Prospect Camp: News & Views


    Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs held their prospect development camp to gauge the progress and future outlook of both prospects within the organization, and unsigned players on the team’s radar.

    The camp, which ran from July 5th to July 10th, featured six full days of on-ice practice activities and off-ice seminars ranging from nutrition to lifestyle to the business of the NHL.   It provided an opportunity for the players to get to know their possible future teammates, as well as the chance showcase their abilities to the team’s player development personnel.

    I should note that I was unable to attend the camp myself, and cannot comment personally on the performances of the individual players.  What I can provide, however, is feedback I solicited from folks who did have the good fortune of being able to take in the on-ice sessions.

    Here is the feedback I received:


    James Reimer
    “Reimer is coming along exactly as people thought he would.  He has some areas to improve, especially his stickwork, but his progress has been encouraging.  He should give Pogge a good battle for the starter’s job this season with the Marlies.”

    Grant Rollheiser
    “Wow, this isn’t the same kid everyone saw last year. Fantastic progress considering he is a backup in the NCAA, great glove hand.  Will likely complete college before heading to the AHL.  Has a chance to be more than just a good backup.”

    Andrew Engelage
    “Unsigned prospect, got the invite because the team liked his work in the playoffs and Memorial Cup.   Probably a career backup at the NHL level.”


    Jesse Blacker
    “This kid is as physical as they come.  Not to mention he has wheels.  Looks like a poor man’s Luke Schenn, and I mean that in a good way.  Could be a second round steal if they develop him right.”

    Benedickt Brueckner, Heilbronn/Mannheim (GBun.2/DEL)
    “Excellent passing skills.  Needs a lot of work on the mental side of the game though. Gets down on himself when things don’t go well, and tries to do too much instead of keeping things simple.  Will need to be pushed to reach his potential.  Needs significant time in the AHL to adjust to the North American game.”

    Carl Gunnarsson, Linkoping HC (SEL)
    “Great hockey sense, makes smart decisions with and without the puck.  He also doesn’t mind the physical side of things.  Should see him on the Marlies this year, still a year or two away from the NHL.”

    Eric Knodel, Philadelphia Flyers Jr. (USMAAA)
    “Gigantic size, knows how to use it.  He is extremely confident in his abilities.  Needs a ton of polish but firmly believes he has what it takes to get to the next level.  Could be a few years before the team knows what they have in him.”

    Simon Lacroix, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
    “Offensive defenseman.  Tall but lanky, should some weight.  Needs a lot of work on his defensive game.   Good chance he returns to the Q as an overager.”

    Brandon Manning, Chilliwack (WHL)

    “Impressive work ethic.  Went undrafted, but has added 25 pounds from last year (near 200 now) and his skating has improved drastically with the strength he added.  Bit of a late bloomer, has really grown as a player in the past year.  Great leadership skills.”

    Juraj Mikus, Dukla Trencin (Slovak)

    “Similar to Lacroix, he is tall but skinny.  Decent puck skills, needs to put it all together though.  A year with the Marlies would do wonders for his confidence.  Bit of a wildcard in terms of career potential at this point.”

    Adrian Robertson, Peterborough (OHL)
    “Big, physical defenceman.  Similar to Phil Oreskovic.  Won’t do much on the scoresheet, but won’t be a liability either.  Career bottom-pairing type.”

    Barron Smith, Peterborough (OHL)
    “He was drafted on name recognition, basically he’s a project player.   Good brawler, but there are questions about how far he can go with the rest of his game.”


    Tyler Bozak, Denver (WCHA)
    “Just keeps getting better and better.  Will be a complete player if he stays on track. Physical game is developing as he continues to fill out.  Time with the Marlies would help him transition to the pro game, but he is probably the most NHL-ready player at the camp.”

    Jerry D’Amigo, USA U-18 (USDP)
    “He’s committed to the NCAA for the fall, and he should receive lots of ice time. Great speed, good scoring potential, but will need time to develop.  2 years away at least, maybe 3.”

