Toronto hosted their annual Rookie Tournament again this year with the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens participating in a three game mini-tournament. Our Minnesota Wild writer Will Scouching was able to take in the games and here are his notes as to who played well and who did not.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dmytro Timashov: Showed his speed, skill and puck possession abilities. Needs to take a step forward offensively, but he has three years of an ELC left, and the skill is there. Gets his chances, creates more chances, just needs to finish. Staying on his feet, staying elusive, and building more skill will be necessary.
Timothy Liljegren: Already a victim of the Toronto media, Liljegren was shaky on Friday, but Sunday was peak Liljegren. While he gave up some turnovers leading to goals on Friday, his partners were less than no help, and he did make smart, small plays that drove offense in a less flashy way that he’ll need to capture increasingly as he develops. The learning curve for the AHL may be steep, but if the coaching staff can get him ice time he could be a big add for the Marlies. His passing is crisp and usually the smart play, but his defensive play will need work and patience may be necessary.
Keaton Middleton and Nicolas Mattinen are in their final year of rights retention, and I saw nothing from either that led me to believe that either has a future in the NHL. Eemeli Rasanen is far from a finished product, however, and I saw some promising defensive play, but all three has a ton of work to do with their footwork and play with the puck. Modern NHL defenders may not need to carry the puck so much as move it to someone who can carry it, but these guys had trouble getting the puck in the first place, and when facing a rush they were beaten by smaller faster skaters, especially in the Montreal game on Friday. A low point came when Keaton Middleton found himself in a fight with Michael Pezzetta halfway through the game. The puck was deep in the offensive zone. Play was stopped as Middleton was put out of the game after Pezzetta landed a good right hand, stopping momentum for… reasons.
Andrew Nielsen is a curious case. His defensive decision making and tracking forwards in his own zone clearly needs much more work, which should be the focus this year, yet his shot and ability to quarterback a power play is notable. He can be mean, but he can also move the puck. He is young, but with his experience in the AHL I expected more out of him in the defensive end. I’ll have a close eye on him this year, but he still is very much a work in progress regardless of offensive production.
I was highly skeptical of the Gordeev pick, but I knew he was a forward recently turned defender, and for his size I clearly saw a lot of skill relative to his massive size. He is lanky and clearly needs to fill his frame, but he was the most promising of the towering defenders by a fair margin. His game on Sunday was fantastic as he was rushing the puck and earning controlled entries/exits with a combination of skill,