It was choppy (early)preseason hockey to be sure, but some players stood out for different reasons.
The Maple Leafs played a good first, were mostly snowed under in the second – falling behind 2-0 – but battled back on goals from Nazem Kadri and Tom Nilsson (set up beautifully by Kadri). David Booth was the lone goal scorer in the shootout.
– Expect Petri Kontiola to get lots of ice this preseason, or the coaching staff would be wise to give him lots anyway, because it’s clear he is experiencing an adjustment, perhaps moreso than any of the other bubble forwards. That’s somewhat to be expected, having not played in North America in six years, but he was noticeably struggling with the pace.
Note: He has 48 games left off waiver freedom if he needs to start in the AHL.
– Best forward tonight besides Kadri: Matt Frattin. You look at all the tools Frattin has and it is a mystery as to why he hasn’t established himself as a day in day out top 9 forward in this League yet. He’s got an explosively powerful stride, he’s a boulder on the puck, has some puck skills and a hard shot. He was dangerous throughout. Good way to start off the preseason and it looks like he’s setting out with something to prove.
– As much as things will change as the next couple of weeks of preseason progress, Korbinian Holzer may have put a nose out in front as far as the #7 d spot goes. He battled ferociously all game, throwing bodies around and battling hard after the whistle. He also joined the rush on three separate occasions, which isn’t really his game outside of preseason, but the point is he was moving well. Makes more sense to have him as a 7D than a younger alternative who would benefit more from big minutes & regular duty in the AHL.
– Nazem Kadri loves the spotlight of a return home to London. In general, Kadri is a player who thrives in the extra time and space in preseason. Can’t really remember a time when he didn’t look great in a primer game. Regardless, he looks ready to go for a big year ahead for him personally.
– Hell of a pass by Kadri on the 2-2 goal, and even more impressive how Tom Nilsson received the one timer given how hard it came at him while in stride. Nilsson has quite the shot; he also unleashed a blast in the third period that didn’t go unnoticed on the broadcast.
– Peter Holland looked rusty in the first period, but got better as he went along; he definitely looked better than Kontiola, if we assume they’re battling for the 3C spot.
– Sam Carrick turned around this game with a momentum changing penalty draw late in the 2nd period as a very poor second 20 was winding down with the score 2-0 Flyers. There were good bursts of speed and tenaciousness from Carrick throughout, with his best shift coming with 2 minutes to go in the 1st period, when he was all over the ice before stripping the puck off a Flyer at the blueline and going in for a half-breakaway. Known for a fearless reputation, Carrick also took a healthy run at Zack Stortini and just missed connecting. He was a pleasant revelation last season with the Marlies and appears to be progressing on the right track. This was an impressive game from Carrick, who may see some NHL action this year, if not right out of camp, perhaps later on in a call-up role.
– The Percy and Granberg pairing had a great first period, but spent a few extensive spells in their own end in the 2nd. Regardless, both could probably step in and do the job on the bottom pair as soon as this October. Granberg sometimes received Gunnarsson comparisons when he was still developing overseas, but he is definitely a nastier piece of business than Gunnar was. Percy’s headiness always impresses for those watching close. It seems the numbers game will squeeze both out of the opening day roster, but both are right there; young depth options who should continue to progress and likely wouldn’t be over their head skating a regular shift if they were on the team tomorrow.
– Tyler Biggs caught some due criticism for getting a little too excited on a half-break on the penalty kill, firing the puck high and wide leading to a 3 on 2 the other way and the Flyers’ opening goal (which Christopher Gibson would probably like back, but it starts with Biggs shooting for the corner in a shorthanded situation). Guess he was trying to seize the moment and make his mark. Biggs does look to be moving quicker and handling the puck with a little more confidence; hopefully that means he is at least a mainstay in the Marlies lineup this year, which would be a small step forward.
Mikkelson – Not much to say about Mikkelson’s game. Holzer carried the water and he wasn’t very noticeable.
Korbinian Holzer – Strong game from the big German. Was very aggressive, jumped into the rush a few of times and was a force in his own zone finishing plays and eliminating players with a good deal of snarl to his game.
Morgan Rielly – Was pretty quiet for most the game. Looked a bit rusty.
Tom Nilsson – Continues to impress. Composed puck handler, has some snarl to his game, moves well and efficiently. Great read on the Kadri pass to get open and put it away. Hard shot.
Stu Percy – Started off really well, but like a lot of the team, wore down as the game went on. His intelligence is high-end, and even while being beaten twice on the outside off the rush he was able to intelligently break both plays up.
Petter Granberg – Looked good generally and had some great one-on-one battles. Seemed to get a bit tired as the game went on, but was overall noticeable in a good way. Let’s see a few more games from him and see if his timing moving the puck up to the forwards is a bit better. There were a few gap control problems due to lack of speed, but he was good in the corners and on the walls.
David Booth – A bit quiet, wasn’t able to finish plays, was putting passes into players feet and was a bit out of sync with the play; a veteran regaining his timing, nothing much to worry about yet.
Petri Kontiola – Has to figure out the ice difference and the speed difference.
Nazem Kadri – Best player on the ice.
Josh Leivo – Leivo had a strong game and was consistent from start to finish. He showed up Booth, who was on the same line, and looked strong and determined on loose pucks. Did have the benefit of some warm up games in the rookie tourney.
Daniel Winnik – Strong on the wall, covers the ice with his reach.
Peter Holland – Slow start but is strong on the puck and created offence as the game wore on.
Matt Frattin – Frattin looked a cut above most of the forwards on the Leafs. Skating looked really strong, hard on pucks, hands are *almost* there. His skating gave him some opportunities off the rush a number of times. It’s going to be interesting if he can keep it up and earn the 2RW spot beside Kadri.
Fraser McLaren – A good bout filling in Stortini.
Sam Carrick – Hard on pucks, with a shifty burst of speed in tight gaps. Great game from Carrick; he jumped off the page on most shifts and did everything asked of him, despite being saddled with FML and Bodie as linemates. It was one game, but he could make the cut a hard decision on the coaching staff.
Troy Bodie – Tried his best to be physical. Needs to do more with the puck to stick; he struggled handling the puck in his own zone and had a few bad shifts with simple tape-to-tape break out passes.
Carter Ashton – Came out like a ball on fire, but his game fell off in the 3rd. Still snakebitten and has to start burying pucks. Wore down as the game went on.
Tyler Biggs – High and wide on the PK is OHL hockey. Took a high-sticking penalty on the next shift. He looks better than last year, but is still sometimes out of sync on the play (wrong direction on the breakout a couple of times, arriving late to scoring opps).