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Ontario

Welcome to the Battle of Ontario edition of our Rookie Tournament coverage.

As we all know, Ottawa sucks and while I have no idea who will dress for the Baby Leafs tonight at this point, I can’t imagine that we’ll have any problem walking all over them; their parents probably won’t even watch out of shame and embarrassment.

The Leafs have won both of their games in the tourney so far and the players who you’d expect to standout have done just that.  Brad Ross, Morgan Rielly, Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg, and Josh Leivo (before his injury) have all been great and Zach Yuen turned a few heads in last night’s game.

It will be interesting to see who gets into the lineup today — you’d have to think that management is hoping to get a long look at some of these prospects against like-aged players before NHL camps start.

So with Rielly, Leivo, MacWilliam, McKegg, and Sparks all sitting this game out and Finn leaving mysteriously after a period of play, you might have guessed that this would be a tough one for the Leafs rookies but you’d be wrong.

Stuart Percy was the best player on the ice, and Brad Ross was the best forward for either team pacing the Leafs to a 4-3 shootout win over a Penguins team with no competent forwards.

Zachary Yuen was probably the game’s biggest surprise.  He had a solid game in every respect and almost certainly opened some eyes with his performance tonight; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dressed again tomorrow for the team to get a better look.

The game itself was a back and forth affair, starting with a bang in the first (Pitt goal, 2 fights, Tor goal) and ending with a fizzle (shootouts are kinda lame).

Toronto’s first goal was scored by Matt Rupert on the PP.  With Biggs providing the traffic in front, a rebound from a point shot found its way to Rupert’s stick and he punched it in.

The second goal was scored by Fabrice Herzog after some nice retrieval work by Ross and Verhaeghe and a pretty sweet behind the back pass from Ross.  Herzog was given too much time in front and he took advantage of it.

Toronto’s third goal was a nice little passing play between Andrew Crescenzi and Jamie Devane in transition with Crescenzi potting the goal on a first touch shot, over the goalie’s shoulder.

Shootout goals were scored by Ross and Percy — the Leafs’ two best players tonight.

With that, the Leafs move to 2-0 on the tournament and will play against Ottawa’s rookies tomorrow night.  Hopefully we’ll get to see some more of Leivo and Rielly, and with any luck whatever took Finn out of tonight’s game isn’t anything serious.

See you all tomorrow.

Here’s the shootout. Check out the liveblog for more game details and goal videos.

Here we go again.

With Brian Burke back in the news, it’s fitting that his greatest contribution to the Maple Leafs – a rebuilt farm system — take center stage in the days leading up to actual meaningful hockey.  The Baby Leafs have a gold-plated defense group and a forward contingent that breaks down fairly nicely into scoring lines and checking lines; the lines should pretty much roll themselves.

With players like Morgan Rielly trying to make an impact prior to the start of Leafs camp, and guys like Leivo, Biggs, and Percy looking to solidify key roles with the Marlies, the stakes are a lot higher for these kids than they may seem to fans on the surface.  These aren’t your typical pre-season games and they’ll provide a great glimpse at what the future has in store for the big club.

The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved as Morgan Rielly and Tyler Biggs converted in the shootout to secure a 3-2 Leaf victory.

HOCKEY.

The Maple Leafs’ annual Rookie Tournament is upon us. Toronto hosts Chicago Jr. tonight at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. Toronto Maple Leafs new and ‘not-so-old’ will have a chance to display their talents for the Maple Leafs Brass in what should be an entertaining tilt of careful pre-pre-season stepping and spirited verbal jousting.

For all your basic rookie tournament info needs, the Leafs’ official website pretty much has you covered. View the roster and schedule breakdown. Read the primer for tonight’s game, which includes broadcast details. Or watch an interview with Marlies coach Steve Spott in which he talks about the weekend’s promise and touches on a few key roster points.

But most importantly, join the party at MLHS and follow @TOTruculent as I live-Twitter tonight’s action! Embedded below, for your non-having-to-switch-tabs pleasure.

