September 8th 2018 – It was an interesting rookies showdown between the Sens and Leafs this afternoon in Laval, Québec. The first half of the game was punctuated by middle zone turnovers and tight defence when all a sudden this matchup turned into an offensive blast with great passing plays and high pace transitions. The score was not quite an indication for poor defensive systems but rather below-average goaltending and a special-team festival.
Many key pieces of the Sens’ offense were missing in this one, including Brady Tkachuk, Colin White and Filip Chlapik, but that didn’t stop Ottawa from becoming the undisputed champions of this 2018 rookie tournament with a second win in as many games, taking this one in overtime with a 6-5 score.
Here are notes from key players in this game:
Toronto Maple Leafs:
Carl Grundström: The Swede took it at the exact same level as where he finished his 2017-2018 season and was a monster for his team. Putting together his skates, hands and shoulders, the 6-0, 184 lbs winger was a constant treat for the opposing defence. He was never afraid to distribute solid-but-legal hits all game long and was also a huge factor in his team’s five goals. We will hear from him in this year’s training camp as he should become one of Babcock’s favorite youngsters.
Timothy Liljegren: The offense-minded defenseman made a couple of high-risk moves in his own end (the kind you can only make in September hockey), but he also showed great puck-moving skills as he was the main target to organize his team’s power play through a lot of opportunities. He was also very comfortable carrying the puck while transitioning into the offensive zone.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev: SDA (much easier to pronounce) was also a good show in today’s game. The Russian was able to skate around the ice freely for most of the game and demonstrated a solid touch around the net in many occasions. The third round selection (76th overall) in the 2018 amateur draft is only 5-10 and it will be interesting to see how he does against bigger and faster opposition throughout this year’s preseason.
Rasmus Sandin: The Leaf’s 2018 first-round pick was not exactly shining in this one. He still managed to put a power play assist on a good feed and was able to stay out of trouble with simple-but-smart plays when he was in possession of the puck. Not bad at all for a first taste of almost-AHL hockey.
Other players such as AHL’s Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks and Andrew Nielsen all played their expected kind of game, showing the experience advantage with key plays, including an incredible pass from Bracco to Grundström who tied the game 4-4 in the third.
Drake Batherson: Started the game on a line with Logan Brown and a mix of Parker Kelly and Jordan Stallard, but was reunited with his new best friend Alex Formenton as the second period started. Those two clicked again today and scored both the game equalizer with 15 seconds to play in the third and the game-winning goal at the early seconds of the overtime. Probably overshadowed by the fast and furious Formenton, Batherson played with much more energy than it may have showed again tonight. He will be right there in the race for a spot with the parent club this fall.
Alex Formenton: The other one… showed great chemistry with Drake Batherson and was, once again, everywhere on the ice in this game. He was used for all situations, killing penalties, sparking the power play and shutting down the opposing forecheckers. The Barrie, Ontario native had to leave the game early in the second period after being hit to the head by Andrew Nielsen’s elbow, but he came back less than five minutes later with no sign of injury.
Max Lajoie: Named the team’s captain for today, Lajoie started with shaky plays in his own end for the most part of the first period, but got it all together after with a solid presence on both offensive and defensive duties. The 20 years old defenceman, who played 56 games with AHL’s Belleville Senators last season, finished the game with a well-deserved three assists and was named the first star of the game.
Logan Brown: Played a much better game than yesterday. The 11th overall pick in the 2016 NHL’s amateur draft used his body wisely and was able to execute an efficient forechecking while helping making his linemates look good too with nice puck feeding and vision. Not a physical player, Brown was still able to use his skating and range to his advantage.
Authored by: Carl Sinclair