The big grand finale of the rookie tournament featured the two teams that made the biggest trade of the offseason. Naturally, pieces in that trade were featured on both sides, with former 22nd overall picks Tyler Biggs and Kasperi Kapanen suiting up for their new squads.
Neither were huge factors in the game, but Kapanen was at least noticeable. Biggs had a good first shift, hitting everything in sight, before disappearing into the ether. It was a perfect microcosm of his career. It’s completely possible (and plausible) that he was sent to the ECHL mid-game.
In the end, the story wasn’t about Biggs and Kapanen, despite the teams involved. It was about the absurd skill level that Toronto has in their system, and how they were able to use it to offensively dismantle the weak prospect pipeline in Pittsburgh.
It didn’t take long for the Leafs to score. At 1:28 of the 1st, Jack Rodewald continued his solid tournament, putting away a loose puck in front of the net. Clearly a guy that listens to his coachs yelling “Go to the net. Just do it. You’ll score goals.”
Two minutes into the second, Mitch Marner scored in front of the London crowd he has spent so much time in front of. He finished off some pretty passing on the powerplay.
Shortly after, Skladnichenko scored this beauty:
What a shot. An absolute bullet. 3-0 Leafs after two.
Daniel Sprong – who seemed like a likely candidate for the pick the Leafs used to take Travis Dermott – had a great game for Pittsburgh. He notched his second of the game in the 3rd, before Andrew Nielsen answered 9 seconds later. Yes, 9 seconds.
And then, 13 minutes into the 3rd…Nylander.
I have no words for this goal. None. Perfect in nearly every way.
William Nylander is the easy answer, so I’m going to give it to Nikita Soshnikov. He had a great tournament, concluded with a very strong, dynamic game tonight. He echoed what we were hoping we saw in the small sample of KHL video we had of him – highly skilled, but also has a bit of a bulldog mentality to his game.
It’s all the more impressive when you consider that he doesn’t speak English. The coaching staff has been communicating to him through other players and video, but a lot of his play will still be based on instinct and smarts.
Also, big shout out to his tape job.
Training Camp starts on the 17th, with pre-season games starting on the 21st with a split-squad matchup against the Senators. Can’t. Wait.