I’ll be covering the action from the press box in London. Check back here for updates throughout the night, and a post-game recap. Unless things go really poorly right at the end, in which case I’ll be locked in a dark room, fighting off a wave of painful flashbacks to May 13th.

Projected Lines vs. Chicago
Starting lineup vs. Chicago
 
 
FORWARDS
Josh LeivoCarter VerhaegheBrad Ross
Connor BrownGreg McKegg (C)David Broll
Sam CarrickFrederik GauthierRyan Rupert
Tyler BiggsAndrew CrescenziJamie Devane
DEFENCE
Matt FinnMorgan Rielly
Petter GranbergStuart Percy
Andrew MacWilliamKevin Raine
STARTING GOALTENDER
Garret Sparks

Live Updates:


Period #1

The Leafs outshot the Blackhawks 14-6 in the first period, despite a healthy amount of play taking place in the Leafs’ end in the early going. Early standouts included – as expected – Morgan Rielly, who at any given moment seems like he could do something dangerous. Rielly took two early wrist shots, one from the point and one from the half boards, that both found the net in dangerous ways.

Josh Leivo also made an impact. From creating offense out of situations you wouldn’t normally consider opportunities to using his teammates well, he impressed from the get go and was rewarded with a power play goal. Leivo doesn’t immediately strike you the way his 6’2 frame would suggest, but he uses the size well. Keep an eye on him this fall.

So far, the Leafs’ rookies are by far the better team. Outpacing, outshooting, out puck-moving, out-hockeying. Chicago seemed to land a few more memorable hits, though. Here’s hoping for a truculent second frame.

1-0 Leafs.

Period #2

Marked difference from the first frame. Chicago closed the shot gap, but the Leafs continued a high effort across the board and played pretty solidly for a young team thrown together in recent weeks. A few standouts emerged beyond the first period crowd, providing a great look at some other Leaf prospects.

Tyler Biggs might be one of the more interesting young Leafs. We’re all aware of his purported skating limitations, but on first glance, he’s added speed since my last viewing. In close, the mobility still seems like an issue – but that’s one of the hardest elements of proper skating technique to develop. Nevertheless, he brings a 100% effort level on every shift and gets his job done by making the right play. Gritty. As I mentioned on Twitter and am happy to stand by thus far – from the press box, he looks like David Clarkson in a different jersey.

With all the focus on the Bernier/Reimer debate heading into next season, not much has been made recently of the Leafs’ net depth behind the top two. Garret Sparks has turned in an impressive night so far, stopping several shots through traffic and snagging at least one high, hard snapper with the glove hand impressively enough to make Francois Allaire wonder, “You can do that?”

Also, have I mentioned the power play pairing that is Rielly and Finn? The power play pairing that is Rielly and Finn.

2-0 Leafs.

Period #3

After a comeback by the young Hawks, the Leafs eked it out in a shootout to win 3-2, with Rielly and Biggs coming through in the skills comp for the jr. Leafs. Thus concludes the third period recap, which was truncated in favour of running downstairs for the postgame scrums.

Wrapup

The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved.

Check the period summaries above for a few observations on the standouts (Rielly, Leivo, Sparks) and watch the Game in Six below. Notable highlights from Steve Spott’s postgame scrum:

-On the mobility and skill of his young defensive corps: “Wow.”
-Spott was impressed by the team’s ability to come together quickly and
-He was also enthusiastic about Sparks’ performance, only calling out the first goal as one Garrett might potentially want another shot at.
-Spott confirmed Leivo missed the third period due to a chest contusion suffered when he took a hit earlier in the game.

Game in Six

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The winless Ottawa Senators visit the undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the ACC. With a victory this evening, the Leafs would have their best start to a season since ’99-00 when they won three straight out of the gate. It’s just two games, but the symbolism of a return to the pre-lockout days – let alone a chance to put the Sens at 0-2 and gain early points on another division rival – would be nothing but sweet.

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Finally the day many of us have been waiting for has arrived.  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.  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.

