The Toronto Maple Leafs rookie tournament for 2016 starts Friday, September 16 in London Ontario. The Leafs rookies will be playing against prospect and rookie lineups from the Ottawa Senators, Montréal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins over the course of the weekend.
Toronto’s most famous rookie is busy playing in the World Cup of Hockey, the Leafs already showcased William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen at this event, so none of those three is going to London. The big name is the London Knights’ own Mitch Marner.
Beyond the obvious star, the Leafs chose an interesting mix of Marlies signings, draft picks and a couple of free agents they’re looking at to make up the roster. They have two goaltenders, 10 defenders and 22 forwards, and some of them stretch the definition of rookie to the breaking point.
After two years of pro hockey in Sweden, his rookie status is nominal only. He should be one of the best players on the ice, but it does give him the chance his injury took away last season to play with other Marlies players in a North American setting. He’ll be facing former Frölunda teammate Artturi Lehkonen for the Habs.
Signed last spring to an NHL contract, Kaskisuo played a few games as a Marlie, played the victim in net at the Leafs’ development camp, and will finally get something like real game experience for Toronto as training camp approaches. With three goaltenders signed for the Marlies so far, starts might be slow in coming, so all games are useful for him.
Signed to an AHL deal in the spring, Brouillard may have flown under the radar for a lot of fans. He is a small, agile defender who played out his junior career in the QMJHL undrafted. He put up .83 points per game over that career, which compares very favourably to two other defenders who were drafted by the Leafs who will be teammates in London. Andrew Nielsen finished his WHL years with .72 PPG, and Travis Dermott put up .65 PPG in the OHL.
Brouillard did not just turn into a hot scoring defender in his final year in the Q either, he started putting up points at that pace in his second year when he was 17, and he never stopped. He scored the most goals by a defender in his last two years in the Q and had the most points in his second last.
Is he something more than an AHL star in the making? If he helps replace T.J. Brennan and his goal scoring ways on the Marlies, that’s a good result for the Leafs, but if there’s more there, that’s even better. By locking him up to an AHL deal, the Leafs have a chance to get a long look at him in a good development environment with no risk in the investment.
One of two free agent invites to the tournament, Felhaber was also invited to the development camp by the Leafs. He is an interesting mix of contradictions.
His OHL points are poor, and he went undrafted this year. People who’ve seen him play think he could bounce back, re-enter the draft and get snapped up. His OHL team, the Saginaw Spirit, is one of the worst in the league and went through coaching upheavals last year, but Felhaber is reported to be at least in part the author of his own poor performance.
He didn’t want to play in Michigan, so far from home, and it could be that he has struggled with the off-ice challenges of playing pseudo-professional hockey at such a young age.
He’s built a bit like fellow rookie camp players Adam Brooks and Jack Walker (The Twin Towers of Power) but it wasn’t just his lack of size that kept him from being drafted. He’s managed to score at only .59 PPG in two years in the OHL, and he has one assist in eight playoff games.
Is there something there, though? He was taken tenth overall in the OHL draft after scoring up a storm in his minor hockey league. He is also said to be a good skater, agile and talented in the offensive zone.
He is not clicking in Saginaw, but this tournament might show if there is really anything there to be brought out in a better environment and with the right kind of work from Felhaber himself.
Korostelev was a seventh round pick of the Leafs, and he can go unnoticed amidst some of the brighter lights. He is entering his fourth year with the Sarnia Sting in the OHL where he’s become a good, not great, scoring forward putting up .79 PPG.
Just a few days ago, Moscow CSKA in the KHL traded a low scoring forward in their junior system to Automobilist Yekaterinburg for the rights to Korostelev. KHL clubs trade rights all the time for players they likely will never ever see, but this trade was interesting in that it was CSKA doing the deal. They are, of course, Nikita Zaitsev’s old team, but they are also the team run by Sergei Fedorov, the old teammate of Brendan Shanahan.
If the plan is to move Korostelev into the KHL when he graduates from Sarnia this year, CSKA is a very good place for him to prove himself. In the meantime, the rookie tournament gives us a chance to weigh him against players like Dmytro Timashov and Jeremy Bracco who may be ready now to perform at a high level in pro hockey on the Marlies.
The full roster for the tournament is below, with a link to one of our more recent articles for each player, so you can catch up with any of the rookies you don't know well.
|Andrew Nielsen||D||Lethbrige (WHL) / Toronto (AHL)||NHL|
|Jon Jutzi||D||Minnesota State (WCHA) / Manitoba (AHL)||AHL|
|Justin Holl||D||Toronto (AHL)||NHL|
|Keaton Middleton||D||Saginaw (OHL)||Drafted|
|Nicolas Mattinen||D||London (OHL)||Drafted|
|Nikolas Brouillard||D||Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) / Quebec (QMJHL)||AHL|
|Rinat Valiev||D||Toronto (AHL) / Toronto (NHL)||NHL|
|Stephen Desrocher||D||Kingston (OHL) / Oshawa (OHL)||Drafted|
|Travis Dermott||D||Erie (OHL) / Toronto (AHL)||NHL|
|Ty Stanton||D||Medicine Hat (WHL) / Toronto (AHL)||AHL|
|Adam Brooks||F||Regina (WHL)||Drafted|
|Andreas Johnson||F||Frolunda (SHL) / Toronto (AHL)||NHL|
|Cason Hohmann||F||Elmira (ECHL) / Rochester (AHL)||AHL|
|Chase Witala||F||Prince George (WHL) / Toronto (AHL)||AHL|
|Colin Smith||F||Toronto (AHL) / San Antonio (AHL)||AHL|
|Dmytro Timashov||F||Quebec (QMJHL) / Shawinigan (QMJHL)||NHL|
|Frederik Gauthier||F||Toronto (AHL) / Toronto (NHL)||NHL|
|Jack Walker||F||Victoria (WHL)||Drafted|
|Jeremy Bracco||F||Kitchener (OHL) / Boston College (Hockey East)||Drafted|
|JJ Piccinich||F||London (OHL)||Drafted|
|Martins Dzierkals||F||Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)||Drafted|
|Mason Marchment||F||Mississauga (OHL) / Toronto (AHL)||AHL|
|Mitch Marner||F||London (OHL)||NHL|
|Nikita Korostelev||F||Sarnia (OHL)||Drafted|
|Tobias Lindberg||F||Toronto (AHL) / Binghamton (AHL) / Toronto (NHL)||NHL|
|Tony Cameranesi||F||U. of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC) / Toronto (AHL)||AHL|
|Trevor Moore||F||Denver (NCHC)||NHL|
|Tye Felhaber||F||Saginaw (OHL)||Free Agent|
|Tyler Wong||F||Lethbridge (WHL) / Toronto (AHL)||Free Agent|
|Antoine Bibeau||G||Toronto (AHL)||NHL|
|Kasimir Kaskisuo||G||Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC) / Toronto (AHL)||NHL|