Live observations from Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament, Connor McDavid survives the Oilers hype and early standouts at Traverse City and Youngstars Prospect Tournaments.
With September flipped on our calendars, hockey is fresh in the air and fortunately for us at Dobber Prospects it’s filled with prospect tournament news and highlights. With the Leafs hosting their tournament in London, I was able to catch several games live and chime in with my live observations.
I teammed up with the crew from Maple Leafs Hot Stove to provide analysis on the games versus Montreal and Pittsburgh. The Saturday game was void of Toronto’s top three propsects in Marner, Nylander and Kapanen but the game still provided loads of entertainment – mainly featured around 2015 second rounder Travis Dermott (D) and free agent invites Nik Brouillard (D), Michael Joly (F) and heavy hitting Cameron Lizotte (D).
You can read all about the Montreal/Toronto matchup from Saturday night here with my thoughts.
For analysis on Sunday's 6-2 win over the Penguins prospects, head on over here.
“Leafs Kasperi Kapanen can’t escape Phil Kessel comparisons”
Kapanen has pledged to report to the Marlies if he doesn’t make the NHL, learning the North American game. Last year, he returned to Finland when he failed to make the Penguins. He eventually came to the AHL at the end of the Finnish season.
“Leafs duo seek the road less travelled”
With Ukranian ties, Martins Dzierkais and Dmytro Timashov (who considers himself more Swedish/Russian than Ukrainian) are looking to make history. With idols like Mats Zuccarello and Nikita Kucherov, both smaller skilled forwards, Timashov is looking to prove to the Leafs that he has a bright future. Both Dziekais and Timashov impressed in rookie tournament action featuring their skilled puck skills, speedy attacks and creative passes. Of the two, Dzierkais plays with more of an edge and made more impact plays over the two games viewed live.
The Leafs have plans of moving both William Nylander and Mitch Marner back to centre…eventually. That move seems like a no brainer especially for the younger Marner who grew up and excelled playing down the middle. You want to get the puck into the hands of your best players and playing centre helps that. The good news for fantasy owners is that these two will likely always get duo eligibility as they get bounced back and forth from the wing to the middle.
William Nylander goes bar down in the Leafs final rookie tournament game vs. Pittsburgh (September 13, 2015):
Mitch Marner’s first goal in the blue and white (September 13, 2015}:
Leafs vs Canadiens Prospect Game (Saturday, September 12, 2015):
Keep an eye on free agent defenseman Nik Brouillard as a potential signee with the Toronto Maple Leafs. There’s no doubt that the smaller defender impressed Leafs brass over the weekend and as the team heads to Halifax for main camp, he will need to continue his strong play. He did leave the game Sunday night with a right leg injury so his status remains in question.
The Connor McDavid hype – NHL style – has hit the airwaves and everything he does or doesn’t do gets criticized to the endth degree. The Oilers prospects took on the Canucks squad and #97 tallied a goal and an assist, both fairly unspectacular (VIDEO), but it was McDavid getting crushed by Jake Virtanen that went viral.
Sidney Crosby gives some advice to Connor McDavid and as expected it’s such a ho-hum typical Crosby response…
Poised for a big year in Saginaw, Tampa Bay Lightning 2015 selection Mitchell Stephens is currently leaving a lasting impression at rookie camp. The two way speedster sniper scored a pair of goals in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win on Saturday, including the game winner. Check out one of his goals here.
September appears to be an annually strong month for Sergei Tolchinsky, a Hurricanes top prospect. Every year the young scoring star seems to ramp up his play and he took advantage of the open ice in the new 3-on-3 overtime format to score the game [Video] winner vs Dallas at the Traverse City Tournament.
I’ve promoted him in the ramblings before and many times on Twitter, but if you’re looking for a fixture on your keeper league who’ll produce then target Columbus Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand. After winning the WHL Player of the Year award scoring 118 points with Portland, he’s continuing his hot play in Traverse City with two goals and a tournament leading seven points ….oh ya, in only two games. I love his game and you will too.
The St. Louis Blues are excited about 6-foot-5 defensive prospect Colton Parayko and you should too. Beyond his impressive size, Parayko is a smart two-way defender who will jump into the rush and contribute modest offensive totals.
“He’s a guy that’s put on 30 pounds since we drafted him,” said Tim Taylor, the Blues’ Director of Player Development. “In saying that, he’s dropped three or four percent body fat. He’s got great hands and agility and he closes gaps on the boards very quickly. He’s a guy we’ll see in the Blues’ lineup probably by the end of the year.”
Parayko classifies himself as a two-way defenseman, a guy who gets “the job done defensively” and likes to jump in the rush if there’s an opportunity. “Having a big body, I’m tough to get around and tough to play against,” he says.
Remember when the hockey world was going giddy over Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha? Welp, Dylan Larkin is the new name in Motor City and he’s picked up where he left off last year in the NCAA. With two assists and a team-leading seven shots on goals, Larkin can fill your categories easily and he’s been receiving high praise from the coaching brass. Like Bjorkstrand, Larkin is another high NHL certainty player who’ll step into an NHL lineup sooner than later.
Other top prospects (high on my list) that you should be eyeing up for your keeper leagues that won’t cost you an absolute fortune include Robby Fabbri (STL), Nikita Scherbak (MTL), Kevin Fiala (NSH), Christian Dvorak (ARI) and Travis Konecny (PHI) on forward. Each of these players combine skill, high NHL certainty and an ultra-competitive approach that’ll drive up their value with real-life coaches. That means, they’ll get more fantasy opportunity folks!
On the blueline, Shea Theodore (ANA), Anthony DeAngelo (TBL), Damon Severson (NJD), Julius Honka (DAL), Josh Morrissey (WPG) and Shayne Gotisbehere (PHI) are a half dozen names high on my list but add Xavier Oulette (DET), Madison Bowey (WSH), Colin Miller (BOS), Joe Morrow (BOS), Chris Bigras (COL) and Stephen Johns (DAL) as less popular names.
NHL Draft enthusiasts, TSN draft expert Craig Button has released his preliminary rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft. There’s some that I agree with and a lot that I don’t but Button usually is right on a few of the unknown prospects to mainstrain media because he does have the means of seeing these players live. I can’t argue with his Top 10 inclusions. I dislike Jordan Greenway as high as he has him and I GAURANTEE that Max Jones won’t be outside of the opening round. Feel free to discuss and debate.
You can view my rankings from two weeks ago here.
Highlights from Youngstars Game – Winnipeg vs. Vancouver (September 13, 2015):
Happy prospect watching,