Rookie Tournament: A Look Back, And a Look Ahead


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.

Last Night’s Leafs Win

The Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a quick start last night, and it paced them to a 6-3 over the Chicago Blackhawks rookies in the opening game for both teams in the NHL Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario.  The Leafs got strong games from several key contributors including Greg McKegg, Sondre Olden, Kenny Ryan, and Nazem Kadri.  Jerry D’Amigo was also in the mix throughout the night.

Following the game I had the opportunity to go down into the locker area, where Jussi Rynnas, who came on as the game went on, was being interviewed.  Jussi is a big guy in person, very tall.  He was also showing some fans who were asking about his mask, which he promptly brought out and let them see the detail of.

Unfortunately for us, Nazem Kadri was unavailable to do media following last night’s win.  He did, however, appear to sign a few autographs for kids who were waiting by the doors, which was a nice gesture.

Dale Mitchell was being interviewed and while his face looked a little rough after the scrap earlier in the night, he was in good spirits and appeared pleased with the game he played.

Kenny Ryan was also interviewed by AM640 and came out sans equipment.  I have to say, he looked impressive in person.  He is certainly well on his way to having an NHL ready body, which will be essential for the style of game the organization expects him to play (more on that below.)

I attended the Dallas Eakins post game media scrum, and here are the notes:

–He praised the efforts of starting goalie Jussi Rynnas, saying he looked to get more comfortable as the game went on.  He said that because of Rynnas’ size he “doesn’t give shooters much to look at.”  Eakins got the scrum laughing when he stated in a comical manner that “if nothing else, at least he (Rynnas) learned a new rule tonight”, referring of course to the delay of game penalty he took for playing the puck outside of the trapezoidal area.

— He praised the scouts and management team for drafting Greg McKegg, who he said had a really good game.  McKegg himself, in  a separate media scrum, said he felt confident and had extra incentive playing in front of family and friends.

–Eakins talked about the tempo of last night’s game, and said that he has told players all along that the speed and strength will be key for them.  He says he hears lots of prospects talk about the need to gain weight, but tells them to work on their speed and strength more than gaining weight, and the rest will come.

–Eakins had good things to say about Kenny Ryan as well, explaining to us that while Ryan shows good hands, the type of player he will have to be in order to be effective at the NHL level was the type of player he was tonight; a hard hitting, hard working player who plays a sound two-way game.  Eakins said he felt comfortable putting Ryan on the ice in all situations, and that is something obviously coaches love out of a player.

— He spoke about those players who weren’t in the lineup when someone asked him why Liambas wasn’t playing.  “Just a numbers game” Eakins said.  “I told players not to read too much into who they’re playing with, or who dresses and who doesn’t.  Players who didn’t dress last night will get their shots in this tournament.”

— When asked about Marcel Mueller, Eakins said he liked his game tonight.  He touted Mueller for being “Strong on his skates, a guy who is really hard to get the puck away from.”  Eakins went onto say that he thinks Mueller will raise his game even more when he gets to camp with the big club in a week or so.

— Eakins concluded the scrum with a few points about Kadri.  He said he had a good, effective game.  When asked about the pressure Eakins stated “he plays here all the time.  I don’t think playing here in front of family, friends, and fans phased him at all.  He’s a good kid when it comes to that stuff, it kind of rolls off of him.”

Looking Ahead

There are two games again today at the rookie tournament, with games taking place at 2Pm and 7PM.  In the 2Pm game the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators rookies, in a game that I will once again be live blogging for the website.  As I stated yesterday during the coverage, I thought Mike Hoffman had a real strong game for the Senators, a player with explosive speed and good creativity.  Hoffman will be one to watch today.

From a Blackhawks standpoint, I thought former Leafs prospect Phillippe Paradis was noticeable and involved throughout the game against the Leafs last night.  He will be someone to keep an eye on today, as will defenseman Shawn Lalonde and Nick Leddy.

In the 7PM game, the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in what could be the best game of the tournament.  Both the Leafs and Pens played a high tempo, up and down the ice game with a good deal of physical play mixed in.  For the Leafs there were many players who played good games last night.  I would keep a close eye on Greg McKegg, Sondre Olden, and Kenny Ryan, who were strong for Toronto last night.  Defenseman Simon Gysbers also looked solid in the win.

For the Penguins, Dustin Jeffrey was highly involved in the play yesterday afternoon against the Senators.  He was constantly using his speed to create scoring chances for his team, and was able to find the scoresheet.  Eric Tangradi has NHL size, but he rarely looked effective last night.  It will be interesting to see how he rebounds tonight.

Join me here at 2PM for the live blog of the Senators/Blackhawks, followed at 7PM by the Leafs/Penguins