Photo courtesy of Christian at TSGphoto.com
The Toronto Marlies came into this January 30 – February 1 stretch with a three-game road trip on tap in the southern states. The Marlies squared off with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton), San Antonio Rampage (Florida), and the Texas Stars (Dallas).
This was a week to forget for the Marlies, who won one of three games and suffered a 6-0 blowout in one of the losses.
The Leafs wrapped up what was a pretty good weekend by imploding in the third period and losing handily, but that doesn’t take away from some of the positives that were shown overall.
There were some youngsters who had good weekends, others who had very good weekends, and a few who struggled. In other news, the Leafs also have a new player coming to training camp in Mason Raymond.
You know hockey is back when there are actual relevant games and players to talk about all of a sudden. Here are some scattered thoughts on the weekend that was:
Jim Hughes (Photo: MapleLeafsHotStove)
MLHS’ Alec Brownscombe caught up with Leafs Director of Player Development Jim Hughes this morning to talk about some of the younger Maple Leafs. While much of the Leafs scouting staff heads to Bratislava next week for the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament, Hughes will be taking in the World Junior exhibition games in Lake Placid. Dominic Toninato will participating for Team USA while Ryan Rupert, Matt Finn, Morgan Rielly and Frederik Gauthier will be playing for Canada.
Welcome back to the Master Card Centre of Excellence!
I was pleased to be back watching anything affiliated with the Maple Leafs. I was crushed after Game 7, but it all felt okay being back at the rink on this extremely hot summer day in Toronto.
As trade rumour season heats up and the Toronto Maple Leafs slip in the standings from 5th to 8th in the past week, Leafs Nation will almost certainly be whipped up into a frenzy over every name mentioned. While we aren’t a rumour website, we are within 19 days of the deadline and there has been some legitimate talk from *actual* members of the media and evidence of three teams in different conferences scouting each other heavily that don’t normally do so.
A lot can change depending on the Leafs position in the standings in the eight games before the deadline, but the Leafs figure to be, theoretically, both buyers and sellers. Granted, in a lockout-shortened season it’s hard to ascertain what the nature of the landscape will be – or if there will be much movement at all – at a deadline where so many teams will still believe in the legitimacy of their playoff hopes. A buyers-heavy market could lend itself to moving out a few free agents-to-be and not so much to adding pieces at a reasonable price.
Welcome to the Playoffs, Awards, and Injury Ward edition of the Leafs Prospect Update!
Starting with the bad news, Erie Captain and surprise statistical standout Connor Brown suffered a head injury (read: concussion) against London on the 18th and missed this weekend’s games. Erie is well out of the playoff mix and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brown sit out the rest of the year to recover — it’s probably what’s best for him in the long run.
MarliesTV is running a really cool feature on the Leafs’ two first round picks from 2011, Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy. Here is part 1:
@416_Musings has been taking in Leafs Prospect Camp and has posted a few notes over at his site,Â Draft Schmaft.
Morgan Rielly: As advertised. Competes with Tony Cameranesi for best skater award at camp. A multi-directional skater who gives the impression of his skates barely touching the ice surface. His pivots are smooth and effortless and Rielly has great lateral mobility. Rielly showed great hockey sense and vision in where he places himself, how he navigates through bodies, and how he chooses to attack the offensive zone. As Jim Hughes stated, his passes are hard and quick and in my opinion – at the pro-level. Rielly also sought out and found open lanes before shooting…enough about offence…what surprised me most was how well he played defence. His anticipation of plays created turnovers and he advanced the puck forward. In his own zone, Rielly showed patience as his slick turns kept defenders at bay. Rielly’s speed allows him to regain position in his own zone to handle one-on-one plays. After Stuart Percy, Rielly may have played the best defence today.
Tyler Biggs:Â The greatest improvement in Biggs’ play could be attributed to the skating work he has put in over the past month. Biggs seems to have more explosiveness and his diagonal cuts were sharp. Biggs found open ice for himself on several occasions. His wrist shot did not hit the net but had some heat to it. Played a physical game which should come as no surprise to anyone.
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.