Another of Toronto's development camps is in the books now, wrapped up with an exhibition game between Team Blue and Team White. Just like I did last year, I'll wrap up the camp with my thoughts on what players seemed to stand out the most.

I won't even bother including a section on the Leafs' known top prospects. Cowan, Minten and to a lesser extent Moldenhauer were all too good for the rest of the competition. Maybe if they were split up and had to face each other they would have had more of a challenge to deal with. But they weren't!

After the game, Wickenheiser was asked about this and she said they wanted to see them dominate, playing the top skilled forwards against the top defense, and they did indeed dominate. So I'll deal with what we were shown, and talk about the others who stood out.

Ben Danford

One of the earlier standouts in the game for me, and I was looking for him. Made several good, smart, simple defensive plays to cut off passes, pressure his man and force mistakes and turnovers. Most importantly, I wanted to see his offensive game and get a feel for how it is right now, to compare how it looked earlier in the season when most scouts were watching and – admittedly – it was good but not what you'd like.

I'll say he looked real good, even if he wasn't taking control with the puck like an Erik Karlsson, he doesn't need to. He just needs to be smart and make good, efficient plays to help facilitate the offense and that's what he did. He had a lovely primary assist on the first goal activating from the point, carrying it down below the goal line and making a nice pass in front to Holinka. If he can do more of that next year, we'll see a big increase in his point production and offensive role with Oshawa. He was more quiet in the second half of the game, but honestly Team White wasn't putting up much resistance. That and being an exhibition game, it was pretty easy to look good on Team Blue.

Wickenheiser was remarking how he moved really well, made a really good impression on everyone and touched on the idea that they think his offensive upside is better than he appears statistically.

Miroslav Holinka

After writing his profile, I thought that Holinka would quickly become my favourite pick from this year's draft and boy howdy he cemented that in this exhibition. He scored two goals in the first period, one in front as he went to the dirty areas and had good timing and positioning on his route to get open. The next was a great example of his two way play and his nifty mittens, stealing it with a good defensive play in his own end, then coming down on an odd man rush and scoring on a real clever play after I thought he ran out of room and wasted the opportunity. Like Danford he was more quiet in the second period, but the game got a lot less intense from both sides.

When asked about Holinka, Hayley Wickenheiser marked him as a "bright spot" and mentioned you can tell he had pro experience. I really hope he does come to the CHL next year. It will make it a lot easier for me to watch him in Edmonton than in Czechia, and even in the USHL (the CHL streaming is simply better). If he tightens up his game and gets smarter with pulling out those high skill dangles, and keeps working on his defensive game, he could turn into a really good player in the WHL.

Ryan McCleary

The invited prospect who stood out the most to me, I thought he was brilliant and one of the best defensemen on either team. He's a 20 year old (soon to turn 21) who played in the WHL for Swift Current. He has size (6'3") but he looks to be a really good skater, and knows what to do with the puck – more so than any of Toronto's defensive draft picks this year, even Danford though McCleary is older. Like everyone else on Blue, he didn't look as strong in the second half – but no one did, the intensity really dropped off and just got a bit messier with teams trading turnovers and transitions. But when the game was going and everyone was playing harder, he looked great.

Cathy and I talked about him a lot, debating what kind of contract to give him – and we both think he should absolutely get some kind of contract. Toronto doesn't have a lot of ELC room but we still debated it, but we'd absolutely give him an AHL deal and see how he fares as a pro there or in the ECHL. He flat out looked like one of the best players on both teams, invites and draft picks included.

When asked about what free agent invites stood out the most, McCleary was one of the two she specifically named as the biggest bright spots.

Brandon Lisowsky

Lisowsky, who was drafted by Toronto but they chose not to sign him to an ELC, was the second best looking free agent invite at this game. He did score a goal, which we always knew he was good at, but he also was making an impact in other areas of the game. He was a dog on the puck, stripping several bigger players of it to keep plays and possessions alive. He also tailed off in the second period, but everyone did.

I wouldn't have given him an ELC either, but I think he would make a good AHL pro, especially if he continues to develop his off puck game like he did this year. He talked during the dev camp earlier in the week that he still really liked the organization and admired their development staff, and wanted to keep working with them on an AHL deal. Barring that he'll go back for an overage season in the WHL.

Asked about Lisowsky post-game, Wickenheiser lauded his offense and said he had a good camp but left his future as a mystery – both in terms of a prospect tournament invite or main camp invite, and any potential pro deal.

