Leafs beat Blackhawks 3-2 in Rookie Tournament debut


It wasn’t pretty, but the Leafs’ rookies pulled off a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks’ rookies in the shootout in their rookie tournament debut. 

Rather than go through scoring chances and stats like Cam would during the regular season and playoffs, here’s simply what happened, and some thoughts.

First and foremost, this is a rookie tournament. In many ways, even though the players are supposed to be mix of good junior players and some guys with a smidge of pro experience, these games aren’t at the same level as an OHL game. Sure, some of the players are a bit older and bigger, but many of these guys have never played together before, and the mish-mash of abilities and skills usually makes for some pretty sloppy hockey. But really, who are we to complain? It’s early September and we’re starved for hockey news that involves an actual game instead of repetitive contract talk. 

The Blackhawks were undisciplined early, taking several penalties and eventually paying for it at the end of the first with a powerplay goal by Josh Leivo. It wasn’t exactly highlight reel, but a good screen by Brad Ross and a little stutter in Leivo’s shot made it 1-0 Leafs. We at TheLeafsNation ranked Leivo as the 7th-best Leafs prospect, although I had him at #2 overall and #1 among frowards. Assists to Stuart Percy and Petter Granberg.

Early in the second period, a terrible Blackhawks giveaway due to miscommunication (like I said, it’s sloppy puck) leads to a slick steal from Brad Ross and a great shot that beats Mac Carruth. 2-0 Leafs. We have Ross ranked as the Leafs’ 14th-best prospect. If he can avoid the ECHL this season and look strong with the Marlies, I’m sure we’d all be willing to rank him higher.

The 3rd period comes around, and the Leafs allowed two Blackhawks goals to cough up the lead.

First came a soft one from Terry Broadhurst about two minutes in, beating Garret Sparks.

Mullane potted another one with about seven minutes to go, and it’s a tied hockey game. Granberg lost the puck, Percy wasn’t tight to his man, but again – rookie tournament. Don’t get too excited about the good, or too concerned about the bad.

That being said, I was left thinking "Huh, the Leafs cough up a multi-goal lead and lose in overtime? I think I’ve rented this VHS from Blockbuster before!"

But come on, negative Steve! That didn’t happen! 

Garret Sparks came up huge with a big save in overtime. Perhaps the highlight of the game. I’m thinking both Percy and Morgan Rielly owe him a visit to Chipotle soon for that one.

To the shootout we go…

The first three shooters on both sides were stopped, but Rielly snapped that with a nifty backhand fivehole. With Chicago evening it up on a bit of a lucky shot (the shooter basically fell down), Tyler Biggs came up with a bit of a dangle of his own to score. Sparks makes the final save, and that’s the hockey game. 3-2 Leafs shootout final.

Some thoughts…

  • Garret Sparks was good for the most part. He didn’t have a very busy first half, but he didn’t allow a goal, which is kind of what he’s supposed to do, so mission accomplished. We have Sparks ranked as the Leafs’ 13th-best prospect, and best goalie.
  • Sparks played pretty deep in his net, especially in the third. Not sure if that’s a common thing with him, but it’s something I noticed.
  • Morgan Rielly, like many players on the ice in this game, is better than the level he’s playing at. Sometimes good players can’t "dumb their game down" and I think this was an example of that. The faster the play, the better Rielly will be, methinks.
  • Carter Verhaeghe is not even ranked in our Top 20 prospects, but we admit that’s because he’s a bit of a mystery to us. He had several decent scoring chances in this one, but wasn’t able to finish. Also, memorizing how to spell his last name is going to be a bit of a process for some people. Mostly me.
  • Brad Ross is another player who I’d call "too good" for this tournament. You can tell he plays against men while other play with juniors. Feisty little bugger with some wheels, a good shot, and a nose for the net.
  • Cam told us all we were nuts for ranking David Broll as low as we did (20th) and he may be right. For a guy his size, Broll can really motor. He could really steamroll some guys. He even had at least one scoring chance by my count.
  • Kevin Raine is perhaps the least-recognizable name on the Leafs roster. He’s a defenceman with just 23 OHL points in three seasons. With numbers like that, he better be able to throw a hit. Well, apparently he can.

Here’s the whole game’s highlights. The kid-Leafs’ next action will be taking on the kid-Penguins on Saturday at 7pm ET.

And if you have another minute of time…

This has nothing to do with the game, but it’s a very important (yet hilarious) message from the Canadian Cancer Society.