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Sunday’s Traverse City Update

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There may be other links, but I’m not sure there was any sports news yesterday.

NHL Prospects Tournament Day-1
Colt Conrad at Traverse City.

Day Two of Traverse City is in the books, and the Leafs have two wins heading into Monday’s contest with the Red Wings. I’d tell you the standings so far, but that involves adding things up. This post is kept updated:

Yesterday saw the Leafs play a team they shouldn’t have been able to beat, but no one told their second and third string goalies not to be great, so they accidentally won it. Oh, and Nick Robertson did some things.

Sheldon Keefe went with five-sixths of his best forwards from Friday. He left the top line untouched, because why mess with what works? And he swapped in Riley Woods on the Hudson Elynuik line for Trey Bradley. I don’t think Woods was as exciting as Bradley, but Justin Brazeau made up for that by finding his groove a little more. He was just okay in game one, he was very good on Saturday.

In net for the Leafs were Maksim Zhukov and Zach Bouthillier who split the game in half. Zhukov, originally from the Lokomotiv system in Russia (at least from when he was about 16), wasn’t good enough to crack one of the bests team in the MHL, so he came to North America and played USHL and some OHL hockey. He’s just turned 20, and is a former draft pick of Vegas, who chose not to sign him. The Leafs picked him up as a free agent on an AHL contract.

The signing of Zhukov was a bit of a surprise, considering they had two young higher-level prospects to fit in the minors this season, and the fate of Bouthillier is still unknown. The expectation is that Zhukov will play on the Growlers, and presumably, he’ll be backing up Ian Scott.

Given his lack of experience, he played extremely well, looked very comfortable in what was a sort of junior-plus/AHL-lite sort of game. The bigger surprise might have been how well Bouthillier played when he came into the game.

The Leafs dropped the first goal, but then Brazeau and Robertson started scoring, and that was pretty much that for Chicago. The Leafs laid back a little, let the goalies work and spent a lot of time late in the game trading penalties. (Robertson is very Marner-like on the PK). Bouthillier had to make some excellent stops.

The Chicago team boasted a much better class of draft pick, but also a free agent invite NCAA goalie, Nick Kassoff, who was good in the first half of the game.

In a way, this game was Chicago dollars vs Toronto dollars. Both teams have money to spare for scouting, drafting, developing and running a top AHL team. Both teams added very good free agents, and they both have drafted well in later rounds. Their players can play.

And Toronto used an undrafted junior and a trio of second-round picks to thump them.

The game in six has your highlights:

And Omar did a whole bunch of gifs of goals and other parts of the game too.

I’m still very underwhelmed by Mikhail Abramov. He was more like he was in the second half of game one, but there was no sparkle at all there. I am assuming he’s just not fully in game mode yet.

No one impressed in game two like Teemu Kivihalme did in game one, though. Sergei Sapego, Filip Kral and Kalle Loponen (as well as Joey Duszak) all look fine on defence. But there wasn’t the same “this guy is a player” factor there is with Kivihalme.

Justin Holl cracked a joke on Friday that with Jake Gardiner gone, it’s good he’s still there because every team needs one Minnesota boy. And maybe he should watch out because there is another on the horizon. Have a listen:

Janne Kivihalme coached Gardiner and Holl back in high school, and he clearly coached his son well too. Kivihalme reminds me of watching Trevor Moore at the prospects tournament before the Leafs signed him. He wasn’t the most talented player on the ice, but he looked the most like a complete player, ready for a pro team. Teemu is 24, though, so he hasn’t got a lot of time to move up the ranks.

In other news:

Exciting player signings:

Unsigned:

See you Monday, everyone.