Over the last couple weeks, hockey-deprived Leafs fans have been treated to a glimpse of the future. For a lot of casual fans, it can be tough to watch sports without a rooting interest and having prospects on the teams involved gives you a stake in the game. It's not the Leafs, but it's something.
As Leafs fans, we got national television coverage for a game of Matt Finn and two games from each of Stuart Percy, Josh Leivo, and Morgan Rielly. Not bad considering how tough (or expensive) it can be to catch CHL games.
Personally, I thought Matt Finn had the least impressive showing of the four. He only played in the first OHL game and wasn't given a lot of icetime. During the time he was on the ice, Finn made one pretty rough turnover and played far from hi best game in the defensive zone. He's rarely looked as bad in Guelph as he did for Team OHL in that game but he did miss Wednesday's game with the flu so it's possible that he was fighting the early stages of that -- who knows. Whatever the reason, I was hoping to see more from Finn after a strong start to the OHL season and I hope that this one game wasn't an indication of what we can expect against better competition.
Stuart Percy did what Stuart Percy has done almost every time I've seen him play. He was quietly effective, did a good job of preventing entries to the zone, put together some solid in-zone defensive sequences, but wasn't making the greatest passes or decisions when exiting the zone. Overall, I was pretty happy with Percy's play but I keep hoping that he'll add a breakout element to his game that I just haven't seen yet.
Josh Leivo, for my money, was the most impressive of the three OHL Leafs. He spent considerably less time with the puck on his stick than he would in your typical Sudbury Wolves game but I felt he adapted to his role well. When he did get the puck, he drove the net well and put a lot of pressure on the Russian defense. Leivo played a couple of good, physical games and showed some flashes of skill that you expect in what's effectively an All-Star game. He probably erred on the side of shooting too often but aside from that, I can't complain about the two games he put together. I wouldn't be surprised if he's earned himself an invitation to Team Canada's camp.
It was a tale of two games for Morgan Rielly in the Super Series. In the first game he played very well, particularly on offense. His creativity, crisp passing, and skating were all on display with analysts dropping names like Coffey, Niedermayer, and Leetch as comparables. While that was probably overstating things, Rielly did look sharp and wasn't overmatched defensively against a Russian team whose offense is vastly superior to what he'd be used to facing night in and night out in Moose Jaw.
The second game, Rielly started strong but looked to have overstretched himself while pinching in the offensive zone in the first period and looked a step behind from that point on. He still made a few nice plays in the offensive zone but he seemed to underestimate the speed of some of the Russian forwards in transition -- something that has been uncharacteristic for him during the regular season. In the third he made some great plays on offense (including the double toe drag that we'll all be talking about for a while) but he also made a couple pretty egregious giveaways. All-in-all, one of his weaker games this year.
So, those are my observations; what did you guys see?