While Leafs training camp continued to run its inevitable course, the Toronto Marlies took in yesterday’s first cuts (with the addition of a few others) and began doing preparation of their own for the upcoming season today at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
Practice began at 10AM this morning for nine of the thirteen players on the roster, but half an hour before things got underway, Garret Sparks was the first to hit the ice, soon joined by Christopher Gibson to take part in a goaltending drill, with Greg McKegg and Josh Leivo coming in as the shooters.
Once the "full" team was out, Steve Spott had everybody working on a dump and chase drill (explained with swearing that would impress Bruce Boudreau), followed by a few other plays he wanted his team to get adjusted to. There was a bit of an emphasis on board play and getting to the net, unsurprising for a team that is going to have to rely on grit to score goals. The hour-long practice was concluded with a 2 on 2 half-ice.
Afterwards, skating consultant Barb Underhill, who watched the practice from the stands, worked with Leivo, McKegg, Sam Carrick, and Andrew Crescenzi on various techniques.
"It’s not only on the ice, but off the ice, working with them to make sure their attitude needs to be" said Spott of his players, referring to keeping players focused after getting sent down. "(We want them to keep) remaining positive, making sure each guy knows what it takes to get back to the Maple Leafs. That was part of the maintence today."
Spott was also excited to be going back to leading the practices after contributing to Leafs camp. "It was great, the last couple of weeks, being around Randy and his staff, learning the systems and the expectations, but to be on the ice with my guys today was just great."
I previously mentioned the possibility of Jerry D’Amigo wearing the C for this years team, or at least taking on a leadership role. It appears to be in the back of his mind as well. "Obviously, being a here a couple of years, leadership is one of the main things that I have to do, especially with a lot of young guys on the team this year. Steve Spott has told me that a bunch of times, to be there to help guys through first pro year and definitely being one of the guys that he can rely on as well". He’s hoping for the potential offensive role that I brought up as well. "Last year in the playoffs, and near the end of the year, they needed that and I think I stepped up to the occasion, so I think that would be one of the main things I have to focus on as well, besides my defensive game, to help the team out."
With that said, he’s still got his eyes on the big club as much as they do on him. "They said to keep going, that my penalty killing was one of the main things that was good. I just got to take the body more, and be more of that third, fourth line kind of player they need."
Joining the Marlies on pro tryouts are Zachary Yuen, Wade MacLeod, and Michael Neal. Yuen was a 4th round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, who the team chose not to resign. MacLeod is a 26 year old winger who divided last season between the AHL’s Springfield Falcons and the ECHL’s Evansville Icemen. You may remember him as the player who suffered a seizure on the ice in February. Michael Neal, brother of Pittsburgh’s James, was drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2007, and spent last season on Toronto’s new ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears.
Camp resumes tomorrow, with today’s cuts Jesse Blacker and Tyler Biggs expected to join in. In the mean time, here’s a few other photos I took while there:
White: Greg McKegg (9) Josh Leivo (14), Andrew Crescenzi (21), Wade MacLeod (36)
Blue: Brad Ross (11), Sam Carrick (16), Jerry D’Amigo (29), Michael Neal (37)
Black: Dylan Yeo (4), Petter Granberg (8), Zachary Yuen (35)
Goalies: Garret Sparks (31), Christopher Gibson (33)