The Leafs Rookie Tournament is upon us, and it will be the first time for many to catch their first glimpse of Toronto’s top prospects and newcomers in action. It’s not necessarily a world class competition, but it’ll still be hella fun to watch some actual, for real hockey again.
With so many new faces that the Leafs have drafted, signed or traded for, there are an unprecedented number of great storylines to follow heading into this weekend’s tournament. In this week’s roundtable, we asked our writers which player (or players) they’re most excited to see…
If there was a single player I was interested in watching
during the rookie tournament it would have to be Nikita Soshnikov. He might not
be the best player there, but he’s got the excitement of being the player I
know the least about of the players who are under contract by the Leafs.
At this point all I really have to go with are decent
numbers from the KHL and scouting reports calling him “toolsy” and “above
average”. Being 77th in the league in
scoring means a little less when it means you’re one point ahead of Tim
Stapleton and one point behind Kevin Dallman and “does everything well” sounds
a little AHL-ly to me until I’ve really had a chance to see what he’s all
The reality is however that 21 year old undrafted Russians
don’t leave the KHL unless they and the team signing them think they have a
real chance to make an impact in the NHL, and while challenging for Leafs
roster spot out of camp is certainly pushing it, I’m excited to learn how far
along this kid is.
For me it’s Kasperi Kapanen. There are a lot of interesting
storylines weaving through the Leafs’ prospect system, but I think the most
interesting stories are at the top. Nylander vs. Marner is cool, but I really
want to see how Kapanen, the unanimous ‘third-best prospect’, stacks up in
comparison.Exactly how far behind the top two guys is he? Nylander and Marner
are blue chippers, but I think we forget just how highly touted Kapanen was
heading into his draft year.
Like Nylander, Kapanen has played in professional leagues
and developed his game going up against grown men, so an all-rookie tournament
may not be that great a challenge for him. Kapanen may very well be able to
skate and shoot and score at will over these three contests, but I’m really
looking for him to match (or just come close) to the level of output I expect to
see from Nylander and Marner.
It’s a small sample size and it’s a throwaway tournament,
but I’d at least like to see Kapanen keep up.
The easy answer is the entire 2015 draft class. But specifically, some of the later picks that could be potential steals – Dmytro Timashov, Nikita Korostelev, and Martins Dzierkals. Dzierkals is probably the most intriguing, as he is such an unknown quantity that finally seeing him on ice will make him actually, you know, real. Unlike, Timashov and Korostelev, who are easy to gather information on because of playing in the CHL, it’s nearly impossible to even see good footage on YouTube of Dzierkals. We can see his stats on Elite Prospects, but that’s kind of it. That, and Mark Hunter’s fondness of him, make me really excited to see him play.
Oh and Mitch Marner.
I know everyone wants to see the skaters who were most recently drafted – Marner, Timashov, Dzierkals – but I need to see something exciting in net. Lucas Peressini had an unreal season with the Kingston Frontenacs – the poor kid was stuck behind one of the most offensively stagnant teams in the OHL, and still helped them sneak into the post-season – and still went overlooked at the draft. I was hoping to see a team take a chance on him, so Toronto giving him a shot during the rookie tournament is obviously what I’m most excited to see. He’s a good bail-out goalie, so in theory he’s everything Toronto dreams about – hopefully he’ll play well and earn himself a better look within the organization’s depth chart.
Note from Jon Steitzer: Justin Nichols is better
Note from Cat Silverman: I [expletive] hate you, Jon.