I was at the Leafs/Pens rookie game in Kitchener earlier, so I have decided to try and write a blog about it. This is my first one ever, so any criticism and advice would be helpful. Here we go.
Leafs Rookies 3, Penguins Rookies 1
1st Period - Viktor Stalberg - Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson
Bozak takes a nice feed from Hanson and makes a beautiful tape to tape pass to Stalberg who is sitting in front of an empty cage for an easy tap in.
2nd Period - None.
3rd Period - Greg Scott - Unassisted, Alex Berry from(I'll figure it out later)
Greg Scott's goal was a bit of a fluke. He speeds into the Pens zone and fires a snap shot from the bottom of the left circle. His shot drills goaltender Killeen in the mask, and the goaltender seems momentarily confused as the puck drops to the ice and slides between his legs over the goal line.
Alex Berry's goal was a typical empty netter with about 35 seconds left in the game.
1st Period - None.
2nd Period - None.
3rd Period - Joe Vitale from(again, once I get the boxscore)
A Pittsburgh player takes a shot from the point that is deflected nicely by Vitale to temporarily tie the game. This briefly caused myself and many others to pray for a shootout so we could see Gustavsson in true one-on-one action.
The game was fast paced and exciting. Body checks were flying everywhere and the intensity on the ice was high. Still, it was obvious that the players on the ice were auditioning for the big leagues by the way some players were handling the puck.
GMs Brian Burke and Ray Shero were in attendance with their assistant GMs, and Head Coaches Ron Wilson and Dan Bylsma were also in the building with their assistant coaches. Spotting the Leafs coach was especially easy during intermission, where he could be seen signing countless autographs for fans on baseball caps and hockey jersey's.
Now for my personal opinions. GM Brian Burke must have enjoyed what he saw, since he's trying to build a tougher team in Toronto. There were two fights in this game, one with Richard Greenop vs. Ryan Schnell(obviously a bad attempt to copy Schenn's last name) and the other with Alex Berry vs. some guy possibly named Sill. The first was dominated by the Maple Leaf player, while the other one was more even.
A few players impressed me more than most. I'll list their names and why they were so impressive:
He's big, he's fast, and he has hands. I think that he has the best chance of cracking the Maple Leafs roster. He skated better than most people on the ice, and he wasn't afraid to push himself into the rougher areas around the net. His goal was the cap on a pretty passing sequence between Christian Hanson and Tyler Bozak. The latter sent a beautiful cross crease pass to Stalberg for an easy tap-in during the first period to open the scoring. Stalberg also showed that he is a responsible player defensively, always ensuring that he was back in hos zone as fast as possible if the offensive push went awry. Really, I see no downside with this guy, and if he continues to be the physical and skillful presence on the ice throughout this tournament I would be shocked if he wasn't in the Leafs line-up come Oct 1st. Potential top 6 player on the Leafs.
He comes as advertised; a skillful, speedy center. He displayed some good moves on the rush, and his beautiful cross crease pass for Stalberg's goal showed that he possesses great vision. He plays a heads up style of hockey, and he could very well be a first or second line center in his NHL career. He wasn't a particularly physical player, however, and he was annihilated once during the second period by a clean body check. The puck came to him at the blue line, and as he was trying to collect it a Penguins player came flying up the ice and laid him out. Still, he could crack a Maple Leafs roster that is somewhat lacking in offensive talent. Potential first line center on the Leafs.
He plays an aggressive style, and is often the guy found grinding it out in the corners. He's fast, he's strong, he's very responsible defensively and as he displayed with his nice pass to Bozak, he has hands. He impressed me with the Leafs in his short tenure with the big club last season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he cracked the line-up once again. Potential second liner on the Leafs.
One goal on 37 shots isn't bad at all. He wasn't challenged all that much during the game, only having to make 2 or 3 good saves, but he did what he had to against a Penguins team that couldn't take a good shot to save their lives. The one goal he allowed was on a ridiculous deflection off of a shot from the point, so I don't really fault him that much on that goal. For a goaltender of his massive size, he is incredibly fast(much moreso than Justin Pogge). His cross-crease play is incredible, and I think it will serve him well in the NHL. Potential starting goaltender.
He's also a pretty big guy, and he can control the puck really well in the offensive zone. He can throw the big body check here and there, and he's not bad defensively. His positioning could use a bit of work, but he has to skill set to possibly crack the Maple Leafs roster at some point in the season. Potential 3rd liner.
A goal and a fight tallied for Berry in the game, and he was one of the more entertaining players on the ice. He was throwing his body around like crazy, and he was usually one of the guys involved in those common after-the-whistle scrums. His goal was a typical empty net goal. During the second period he was hit from behind and he took exception which lead to his scrap. I don't see him making the NHL team for any real length of time, but he could be a call up at some point during the season. Potential 3rd or 4th liner.
And only one player disappointed me during the game:
He's incredibly skilled, fast, and he's got a laser shot. But he hogs the puck way too much. Too often during the game would we see him carry the puck into the offensive zone all by himself only to hold onto it until someone took it off of his stick. He's got some nice moves, but he doesn't use his teammates enough. He did, however, show that he has a physical edge to his game, laying out a few players during the course of the game(one time recieving a boarding call on a hit that absolutely annihilated the Pens player). Still, he needs to develop his team playing skills before he can make it to the NHL. I don't see him making it this year, but next year he's a lock if he can learn to incorporate his teammates into offensive rush plays. He may get called up at some point, but I think I see him playing one more year with the London Knights to bulk up. Potential first liner down the road.
The other players generally ranged from somewhat impressive(Blacker, Devane, Stefanovich) to somewhat irrelevant(Lacroix, Smith, Krutz[I think that's what his name is]). Still, with the Leafs offensive depth being about as thin as Nicole Ritchie, many of these players have a legitimate chance of making the big leagues. Overall it was a very fun game to watch. Seeing all of these prospects in action first was a great experience, and I encourage anyone who has the time to check out the remaining games in the tournament in Kitchener.
And there it is. Advice and opinions are welcome.