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Finally, the moment a lot of us have been waiting for is upon us.  The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Tuesday afternoon the full roster of players who will represent the blue and white at the 2010 rookie tournament, taking place this weekend in London, Ontario.  The event runs from September 11th to the 14th at the John Labatt Centre, and remember Maple Leafs Hot Stove will have wall-to-wall coverage and unprecedented access.

A tap of the pads to Gus Katsaros for providing me the email.

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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!  Today, we will look at the top ten Leafs players who will be worth paying extra close attention to at this weekend’s event.

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Beginning with Howard Berger’s bittersweet commentary on our little corner of the web and and piquing tonight with a grade A case of trolling from a user that’s been taken care of, let me make a quick note about moderation.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that our willingness to allow for freewheeling and largely unrestricted conversation gives MLHS commenters a privilege, not a right. Unfortunately, in a few instances I’m beginning to see this being taken advantage of.

Being intentionally vulgar is not the way to stick it to Howard Berger. We are getting noticed not only for the efforts and insights the blogging team brings to the table but for the breadth of Leafs knowledge among our users, backed by a strong sense of community. Pension Plan Puppets‘ sports bar analogy was a good one and I similarly am not going to nitpick at every curse word – if this is how a poster opts to express himself and it’s within reasonable limits, I’m not going to ask anybody to change the manner or mood in which they want to communicate their thoughts. Unfiltered dialogue helps create the virtual club house I spoke about striving for in an interview last summer, where fans can relax and chat with a passionate crew who have something informed to say about their favourite sport and team. What is absolutely unacceptable is personal attacks, allowing of course for some friendly banter about Jordan’s grammar.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs 2010 rookie tournament is coming to London, Ontario and Maple Leafs Hot Stove is pleased to announce that we will have exclusive, unprecedented coverage of the event!

Just confirmed earlier tonight, I will be in attendance at the John Labatt Centre for the duration of the tournament, providing up to date news from the rookie tournament for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as the other competing teams (Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Chicago.)

As part of our exclusive coverage, I am pleased to announce that we will have game day previews, game day recaps, live blogs, live tweeting, as well as exclusive interviews with some of the Leafs biggest rookies and prospects.

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The Tomas Kaberle trade watch is now in effect with only 36 hours to go until this situation concludes. The rumor mill is running rampant with some high profile names and some future fan favorites, but let's dive into who is being mentioned as possible blue and white sweater bearers.

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So let’s get this straight: Burke wants a top six winger with some size who can score. Ideally, that player is young enough to fit into the team’s long-term core and plays with the kind of aggressive, up-tempo forechecking style the Leafs hope to one day employ. What if he were an Ontario kid, a former 3rd overall pick, and figures to be on the trading block? Bonus!

According to the Sun Sentinel, Horton’s agent would “not be surprised” if Nathan were dealt between now and the draft, as his no-trade clause kicks on July 1st. He had spoken with new Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon and has confirmed that while the team does like Nathan as a player, nobody is untouchable. Horton’s contract currently has 3 years left at a very affordable $4 million cap hit, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons. He had a forgettable ’08-’09 campaign with just 45 points in 67 games played, but bounced back to score 57 points in 65 games played last season. Still just 25 years of age, Horton still carries that potential to be a 30-40 goal scorer in the right situation and a change of scenery should do him well.

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Red Wings forward Jason Williams surprises my aunt at our charity golf tournament

It was something that was unbelievable, but at the same time, somewhat not surprising, given the type of people they are.

As many of you may-or may not-know, I am a committee member for a charity golf tournament held each summer in Strathroy, Ontario in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  Last year we raised $5,000 in our first year of the tournament, and yesterday, June 5th, was the second annual event.

Eight months of hard planning, a delicate high wire act of balancing teams, sponsors, donations, and other variables that you undoubtedly run into along the way, and it was all coming together on this day.

And everything was aligning itself to be a special day.

