Rookie Tournaments are all done or wrapping up as I write this up tonight, so let’s take a look at some of the noteworthy performances.
While many of these games were streamed live I was limited in my ability to see a lot of any of the tournaments but tried to see as much as I could from as many as I could. I reached out to our writers and got some great insights from some of the guys which are posted separately but I will link to from here.
Starting in Toronto the Leafs Rookie Tournament was a short three game series featuring the Leafs, Sens and Canadiens. All eyes were on Toronto first round pick Timothy Liljegren as many Leaf fans and media got their first glimpse at their prized first round pick from this past draft. Liljegren had his draft stock drop in his draft year as was well documented and much of the reason for that was his health and limited ice time playing on a poor SHL team facing relegation. However some scouts and writers that actually watched his play in Europe last year raised concerns about his defensive play and decision making in his own end and tendency to turn over the puck. This was glaringly and painfully evident in his first game against Montreal where he was a minus -3 and delivered a soft pass from behind his goal to a Montreal player in the slot for a goal. On the surface, it looked bad. However it is important to remember it was just one game, his first in North America and he didn’t get a lot of positional or puck support from teammates at times forcing him to make risky plays. His second game was better, showing signs of his high end skating and offensive abilities. It is yet to be determined where Liljegren will play this year, Don’t count on him playing in the NHL, leaving the AHL with the Marlies or back in Europe as his most likely options. I don’t think there is any chance he plays in the OHL with Niagara as it would eliminate his ability to play in the AHL until he turns 20-years-old, and he is too good to play junior.
Adam Brooks who played in the WHL as an overager will try to be a top six center for the Marlies this year but he missed the tournament as he is recovering from Mono.
Carl Grundstrom had an impressive performance and was both a physical and offensive force at times. He finished the year with the Marlies last year but id expected to be loaned back to the SHL this season.
For the Sens, goalie Marcus Hogberg who also finished last year in the AHL and had a poor showing, played a strong game against the Leafs and was stellar in the shootout closing the door on six shooter for the win.
One player I was excited for was invitee Pius Suter who we discussed on the DPR show. I had a hard time noticing him, and when I was able to find him I didn’t feel like he did anything to show he was worthy of a contract.
Christian Jaros has been getting some buzz as a candidate to see some playing time on the Sens roster this year and his performance showed why. Granted he is an older player at 21-years-old but he came as advertised; a big physical, hard hitting defensive defenseman. This could be a problem for Mark Borowiecki owners.
It was great to see Martin Reway back on the ice after missing all of last year with a serious heart ailment. Missing a year puts him behind the eight ball and he was already in tough to make it as an undersized winger, but don’t write this kid off. If he can find his game in the AHL this year with Laval his stock could begin to rise again. Reway is a solid watch list player who may prove to be a sneaky waiver or free agent pick up in deeper leagues.
Quick hits: (Players I thought played well) Andrew Nielsen, Martin Dzierkals, Kasimir Kaskisou, Fedor Gordeev, Logan Brown, Francis Perron
For more on this tournament see Will Scouchings review here
Penticton Young Stars
These games were streamed on the teams facebook pages, and the production value was very high, my feed and buffering was occasionally poor so I had limited viewings. Here is what I took away…
Vancouver Canucks had a pair of prospects really stand out. Michael Carcone was a player I had never heard of until the final Canucks game where he was on fire scoring two goals and had several chances and posts for the hatty. Who is he? He is a late bloomer, playing only two years of junior in the QMJHL that was never drafted. The Canucks signed him to his three-year ELC and in his rookie pro season in Utica last year he only had five goals and 18 points in 61 games. No wonder I have never heard of him! At this point he is not worthy of fantasy consideration, but is certainly a name to keep an eye on. If he is indeed a late bloomer, only 21-years-old, he could be a decent pick up. The other Canuck to impress was defenseman Jalen Chatfield, a similar story to Carcone. Chatfield also a late bloomer, missed his first two years of major junior and didn’t start with Windsor until he was 18-years-old. He played three years (one as an overager) with a career year of 37 points. After signing his ELC with the Canucks late last season he went on to win the Memorial Cup with the Spits, and will make the jump to pro in the AHL this year in Utica. Chatfield is a defensive defenseman that skates well, has strong edges and excellent gap control. His positioning is very good, and he keeps opposition away from scoring lanes and to the perimeter.
Two NCAA free agents signed this off-season that had great showings were Spencer Foo with the Calgary Flames and Joe Gambardella as Captain for the Edmonton Oilers. Foo played on the Flames top line with Mark Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane and turned heads as an offensive catalyst and with his physical play and willingness to take a hit. Foo played out his four years of NCAA hockey and signed as a 23-year-old free agent so he should have been dominant as an older player. Foo will have a chance to carry this momentum through training camp and preseason where it’s possible he wins a top six role. Don’t rule out the possibility of his playing on the wing on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau for periods this year. It’s possible.
As mentioned Gambardella like Foo played out his colligate four year term and signed as a 23-year-old free agent. And like Foo, Gambardella had a great performance scoring three goals and two in the final game. His game steadily progressed and he was a factor on both sides of the puck.
Big Ziyat Paigin is more known as a defensive defenseman but he has a heavy shot. He scored on a bomb of a one-timer he let loose while in motion. It was an impressive shot and if he can develop the offensive side of his game and be more aggressive physically he could have good fantasy upside. Some more time developing is needed so patience is required on this file.
Two Jets defenseman that stood out (one good and one bad) were Tucker Poolman and Logan Stanley. Poolman had surgery this off-season on both his shoulders but looked very good and was arguably the Jets best defenseman if not best player. Stanley had his second tour in Penticton and struggled again. Stanley was not a factor offensively and had several turnovers.
Quick Hits: Josh Healey, Brett Pollock, Matthew Phillips, Rasmus Andersson, Ostap Safin, Ethan Bear, Dylan Wells, Jonah Gadjovic, Kirill Maximov
For more on Penticton Young Stars read Jamie Barbers review here
Traverse City Prospect Tournament.
These games were streamed on NHL.com with pretty low production value, but it was free and the stream feed was strong so no complaints. Participating teams included Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes, and Dallas Stars. Admittedly I saw very little of these games but managed to watch the final Championship game between Chicago and Columbus. Alex DeBrincat just scored the game tying goal late in the second period in vintage DeBrincat fashion; he picked the pocket of the defenseman deep in the Columbus zone and before he knew it DeBrincat was in the slot and fired it under the bar over the goalies shoulder. He doesn’t need much time or space to make something happen and certainly doesn’t need to rely on linemates to set him up. DeBrincat followed that up by scoring the OT game winning and Tournament winning goal, his fifth of the tournament.
Here are some great resources for more info for each team
Carolina Hurricanes – Canes and Coffee
Chicago Blackhawks – Second City Hockey
St. Louis Blues – Bleedin’ Blue
Dallas Stars – Defending Big D
New York Rangers – Blueshirt Banter
Columbus Blue Jackets – 1st Ohio Battery
Minnesota Wild – Hockey Wilderness
Preds Bolts Rookie Camp
The tournament between the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators was derailed by Hurricane Irma but the Bolts and Preds managed to play some games in Tennessee. Our Lightning writer Brayden Olofson provided a recap you can read here
That’s all the games and info I was able to find for todays ramblings.