The team's annual rookie tournament begins tonight with a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This year's tournament will be held at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium which is a bit of a shame because last year they held it at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto which resulted in a packed house for the Saturday night tilt between the Leafs and the Habs (6-5 for the good guys in OT) that had a loud and boisterous crowd. Funny how affordable tickets will do that.
The camp will be a good chance for the baby Leafs to show their off-season improvement and theoretically earn an invite to the main camp that starts on Thursday. In truth, the spots are limited and most will like have been spoken for before the first practice which starts in 10 minutes.
The focus will be on whether our goaltender of the future can build on his experience with the Marlies last year. Justin Pogge had a decent first year with the Marlies. As Paul Hunter notes, he'll have to rein in his game to succeed and Pogge recognizes that:
"Do less to do more," the 21-year-old said yesterday, a phrase that could well become his mantra. "I'm harnessing that (athleticism); maybe not moving as much. Just playing a lot calmer in the nets. It's hard. When you're a young guy coming in and you want to prove yourself, you get a little excited. But you just have to play calm and confident."
Overcommitting played a large part in Martin Gerber's struggles with the senators last year much to the delight of Leaf fans everywhere. At last year's game Pogge impressed with his quickness and mobility which, when paired with his size, gives him all of the physical tools to succeed as a number one for the Leafs in the future. Hopefully the injury bug skips the Marlies this year so that Pogge is playing behind a settled defence.
Jiri Tlusty will also likely be at the main camp. He is coming off a season that was plagued by a shoulder injury and saw him split time between the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the AHL's Toronto Marlies. When he was healthy he was a force but this year will again be a transition to a bigger and more physical league.
Finally, the Next Nicklas Lidstrom (or so we've been told) will make his North American debut. Leaf fans will get their first glimpse at Anton Stralman with the rookies before he too tries to crack a deep blueline with the Leafs. Barring a miraculous camp he will acclimatise himself to the North American game with a season patrolling the blue line in front of Justin Pogge.
If anyone makes it our to Kitchener I am sure everyone would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the players so create an account and write a diary!