The tournament is played in memory of my uncle, Shawn Wade, who passed away a few years ago as a result of complications of a stroke.  Among the many ways you could describe him, all of them positive, he was also a huge hockey fan.  Having played competitively when he was younger, my uncle attached himself to the Detroit Red Wings, amazed by Gordie Howe and his skill and dogged determination.

He followed the Red Wings throughout his whole life, and when he met and eventually married my aunt, Mary, the two took great pride and enjoyment in frequenting “The Joe” and cheering on the famed Winged Wheel.  And cheer they did.

They attended games live, and lived and breathed Wings hockey throughout their time together.  A past time of faith which was rewarded to the tune of a few Stanley Cups along the way.

With the tournament about two weeks away, we had an idea, which in hindsight looked completely out to lunch.

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Yesterday was a big day in Leafs Nation.  And I think I speak for all fans when I say it’s about time.  While two teams are currently battling for the opportunity to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch, bide their time with the other half of the league who wasn’t fortunate enough to make into the NHL’s playoffs.

And while they have kept themselves busy, and Brian Burke has shown a penchant for rarely letting his team slip into the background, a lot of hype has been leading toward this time of year.

Even without a first-or second-round draft pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still making plenty of waves, and it appears Burke is fit to make an impression at the draft, whether he is selecting or not.

Which, although he would never admit it, would be the perfect way to steal the spotlight back from the doom and gloom position of Boston using the Leafs pick to select a potential franchise cornerstone.

Tomas Kaberle, long been rumoured to be on his way out of Toronto, may be inching closer and closer with each passing day.  As the calendar flipped to June yesterday, and now with the entry draft and free agency now firmly in sight on the horizon, it appears Kaberle’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs is now being measured in days.

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Just announced earlier this week, it looks like the Leafs will return to my neck of the woods.  Tickets for the event go on sale this Friday at 10pm, although there is a few pre-sales available as well.

You will recall last season that the Leafs also came to London, Ontario, a game in which they beat the Flyers 4-0, including a goal by Nazem Kadri, scoring in a Leafs uniform while playing in his junior arena.

The Flyers, for their part, are owned by the company who also owns the arena in London, Ontario, a partnership which allows the Flyers to make an annual excursion to the venue each year for a pre-season game.

In six previous years, it is believed that the Leafs game last season was the only one that sold out, and did so rather quickly.

For more information, click HERE

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It’s time for another draft profile, and Brock Beukeboom has the honour of being the first defenseman featured in our MLHS draft preview series. Ironically enough, Beukeboom is a physical blueliner with a “booming” point shot from Uxbridge, Ontario. Brock plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL and is the son of former Edmonton Oiler and 3-time Stanley Cup winning defenseman Jeff Beukeboom. Great bloodlines, offensive potential and the complete physical package should certainly pique the interest of Leafs’ scouts come draft day.

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During his first full year at the helm in Toronto, you could make the case that Brian Burke was the league’s most active general manager. There was the Kessel summer blockbuster with Boston and then the mega-deals on January 31st that brought in Phaneuf and Giguere. It’s quite obvious that he’s willing to expend assets to target any top notch premium young talent when it’s made available. Both of those trades were opportunities: Kessel was a restricted free agent on a team with cap issues. Burke often spoke of inquiring on Phaneuf several times throughout the year until the “pressure points” of the cap and the struggles of the Flames pushed Sutter into making a bold move. This summer should be no different. Let’s take a look at some of the young RFA’s that might potentially attract Burke’s interest.

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While the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and continue to provide us with some fantastic moments of triumph, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are now forced to once again shift their focus to off ice activities.

And so too has Leafs brass.

Despite his team sitting on the sidelines, Leafs GM Brian Burke made quick work of two signing he was keying in on, signing goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and newcomer Jussi Rynnas to contracts.  Continuing with the in-house theme, Burke will now certainly turn his attention to Nikolai Kulemin, if he hasn’t done so already.

And while we are seemingly quite far away this point, it won’t be long before the draft and subsequent free agency period rolls around.