    Jamie Devane, Plymouth (OHL)
    “On the surface he looks like an enforcer, but he has shown he can drive the net with the puck – don’t usually get that from the pure fighters.  Safe bet is to project him as a role player, though he has shown flashes of developing a dimension beyond just being a tough guy.  Reminds many of a young Brad May in that regard.”

    Jerome Flaake, Cologne (DEL)
    “A coach’s dream.  This kid will do everything he is asked and is willing to play any role.  Fantastic skater, but the rest of his game needs a lot of work.  He wants to learn, and that will earn him the opportunities he needs to develop.  Still a ways away, but improving at a greater rate than was expected this time last year.”

    Richard Greenop, Windsor (OHL)
    “Classic enforcer type.   Great set of hands, if you’re discussing boxing.  Will need a lot of work to reach the next level. Knows his role and relishes the chance to swing momentum in a game.”

    Christian Hanson, Toronto (NHL)/Notre Dame (CCHA)
    “Defensive game is really coming along, and he is learning to use his size in the offensive zone, especially in front of the net.  Projects to be a 3rd line winger/centre, with some ability to fill in on a scoring unit when necessary.   Should be a mainstay on the PK in a few years, people are saying he reminds them a lot of Dave Reid.”

    Jimmy Hayes, Boston College (HE)
    “He has great size, skates well for it.   Starting to play with a chip on his shoulder.  Defensive game needs a lot of work, as does his willingness to take the puck to the net.  Prefers to pass the puck rather than carry it into the tough areas, has to work on developing confidence in that area of his game.   Will probably stay in the NCAA a couple more years.   Needs to develop at his own pace, but the classic power forward potential is definitely there.”

    Nazem Kadri, London (OHL)
    “Has not disappointed at all.  Overall skill set and style of play are being compared by many to Marc Savard.  Another year of Junior will probably be necessary, also needs to add some weight before he can reasonably be expected to make an impact.  Has great work ethic and looks to have a very good NHL future.”

    Egor Mironov, Niagara University (CHA)
    “Another name-recognition project.  Character player who is a good worker and excellent team guy, but has a limited amount of skill.  Could be a Ben Ondrus type.”

    Kenny Ryan, USA U-18 (USDP)
    “Great work ethic and a lot of heart, a never-say-die type.  Has an excellent shot.  Very similar to Dale Mitchell, albeit with a much higher scoring upside.  Still a couple years away yet.”

    Greg Scott, Seattle (WHL)
    “Good offensive instincts, but is one-dimensional.  Should see decent ice time with Marlies, reminds many of Jeremy Williams.”

    Robert Slaney, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
    “Power forward type, should provide grit and energy to the Marlies.  Could eventually work his way to the NHL if he continues to work hard.”

    Mikhail Stefanovich, Quebec (QMJHL)
    “The ultimate enigma.  He has tremendous skills, but the language barrier creates problems – it is difficult to receive coaching through a translator.  Could be the team’s best draft pick in years if he can put it all together and improve his English.   The safe bet is to say he’s probably at least a year away, maybe two, unless of course he wows at training camp — which, with his abilities, is entirely possible.”

    Ben Winnett, Michigan (CCHA)
    “Good size, but lacking in the physical game. Has great speed, but hasn’t put up points. There is some concern he may have plateaued, and it doesn’t help that he is fighting for ice on a deep roster at Michigan. ”

    Adam Wallace, Windsor (OHL)
    “Another enforcer type.  Tremendous effort player, but may be undersized for the role at the professional level.”

    Perhaps the cupboard is not as bare as many have suggested in the past.   Although it is hard to tell which prospects will ultimately pan out, and which will be career AHLers, there is certainly a fair amount of potential within this group.   Many of these players — if they continue to progress at the rate they have — will have a chance to become contributors at the NHL level in a variety of roles within the next couple of years.

    From adding toughness, to providing solid defensive play, to lighting up the scoresheet, the Maple Leafs appear to have players in their system who can fill all needs.   Keep your fingers crossed for these guys, because for the first time in a long time, the Leafs‘ prospect depth looks very promising.

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