Thoughts from the Leafs’ Rookie Tournament Opener


As much as I tried to just sit back and enjoy the game as a fan last night, I couldn’t help but take a few notes (this might have been because we ended up sitting among the scouts). So without further ado, here are a few additional observations from last night’s tournament opener to supplement Derek Harmsworth’s excellent coverage.

– Aulie sitting out was no surprise as he was only cleared for contact recently.  No sense running the risk of re-injury for this sort of an event. His spot on the Marlies is already set.

– No Liambas. For shame. I was kind of hoping to see what would happen if Kyle Beach looked at him the wrong way.

– At first glance, Rynnas looks a lot like Gustavsson. Similar style, similar flaws. Drops to his knees too soon, kicks out far too many rebounds. He is incredibly quick for a big guy.

– I wonder if the rebound issue has more to do with playing on the larger ice surface in Europe, than anything else.  More space equals less traffic in front, and a greater chance the defender is able to make a play on a long rebound than an opposition forward. 

– Kadri was clearly the most NHL-ready – and most talented – player on the ice for either team.  But he was trying to do too much by himself.  Not that I would read a whole lot into that; I suppose it is simply the nature of this type of tournament. With the entire brass watching and evaluating, a lot of players can get caught up trying to make the highlight reel play instead of the smart play. 

– Speaking of highlight reel plays, McKegg’s deke off a 2-on-1 for the third Toronto goal was a thing of beauty. Great hands.

– D’Amigo was strong on the puck all night. Very instinctive and unafraid to jump into the high traffic areas, he is one of those players whom the puck always seems to find, as the old saying goes.  He and Kadri seem to have gelled quickly, and looked very good together as linemates.

– Irwin and Ross did a very good job getting to the net, creating traffic and setting screens. Both were able to effectively use their size to their advantage throughout.

– Carrick showed a lot of heart taking on a guy who had 4 inches and 35 pounds on him. Didn’t fare too badly either.

– Didn’t see much of Devane after the first period. Word was circulating that he may have hurt himself early on. 

– Ryan was terrific away from the puck, but definitely needs a distributor to be effective offensively. Doesn’t seem to create well on his own. Did a great job getting to the right place at the right time for his tip-in goal. Antropov-esque.

– Olden (a winger) was being used on the point on the second powerplay unit. Would have thought defenders Paris or Jackson would see more time in that role. Interesting.

– Mueller seemed to improve as the game went on. His play along the boards was excellent.

– Gysbers doesn’t have the hardest shot, but he can put the puck on net and knows how to put it through a screen. He timed his release perfectly on his goal, a floater that somehow went untipped through a maze of players.

– Blacker didn’t look too bad at all. He could probably benefit from becoming more assertive, especially in one-on-one situations.

– Holzer came as advertised: sound positionally, willing to engage physically and a very good passer. His stickwork (receiving, handling), however, left a lot to be desired.

– Player that impressed me most: Andrew Crescenzi. Was an excellent penalty-killer / energy forward for Kitchener (OHL), and filled a similar role in the tournament opener.  Was positionally sound on the PK, blocked shots, and even threw a rather loud and impactful hit at one point. An effort guy who will always be on the bubble, Crescenzi reminds me a lot of former Kitchener grad Gregory Campbell (now with the Boston Bruins). 

– Player that impressed me least: Barron Smith. He just doesn’t have enough footspeed. On far too many occasions he tried to jump up into the play to grab a loose puck, only to find himself unable to recover quickly enough when the opposition beat him to it.

The Leafs‘ rookie tournament opener was a terrific game overall, and the fans kept the John Labatt Centre rocking all night.  Stay tuned to MLHS for Derek’s continued coverage of the tournament. I’ll try to chip in here and there also as I am able.

Looking forward to your thoughts as always,

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