a day Leafs fans will never forget as the Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Fredrik Sjostrom, and J.S. Giguere in the span of about two hours, the date of September 18th, 2009 will also be remembered, yet highly debated, and much scrutinized.
It was on that day in September, following a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke got his man. Â After lots of rumours throughout the year, including one that involved Tomas Kaberle going the other way, Burke signed off on a deal with the Boston Bruins that landed him American born sniper Phil Kessel.
In part five of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at Toronto young guns, and whether or not they can continue their consistent contributions.
A team’s fortunes can be decided on the shoulders of their young players, be it their rookies or their sophomores. Â There are plenty of examples of young players who can help their club catch lightning in the bottle, and help them surpass the expectations set earlier in the offseason by the majority of pundits.
Of course for every example of that, there are also counter examples of teams who perhaps relied too heavily on rookies, or second year players, to help pace the offense, only to have things not go according to plans.
In part four of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth examines whether Nazem Kadri will crack this lineup, and where he fits in with the team if and when he does.
In the summer of 2009, the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans were still finding out first hand what type of brash, confident attitude Brian Burke was going to be bringing to the team.
Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, ridiculed in some circles, heralded in others, after the way the Tomas Kaberle deal went down, has not been hiding in the shadows after his inability, or unwillingness, to trade the Czech born blue liner. Â Burke spoke to the media yesterday and made a variety of statements that should peak the interest of Leafs Nation.
In case you missed it, here are some of the key points from Burke’s interview on the Fan590 this morning:
- There have been some legitimate offers made on Tomas Kaberle, though he expects that the quality will continue to increase as the deadline approaches
- The team continues to look for a top six winger with some size and scoring ability
- Offers have been primarily “future-oriented”, which would include a quality young player and a high draft pick. He would prefer to receive a package that would help the club more right now, but these offers are serious enough that he may re-evaluate his position and consider accepting one
- The team is not looking to acquire a big centre. Although they are small down the middle, the priority remains a big, scoring winger.
- Nazem Kadri has done everything the club has asked him to do and looked “fantastic” at the prospect camp last month. He is stronger in the upper body and is more explosive.
- They are pleased to have signed Jerry D’Amigo to a pro contract, but were not a factor in his decision to leave RPI. He made that decision on his own and will now battle it out for a spot on the opening night roster. Burke characterizes D’Amigo’s progress over the past season as “meteoric”.
- He believes that the arbitrator made the right decision in siding with the NHL on the Kovalchuk saga. The Maple Leafs have not and will not take part in these mega long-term contracts that tail off drastically at the end.
It’s been rumored for a few days now, but on Wednesday afternoon, prospect Jerry D’Amigo has finally put pen to paper to sign a 3 year entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs. This signing certainly comes as a surprise as D’Amigo was originally expected to complete a full four year commitment with RPI before turning pro. After a fantastic ’09-’10 season that saw him produce a near point-a-game campaign en route to ECAC Rookie of the Year honours, he rocketed up the team’s depth charts and could find himself in a position to earn a roster spot as early as this fall. Like Tyler Bozak last season, D’Amigo will have two overriding motivations in joining the Maple Leafs.
One, the money is pretty good: The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox explains that Jerry will earn a “max contract”. Update: D’Amigo’s maximum cap hit if he hits all his bonuses would be $1.125 million. Two, there is opportunity: the team’s forward outlook is still in flux and D’Amigo will be given every opportunity to compete for a full-time job at camp. Cox explains that the organization was willing to give D’Amigo a maximum contract because they feel that if the 2009 draft were redone, Jerry would find himself going in the bottom third of the first round. It’ll be interesting to see how the club will attempt to fit D’Amigo into their financial picture if he is indeed deemed NHL ready to start the season.
According to numerous sources, including the Canadian Press, the Toronto Maple Leafs and prospect Jerry D’Amigo are expected to finalize a three year entry level deal sometime this week. Â The move would see D’Amigo forfeit his NCAA eligibility and likely join the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, who own his CHL rights.
D’Amigo, drafted in the sixth round of last year’s entry draft, has quickly rocketed to the top of the prospect depth chart over the past year. Â He played an integral role in the USA’s World Junior upset over Canada this past January in Saskatchewan.
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