Just in case you were locked inside some sort of sensory deprivation tank, last night saw the first hockey of the season as Toronto's all-rookie team defeated the Chicago Blackhawks' squad 6-3. Some of the kids looked good, while others struggled to make an impression. The Buds got goal support from Brad Ross, Sondre Olden, Greg McKegg, Kenny Ryan, Jerry D'Amigo, and Simon Gysbers. Jussi Rynnas received the start in net, and looked solid (if unpolished). He made several nice saves, even though he was largely hung out to dry by a lack of defense most of the night.
Before I go into my observations from last night, let's all remember that this was just one pre-season game. Lots of things can change before the Leafs start making cuts later this month, so don't jump all over me. My thoughts from last night, your game in six, and your Sunday links after the jump.
The two players that really impressed me were Olden and Gysbers. Olden, who just turned 18 two weeks ago, was easily playing against the toughest competition he has ever faced. He looked fantastic. For a lanky 6'3 teenager, he appears to have an easy stride and looked surprisingly agile. The goal he scored was a bit of a fluke, but the rest of his play looked solid. Hopefully he'll get to play in all three games. Simon Gysbers, a big 6'4 defender out of Lake Superior State in the NCAA, signed on with the Leafs back in March. Entering last night's game, he was probably not one of the defensemen Leaf fans were highly anticipating getting to watch. Last night was an excellent opportunity to make an impression, and boy did he make a good one. Gysbers was solid and simple in his own end, threw his weight around a bit, and was even able to contribute on the scoreboard.
Greg McKegg, a center with the Erie Otters and the Leafs 3rd round pick this June, also came to play. I recall that several scouts mentioned a knee injury in camp last fall and how he had lost his second gear. I think last night proved that his knee is fully healed. Along with Olden, the Leafs may have really picked up a few talented offensive players this summer. Jerry D'Amigo had a relatively quiet night, and at times I saw him lose his focus, especially when trying to mark his opposition in the neutral zone. However, the few times that happened, he seemed to snap out of it and dig down to get the puck back.
Kadri came out a little fiery, but it looked to me that he was either over-anxious for the game and gripping his stick too hard, and or he was going through the motions. And let's face it: his real tryout comes over the next two weeks, so that's certainly a possibility. I was also disappointed with the play of Korbinian Holzer. The German defenseman looked sluggish in the first half of the game, and was really fighting the puck. For a twenty-two year old who has Olympic experience, I was underwhelmed. Let's hope he looks better tonight. Jesse Blacker also appeared to struggle tonight. Some of the folks here who closely follow the OHL said back in the spring that he had some major holes in his game, and it was certainly true last night.
Mueller, Ross, Ryan, and a few others had good nights, but didn't wow me. Jamie Devane looked rough whenever he stepped on the ice (not much), and you have to figure he's looking at another year of junior. Stefanovich and Aulie did not play.
Tonight we'll see Ben Scrivens in net for Toronto as they take on Pittsburgh at 7PM.
11 AM update - The Pens team will feature 10 players from Wilkes-Barre on their roster. This will be a much tougher test for the Leafs rookies. (ST to John Bartlett)
Game in Six, courtesy of the Leafs official site:
Blue Chip Prospects has a few notes for the upcoming season.
Leafs Nation Online with three previews to fill your Sunday Leafs craving
Leafs HQ recaps game one
One of our own recaps the other game from Saturday for Pensburgh
Kevin McGran with a piece in the Star about the Leafs newest Deutsch imports.
Enjoy your Sunday folks. The NFL kicks off at 1 and then we expect you back here for the GDT at 7.