Traverse City? More like Tavares City when the Leafs rookies are done with it, amirite? Folk’s?
Okay, fine. Getting excited for the Rookie Tournament isn’t as easy to do when it’s not a first look at players like Matthews, Marner, or Nylander, but it signals the shift away from the 10,000 Marner contract posts to much more important topics like how well is Adam Brooks skating? Sadly, that shift is a good thing.
With the tournament set to start on Friday, here are a few story lines worth taking a look at for the baby Leafs.
1. How has the summer treated Egor Korshkov?
Up until now there hasn’t been a whole lot to be excited about with the 2016 2nd rounder, but he’s now healthy, in North America, and has spent the summer getting acclimated to his new surroundings, it would be be great to see him be one of the standouts at rookie camp, and possibly hit the Leafs camp looking to steal a job from someone. That might be a tall order, but with high draft pickness comes great expectations.
2. 1st Serious Look at Nick Robertson
The reality is that no one has really been paying too close attention to the Peteborough Petes unless they pine for the pre-Matthews Leafs. A handful of prospect watching die hards have been tracking this kid through the draft, but for many of us this is the first chance to put our heavily biased eyes on this kid and fall in love with him. Early reports say he’s perfect in every way.
3. Is Justin Brazeau any good?
That probably sounds harsh and he’s better than me, but is he better than his AHL contract? The Leafs went low risk with him and there should be some modest excitement about a guy who scored at nearly a goal per game, or two point per game pace in his final junior year. At 6’6 size is going to keep him on the radar, but this is good chance for him to demonstrate how good he is against other teams top prospect groups.
4. Scott vs. Woll
There are only so many Marlies starts to go around, and while the Newfoundland Growlers starter gig sounds like a fun one, it’s definitely a notch belong the Marlies tandem gig. It will be interesting to see which one of these goaltenders begins establishing themselves on the fast(er) track to the Leafs.
Goaltender Joseph Woll will not participate in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament due to a broken finger.
Defenceman Kalle Loponen has been added to the @MapleLeafs Prospect Tournament roster.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) September 5, 2019
Scratch that, Ian Scott is the goaltender of the future now. Plan your lives accordingly.
5. Which Camp Invitee will we fall in love with?
My biases put the Western Hockey League plays at the top of my list, and I’ll certainly be focusing on Vladimir Alistrov and James Hamblin, but you can’t help but think a Soo Greyhound like Joe Carroll will get a good chance to show off.
6. Duszak, Hollowell, Lindgren, and Kivihalme make their case for Marlies jobs
With Liljegren and Sandin sitting this one out and waiting to push for Leafs jobs in the full camp, the Leafs have four defensive prospects who want to make sure they get choice ice time on the Marlies this season. Ideally all four of these guys join Sandin and Liljegren and it’s just a question of what pairing, but they still need to establish themselves ahead of which ever of Gravel, Holl, Marincin, Schmaltz, and Harpur get demoted.
7. Does Semyon Der-Arguchintsev show signs of improvement?
Outside of Nick Robertson, you could say that everyone in Petes organization had a rough year last year. SDA is one example of that, but an example that hits too close to home. He doesn’t have size going for him, so demonstrating a high level of skill against near NHL ready prospects would probably put him back on track and encourage the Leafs to help facilitate a trade out of Peterborough.
8. Checking in on the West
Riley Stotts and Filip Kral are a bit under the radar as the Western Hockey League prospects in the Leafs organization and neither can really say that they lived up to their draft year last season. It will be interesting to see if they are back on track or just as wack. I apologize for saying wack. Kral especially seems like someone we will all kick ourselves for not watching more closely, even if he isn’t the most electrifying player on the planet. He seems like he’s on a steady path to the bottom of the Leafs roster, and that’s probably worth paying attention to.
9. I’m still curious about Elynuik and Estephan
When both of these players were brought into the Leafs organization I was pretty excited. I’m curious to see how much they have improved and if they can make a case for regular Marlies jobs, possibly pushing out some of the NHL contract players in the process.
10. How good are those other teams in the tournament?
The Red Wings, Rangers, and Blackhawks had an opportunity to add some really good young pieces over the past few drafts, and it will be exciting to see how the Leafs prospects match up against them, and the Leafs are scheduled to at least face the Hawks and Wings before playing the elimination portion of the tournament. The other scheduled game the Leafs have is against the Blues, which could be interesting as well, but if you bet on rookie tournaments, you’re probably putting your money on New York in this one.
Considering this is the first time the Leafs are participating in this particular rookie tournament, it’s worth a look for that alone. At the very least it’s a great way to kill time until we start debating preseason line combos.