Last night, Leafs prospect Tony Cameranesi saw his NCAA collegiate hockey career come to an end in heartbreaking (or stick-breaking) fashion when his University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs fell 3-2 just shy of the Frozen Four to the Boston College Eagles.
After triumphing over top regionally seeded Providence College Friar (who were 27-6-3 on the season) 2-1 to advance to the elite eight, the 19-15 Bulldogs fought until the last play of the game against the 27-7 Eagles.
Here's how close Tony Cameranesi was to tying the game in the dying seconds last night. Breaks his stick. pic.twitter.com/ayH2PipS6p— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) March 27, 2016
Cameranesi, who picked up an assist in the game after picking up two points in the win over the Friars, finished his fourth and final year at Minnesota-Duluth with 39 points in 38 games, well ahead of fellow Leafs prospect Dominic Toninato (21 points in 40 games) for the team-lead.
On his way to graduating, the Leafs now have a tough decision to make with the 2011 fifth round pick.
A diminutive 5-9 centre, Cameranesi is an excellent, quick skater and playmaker who has progressed well since a standout freshman season with the Bulldogs that saw him earn NCAA (WCHA) All-Rookie Team honours alongside other NHL prospects, including Florida Panthers second rounder Rocco Grimaldi.
Three times the team's leading scorer in his four seasons with the Bulldogs, Cameranesi is without a doubt a gifted player.
But the Leafs have a tough decision to make with the 22-year-old centre.
In a prospect pool rife with talented, but small, forwards, the Leafs have to decide if they're willing to use one of their 50 Standard Player Contracts (SPCs) on another middling, B or C level prospect.
With all of Jared Cowen, Mitch Marner, Travis Dermott, Kasperi Kapanen, Frederik Gauthier, Andreas Johnson, Andrew Nielsen, Tobias Lindberg, Dmytro Timashov, Antoine Bibeau, Brendan Leipsic, Andrew Campbell signed to deals and not on the current Leafs roster, the pool of contracts has already begun to run dry.
With Stuart Percy, Josh Leivo, Colin Smith (who has played really well since being acquired by the Leafs and sent to the Marlies), Scott Harrington and Sam Carrick as pending RFAs also not included on the current Leafs roster and in need of potentially being signed, the decision is made even more difficult.
Throw in 12 picks in this year's draft, and strong years from Jeremy Bracco, Martins Dzierkals, and others, as well as the pursuit of potential youngish players in Nikita Zaitsev and Jimmy Vesey, and Cameranesi's chances at a contract are probably a coin toss at best.
Still, if the Leafs do sign Cameranesi, you can expect him to slot in with the Marlies and provide some added depth and energy -- he has played all three forward positions in college at even strength and the point at times on the powerplay.
Cameranesi comforted as he finishes his last UMD game with a loss just short of the Frozen Four. pic.twitter.com/5PI0TzydIb— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) March 27, 2016