Victor Johansson

Johansson was quiet all game, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a defenseman. He made some simple and smart plays with the puck, looked like he skates well, and was similarly calm and effective on defense. He was tested, playing on the much weaker Team White and having to face down some of Toronto's top prospects and invites, and he acquitted himself okay. Not much spectacular to take from his game as I was looking for him, being the first time I've been able to see him play at all. I thought he did an okay job.

I'm getting tired of saying and hearing it, but it's still extremely true and valid – kid needs to put on some weight. When asked about him, Wickenheiser said he was a bright spot in the camp as a whole and did touch on the weight thing. But she used that to make a connection between Johansson and... John Klingberg, who was listed as a similar height and weight, but wound up being taller and stronger by the time he came to North America.

Sam McCue

Mostly quiet, but when you noticed him it was for all the kinds of things you should expect from him – which looked a lot like his older brother on London last year. He got under the other team's skin, even in an inter-squad exhibition game, getting into a little scrum at one point.

But then during a 3 on 3 period, McCue made a good stop on Fraser Minten in the defensive zone right in front of his net, stripped him, made the first pass and skated his ass off down the ice and was ultimately the goal scorer on a nice odd man rush pass. That's the kind of north-south, hard working and two-way game we will want to see from him. Be physical, annoying, and score goals.

Michael Hagens

Hagens was another of the free agent invites, and he looked sharp. He's a similar kind of defenseman as John Fusco – a bit smaller, but a good skater, good with the puck, and capable defensively though not at a high level. He had a nice tap in goal after creeping in from the point and taking a pretty brilliant pass from Moldenhauer. He also assisted on Quinn Hutson's goal later in the game.

Hagens is committed to the NCAA, so I'm not expecting any kind of pro contract – I don't really think Toronto would offer one, or that Hagens would accept one. He'll be someone I'm sure Toronto keeps their eyes on, however.

Quinn Hutson

Hutson is a free agent invite, and one of the many Hutson brothers – his younger brothers Lane and Cole are defensemen, and have both been drafted to the NHL the past couple of years. Quinn played with Cade Webber at Boston University and according to Quinn, the Leafs were the team who showed the most interest in him when he got invites to various development camps.

He looked like a good forward on Team Blue, who were a much stronger team because they had the better quality drafted prospects and the better quality depth – like Quinn. He was shifty, nimble with the puck, and showcased a pretty darn good shot when he scored off a snipe in the second period. Wickenheiser did list him among a few names towards the end, when asked about standout invites. So not one of the biggest bright spots in her opinion, but one of the better ones.

Hutson said he is working on graduating early after this next season is over, which would be his third season in the NCAA. He is very likely not looking to sign anything right now, but he would be someone to keep an eye on as a free agent to sign in the spring/summer of 2025.


Noah Chadwick was disappointing only in that he wasn't standing out. On the one hand, he's a D+1 guy who was just drafted in the sixth round so it's not exactly unreasonable to not expect much from him. On the other, he was invited by Canada to attend the World Junior Summer Showcase roster. He is supposed to be a great steal who already proved he's better than a mere sixth rounder, right? Okay I'm exaggerating all that, but I wanted to see him stand out as one of the best defensemen not far back of Danford. He was more quiet, which isn't a bad thing for a defenseman but I was still hoping for more.

Hudson Malinoski is kind of the same story as Chadwick, though he doesn't have any Team Canada hype. Instead, he's a year older and more used to NCAA competition, which is not necessarily better than the CHL in terms of quality competition in terms of skill but the players are older, more physical, and further along in their development. He was mostly invisible all game.

Joe Miller is in the same boat as Malinoski, but more so. Miller is actually two years older than even Malinoski is. He should have been a leader on whatever team he played for, at least if you wanted to take him seriously as a prospect with NHL chances. I've liked him at Harvard at times, but he's in the same boat as Kressler – what is his path to the NHL? He does some things well, but there's nothing in his profile of physical tools or skills that are at high enough levels to make a path to the NHL a realistic possibility.

And that's that for this year! The rest of this summer and into the early autumn, we will have the World Junior Summer Showcase tournament starting in late July and into August, where we can see Easton Cowan and Noah Chadwick playing against top competition.

Then in September, I believe, we'll have the prospect tournament against the Montreal prospects before the main NHL training camp. Until then, I will be going into a coma after I finish the newly drafted prospect profiles.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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