Trevor Moore and Colin Smith scored the goals as the Maple Leafs rookies downed the Senators rookies 2-1 in overtime of Game 1 in the 2016 Rookie Tournament.
On display throughout was the stark difference in draft philosophies, as the Senators team was generally much bigger than the Leafs squad, while the smaller Leafs had more skill up and down the lineup. Although it went to overtime, the Leafs carried the play most of the night.
It’s so hard to gauge any player on one game, but even though this was a spit squad, the forward talent in the Leafs system is pretty evident. One of my favourites of the night was Tobias Lindberg, who showed a willingness to use his size to drive the puck to the net. In a system that lacks a size element up front, Lindberg would be doing himself some favours playing that way consistently.
Colin Smith did a really good job of playing between Lindberg and Marner. He’s a nice player, but there may not be enough size or speed to ever play above the AHL level.
Trevor Moore is about the same size, but he was just that much faster than Smith. He has good hands and quick feet to go with decent overall speed. A positive overall first impression for Moore, who finished well on his goal.
Dmytro Timashov was a real treat to watch. While no taller than Smith and Moore, he is thick with a low centre of gravity. A strong lower body helps him in those battles against bigger opponents, even though he did get rocked at centre ice by a Sens defenseman. Involved and looking to make plays nearly every shift, some worked out and some didn’t, but he doesn’t lack for skill or confidence and he appeared ready for the AHL overall.
Low offensive numbers notwithstanding, Freddie the Goat‘s skating and agility have come further than some give him credit for. The question marks about his offensive game remain the same after his rookie AHL season, but he did not look out of place playing with Timashov, showing some offensive instincts out there at times. That line had its chances.
Not surprisingly, while it wasn’t his most productive game, Mitch Marner showed that he’s at the head of the class from a skills perspective. He’s strong enough on his skates that he wasn’t getting pushed around much by a much bigger Sens squad, and he showed diligence on the backcheck consistently, including his swat on a Senator alone in front that led to the Colin Smith breakaway game winner.
Rinat Valiev was the obvious standout. After underwhelming a little at last year’s tournament, he appeared way more confident last night and his skills shined through much better. He was effective at picking his spots when pinching up on the Senators forwards. Babcock wanted more assertiveness than he showed in his NHL stint last season — remarking on the difference in Valiev in practice versus games — so it will be interesting to see if he can carry it over to the main camp and preseason.
Last year, Nikolas Brouillard was the surprise of the tournament with his speed, agility and puck handling. Last night he had his moments, he he didn’t seem as dynamic as he has in the past in this tourney. He is obviously undersized — his 5”11” listing is generous to say the least. Stephen Desrocher, on the other hand, has good size, but last night didn’t alleviate concerns about his mobility.
The surprise of the night for me was Nicolas Mattinen. With only 43 OHL games under his belt, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he was well over his head in this tournament, but there he was playing top pairing minutes with Valiev and not looking out of place. In Alec’s report yesterday, he referenced his skating as a strength. I’ve seen the opposite said about it, but last night he looked like the second-best Leafs defenseman behind Valiev. He has Marincin’s height and Polak’s weight, he’s right-handed, and he’s only 18. Intriguing player.
Kasimir Kaskisiu was within a few minutes of a deserved shutout in this game. Listed at 6’3”, I was expecting a goalie that had the build of a Freddie Andersen; he didn’t look that big, but he isn’t Bernier sized, either. Kasimir was really quick out there moving around the net. His footwork was sharp and he was effective at challenging shooters and kicking out pucks. Curious to see if he can give Bibeau and Sparks — who haven’t really taken the bull by the horns at the AHL level yet — a real run for their money with the Marlies this season.
– Report by Knights2Leafs