Leafs sign Brandon Prust, Raman Hrabarenka to Pro Tryouts

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SPORTS

More news? More news! The Toronto Maple Leafs will be giving looks to two additional players this preseason, extending Professional Tryouts to both Brandon Prust and Raman Hrabarenka today.

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s that neither of these players are particularly outstanding. Prust developed a reputation in his mid-20s as an enforcer who could play a regular shift, peaking with a 13-goal, 29 point season with the Rangers in 2011. But the 32-year-old’s best days appear to be behind him, as he picked up just 7 points in 35 appearances with the Vancouver Canucks and, for the sixth consecutive season, his team had better possession numbers without him on the ice than when he was on. The Canucks eventually waived him and placed him on the Utica Comets, where he played nine games before being shut down with an ankle injury. 

Certainly, if Prust is pushed to the side in favour of younger players on a team like Vancouver, who refuse to believe they need to rebuild, his odds of winning a fight for a roster spot are slim (unless they involve a literal fight).

As for Hrabarenka, he’s about as “who?” of a player as you’ll ever find. The 23-year-old Belarussian was signed by the Albany Devils in 2012 after going undrafted and signed to an ELC in July of 2013. Since joining the Devils organization, the 6’4 defenceman has picked up 62 points in 176 AHL games. He was a part of last year’s Albany roster but didn’t play in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Certainly, if Hrabarenka wasn’t good enough to play on the roster that spent their seven games against the Marlies mostly throwing dirty hits, and he wasn’t good enough to get a qualifying offer, his odds of winning a fight for a roster spot are slim, too, right? I don’t think either of these moves are about gaining players for the NHL roster, however.

Prust was known to be unhappy with the trade that sent him to the Canucks, because it distanced him from his fiancee in Montreal. It goes without saying that his hope would be to continue to chase his hockey dream from a closer-to-home venue. The Leafs might not be the right fit for him, but they’re an ideal place for him to have his re-audition to general managers across the league as the result of that distance.

In return, the Leafs get a player on a short-term basis who knows the rigors of the league as an enforcer and as a general depth forward. Mentorship has been a drum banged by the brass throughout this process, and training camp is when you’ll have most of your prospects around looking for a role model to latch onto. If Prust can’t find a job, there might be the option of the Marlies as well; he scored 7 points in his 9-game stint with Utica, so the skill level is presumably still there, and with most travel bus-distance away, it might be a situation that works for him. 

As for Hrabarenka, he’s a right-handed shot. The Leafs have plenty of now those now in Nikita Zaitsev, Frank Corrado, Connor Carrick, and Roman Polak. But at the AHL level, they presently only have Justin Holl. Hrabarenka might be a second right-handed shot to integrate into the lineup, or he might just be a player that Lou Lamoriello once signed and wants to give one more showcase to before he decides to head back to Europe.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Leafs will have six players playing at the World Cup of Hockey at the start of training camp, so with Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, Milan Michalek, James van Riemsdyk, Nikita Zaitsev, and Frederik Andersen all likely to miss the first few days, there’s no harm in having some extra warm bodies.

Perhaps the tone might change if either of these two make the cut over a legitimately good NHL player, but as it stands right now, there’s not a ton to worry about with either move.

  • SEER

    The Leafs stole Marincin from Edmonton, so maybe Hrabarenka is a sleeper.

    6’4″ and right-hand shot is nothing to sneeze at. Who knows? Never hurts to have a look and give him a spot across town with the Marlies.

  • Gary Empey

    Brandon Prust – Left Wing — shoots L

    Born Mar 16 1984 — London, ONT – [32 yrs. ago]

    Height 6.00 — Weight 195

    We won’t like it, if it happens, but you know some teams will try to hammer our rookies. There is no shortage of cheap-shot artists still in the NHL.

    I can see him signing with the Marlies and getting some call-up time, if teams go over-board trying to run our young guys right out of the rink.

  • Gary Empey

    Hraberenka sounds alright for depth role with the Marlies and we really lack right shots. Id like to see how Lindgren fairs as well.

    Prust would make a nasty line with Martin and Holland if we need to deter some thuggary. No harm in giving these guys a look.

  • Gary Empey

    Jeff I along with several others gave you a hard time about your feelings regarding leaf management failing in signng either Stamkos or Vesey.

    But this truly is a waste of time by leaf management in bringing in the washed up Prust. Let us recall how he childishly threw his gloves at a Tampa Bay player late in the game after the Lightening had beaten the Canadians. Or the major incident with Watson the referee.

    Montreal couldn’t get this punk out of town fast enough accepting the Canuck first round failure draft pick who soon found himself in Edmonton.

    Well with the Canucks he was a thorn in the side of the team. Definitely not a team player who pouted. Finally the Canucks had to ship him to the minors. So Shanahan and company are truly wasting their time with this guy. A bag of pucks would be more valuable.

    • Gary Empey

      After playing in the east for so long, Prust and his agent (who I assume have asked for the PTO) have to know Babcock doesn’t like his guys to drop the gloves. Babcock only allows each player one stupid penalty a season, max. Even then it can’t be too stupid.

      So as Harte of a Lion says, the best he should expect is, there might be an opening on the Marlies. The Marlies will be tougher this year anyways as both Dermott and Neilson are hard as nails.

  • Harte of a Lion

    Prust will never play for the Leafs. A big maybe for the Marlies. If the Marlies have another great year, they will steamroll every other AHL team in the playoffs. No more dirty play against the kids… Andreas Johnson can now feel safe to go back on the ice as Prust and Clune will create more room for all the kids as well as act as a deterrent for those considering cheap shots or any shots

  • Gary Empey

    Prust is another smart Dubas and analytic team off season signing. These folks get hockey by blending in analytic superstars with veteran grit and locker rook presence. The leafs organization have added Polak, Martin, Clune and now Prust among others that add an important dynamic to the leaf team. Clearly the marlies is Dubas’ crucible and the leafs will ultimately benefit

  • Gary Empey

    Best case for Prust is a two-way contract. Clune will once again be the AHL-NHL yoyo and I assume Prust keeps a physical veteran presence on the Marlies while he gets to stay close to his girlfriend.

    Depending how Hrabarenka fairs in camp I don’t see the harm in giving him an AHL deal. Could use the depth on the Marlies and another RHD.

  • SEER

    Very under the radar player, because of last season… Check out his earlier stats.. Watched this giant (Hrabarenka) play against the Marlies many times.. Could be a missing element..

    ..As far as Prust goes, haven’t you guys noticed by now, that in the last two seasons, almost all of the enforcers have been coming here, before their retirements..? There seems to be some sort of arrangement here, between the League and the Leafs..?