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Leafs Rookie Recap: Leafs 2, Sens 1 (OT)

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The Leafs were the better team tonight, but they struggled to show it on the scoresheet.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Leafs scratches: Justin Holl, Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielsen, Keaton Middtleton, Jeremy Bracco, Andreas Johnsson, Martins Dzierkals, Nikita Korostelev, Tony Cameranesi, Adam Brooks, and Tyler Wong.

Without Auston Matthews, this year's rookie tournament lacks a little in star factor, but the Leafs' prospect system is so full of interesting players to watch, it's almost better to get a chance to watch some of the lesser lights. We'll have plenty of time to watch Matthews on the big stage.

Skip past the recap if you're more interested in simply reading my notes on individual players.

The Recap

The Leafs carried more of the play in the first period, and Frederik Gauthier's line was a force to be reckoned with. While Dmytro Timashov and Trevor Moore buzzed around the perimeter slipping passes back and forth, Gauthier anchored the trio with his big presence in the slot. It was their line who scored the first goal of the game as Timashov feathered a perfect pass in to Moore, who walked in alone and made no mistake.

Tobias Lindberg made his presence felt, taking the puck to the net with a little too much enthusiasm, and put the Leafs on the penalty kill for the first time in the game. They killed it off with aplomb, with Moore and Gauthier in particular doing good work. Mitchell Marner had a bit of a lapse in his defensive coverage, but Kasimir Kaskisuo was up to the task.

The second period saw the Leafs continue to control more of the play, as the trio of Marner, Colin Smith, and Tobias Lindberg got a few good chances in on net though they did also once get caught tired after an icing and get hemmed in. The Gauthier line continued its dominance.

After two, the Leafs doubled the Sens on the shot clock, 24-12.

The third period got off to a slow start, with the Leafs getting only two shots in the first 6 minutes, and the Sens only getting one. Rinat Valiev and Nicolas Mattinen had trouble with a 1-on-2 and although the Senator forward was unable to get a shot through, the puck wound up dribbling dangerously past Kaskisuo and off the outside of the post.

With just under eight minutes left in the third, the Leafs were handed a power play when Vincent Dunn was handed a two-minute minor for slashing, and although the Leafs created at least one good chance with Marner on the point, they couldn't make it count.

The Sens struck back with 5:29 left in regulation, as Stephen Harper (no, not that one) wristed a shot cleanly past Kaskisuo. Blake Tatchell and Thomas Chabot picked up the assists.

The Sens continued to press in the final minutes of the game to take the lead, at one point hemming in Marner's line. Marner and his linemates seem to fade in effectiveness towards the end of the game, but no damage was done, and the game headed to OT with the shots 30-18 in favour of the Leafs.

Smith, Lindberg, and Valiev started for the Leafs at 3-on-3, and Valiev very, very nearly sprang Lindberg for a breakaway off a long pass, but the play was offside. Next, Gauthier came out with Marner and Valiev stayed out. Some running around in the Leafs' zone ensued. Then, the Leafs tried Smith, Brouillard, and Timashov. The Sens got a good 2-on-1 chance there, and again, the Leafs failed to threaten. A combo of Marner, Moore and Brouillard did some cycling in the OZ, but not much else. Next, Tye Felhaber, JJ Piccinich, and Stephen Desrocher put together a good shift, but that didn't yield more than one shot on goal that was easily stopped.

Finally, the trio of Smith found himself on a breakaway and beat Sens' goalie Matt O'Connor upstairs for an unassisted goal to win it for the good guys with 29.5 seconds left in OT.

Notes on The Rookies

Tobias Lindberg: Some good work down low, goes well to the net -€” a little too well sometimes, as evidenced by his goaltender interference penalty in the first period. He wasn't overly effective beyond that, though.

Mitch Marner: Let's face it: he still looks small out there. Pushed off the puck? Yeah, sometimes. However. He breaks up passes well and spreads out the play so that he can be creative via passing or skating. WHOA that stickhandling and playmaking. I also love his commitment to defence -€” though tonight I did notice a couple lapses, specifically that he missed one defensive assignment on the PK and then committed a poor giveaway at the OZ blue line. And holy moly, does he have a release these days. He narrowly missed scoring on a pair of great shots in the first half of the game.

Nicolas Mattinen: HUGE. Some good passes. Not slow for such a big man. Not always fantastic decisions with the puck in his own zone. He was paired with Valiev, which I think helped. He gets his stick into passing lanes well enough in the DZ.

Frederik Gauthier: Seems to have worked on his wrist shot, but his loading time is still long. He does have very good defensive instincts, though. He made a good pass or two in the offensive zone in the first period, actually.

Nikolas Brouillard: Skates well, but not every outlet pass is a good one. He threw the puck to open ice more often than I'd like.

Dmytro Timashov: Pesky down low, despite his size. He uses quick stops and starts to get his stick in the way of passes and make poke checks. He has good speed to the outside while carrying the puck in the OZ and can create plays while staying out there. Boy, he has really great passing abilities. His approach to defence is somewhat less impressive, as he can be caught floating a little high.

Trevor Moore: He gets knocked down a lot, but it doesn't seem to phase him much. His line with Timashov and Gauthier spent a lot of time in the OZ. He scored a nice goal on a feed from Timashov. He got time on the PK alongside Gauthier, where he did well.

Ty Stanton: He's big and strong, and the Leafs need some of that, but he shows lapses in defensive awareness. He uses his long reach very effectively to poke check when he could actually check someone and destroy them. That's useful restraint.

Rinat Valiev: He has taken his offensive game to a new level since last season's rookie tournament. He skates with the puck well, with his head up, even using some impressive edgework for a guy his size. His vision and passing have improved, as well. On the other hand, his outlet passes don't always go where they're supposed to.

Stephen Desrochers and Jon Jutzi were not good together. Their D-to-D passing in their own end. Hoo boy.

JJ Piccinich: The scrappy Knights' winger who worked so well along the boards in his team's Memorial Cup win did more of the same tonight, but his linemates Tye Felhaber and Mason Marchment weren't anything to write home about, so it came to naught.

Colin Smith: OK, but I hardly noticed him until he scored the OT winner. Not an inspiring review for a guy who is 23. We'll see how the rest of his tournament goes.