Leafs Rookie Tournament Preview

It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here. There’s gonna be a hockey game Friday night! It doesn’t matter that it’s the pre-preseason, it’s Marner and Nylander and Kapanen and then a twenty foot cliff and a bunch of other players we’re excited to see after having to endure a painful summer filled with Pan-Am Games, depth forward signings, and #Fransonwatch.

If you are in London you’re #blessed with the ability to go and watch live hockey at 7:35 PM ET Friday through Sunday, and there are pregame skates at 11:30 am as well. If you are a Rogers subscriber in the GTA, the games is on Rogers TV. If you aren’t a Rogers subscriber or live outside of the GTA than you have to sit around hoping that no one does the unthinkable and illegal streams the game online. That’s just not fair to the cable provider.

The Leafs

The Leafs rookie roster is exciting because for the first time in years it’s not just players who project to be 3rd line wingers or 6th or 7th defensemen on NHL rosters. And beyond the big three there are actually players caring about. With no lineup to announce, here’s my ideal Leafs lineup card for game one.

Timashov – Nylander – Kapanen

SoshnikovMarnerKorostelev

DzierkalsVerhaeghePiccinich

Latour – Gauthier – Joly

DermottFinn

DonagheyValiev

DesrocherNielsen

Nichols

Reserve Forwards: Skaldnichenko, Eansor, Foster, Rodewald, Vail

Reserve Defence: Brouillard, Jamieson, Lizotte, and Miller

Backup Goaltender: Lucas Peressini

I’m sure lines will be juggled throughout and likely on the powerplay we’ll be given the opportunity to see Nylander, Kapanen, and Marner together and realize that line is better than anything that will be on the Leafs lineup this season. 

A number of these prospects we’ve just covered off in our Prospect Rankings (how convenient), so click on the player name above to get a bit more background on who they are and why you should be excited about them. 

Below are the Leafs opponents. They matter less, but why not give some background on them too?

The Senators (Friday Night)

For the first time in years the Leafs have a much deeper prospect pool than the Senators. Part of this is just how awful the Leafs have become, and part of this is the Senators graduating a number of quality prospects in recent years. Of course they still have a few players to watch out for, Matt O’Connor was a highly touted college free agent, that is probably a bit overrated but worth watching. Thomas Chabot is a very good defenseman, and good pickup in the 2015 draft for the Sens. Mikael Wikistrand is another worthwhile defenseman of note. Filip Chlapik and Vincent Dunn are solid 2015 draftees on forward, and Matt Puempel, Nick Paul, and Gabriel Gagne are some other notables. 

Since it’s Rookie Tournament game the outcome is pretty much irrelevant, but some bragging rights would be nice if you want to justify Ottawa’s sense of being by considering them a rival.

The Habs (Saturday Night)

Fitting that even the Rookie Tournament has a Saturday night game against Montreal. The Habs have nowhere near the depth of talent the Leafs do (which is a nice thing to type), but have a few names worth noting. 

Zach Fucale is a pretty well known goaltender, even if he isn’t particularly good and it’s a nice story that Tim Bozon is still pursuing a career in hockey after his horrible health scare a couple of years back. Nikita Schrebak is probably the best of the bunch on forward, and 2016 first round pick, Noah Juulsen is really the only defenceman they have….

Scratch that. Leafs will be allowed to score at will.

The Penguins (Sunday Night)

He may have been traded but we still don’t get to make it through a rookie tournament without watching Tyler Biggs struggle. Thanks to the Kessel trade, Pittsburgh really only has three worthwhile prospects left in their system. Derrick Pouliot, who many of you wanted instead of Scott Harrington (rightfully so), will be their top defender. Tristan Jarry is a reasonably good goaltending prospect and Daniel Sprong, the Pens second round pick from 2016, who will score all their goals.

What to Watch For

  • Hopefully nobody getting killed in an exhibition game. The Rookie Tournament has the unfortunate side effect of always having one or two players who are trying to make names for themselves by fighting or showing how hard they can hit. While there’s some need to prove that the smaller Leafs team can withstand physical competition, I’d prefer they save it for the regular season in their respective leagues.
  • The dude who mysteriously earns a main Leafs training camp invite. We know Marner, Nylander, and Kapanen are going, but there would be something satisfying about a guy like Martins Dzierkals spending some time with the big club.
  • Do either of the goaltender invitees make a case for any kind of a contract? It’s a tough sell since the Leafs have all the Leafs, Marlies, and Solar Bear positions filled, but these are two interesting goaltenders in Justin Nicholls and Lucas Peressini, I’d like to see them make a case for future employment.
  • Of course the big three. If Marner puts on a show in London we will all begin to start debating if he’s earned at least a nine game tryout this season.