Weekend FTB: What do the Maple Leafs Rookies look like?

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The Toronto Maple Leafs played two games at the Prospect Showcase tournament in Traverse City. They had leads on both, lost leads and ended up winning one and losing one each in overtime. So what would you expect from a rookie exhibition tournament.

Here are some quick thoughts on how different significant players have looked.

Your best players have largely looked like this. Nick Robertson always looked like the best on the ice, and I can’t help but think that he missed Hayley Wickenheiser’s advice to take a chill pill to heart. Dude is not cold and is trying all the time. Mikhail Abramov, SDA and Gogolev looked fine too, but not Robertson’s level.

Alex Steeves was a pleasant surprise and it’s sad that he suffered a shoulder injury and didn’t even finish the first game. Most college free agents sign an AHL deal, but the Leafs signed it with an ELC and it has reportedly been coveted by other teams as well. So they clearly thought he wasn’t your normal old NCAA free agent, and he looked like he was dating Robertson, Abramov, etc. Joey Anderson.

Some notable new additions are Ty Voit, one of their newer perspectives. He played in the first game and looked fast and sly, but was also completely taken out of the game by the very physique team of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s been rocked by a couple of big hits and looks just like an OHL contender young and old who hasn’t played in over a year.

Curtis Douglas looks very, hilariously big. He’s not a fast skater, but he’s so damn big and has such a huge reach that it almost doesn’t matter. He’s going to be a fun, defensive, defensive PK specialist in the minors.

The most interesting camp invitation I saw was Braeden Kressler. He’s a short five-foot-six, sometimes a winger, sometimes a midfielder in the OHL, but he plays on the wing in this tournament. His birthday is in 2003, just like Voit, so this year he qualified for the NHL draft for the first time. He wasn’t drafted, but the Leafs seem to like him. He was played with Roberson and Abramov in one of their rookie Intersquad Scrimmages. He was promoted to the top line yesterday with Robertson and SDA, today with Steeves.

It’s hard to tell much from his statistics. The last time he played he was a 5’8 ”rookie in the OHL – especially Flint – and as a 16-year-old had 9 goals and 9 assists in 46 games. For comparison: Ty Voit, who has an offensive profile, had 28 points in 49 games. Voit may have an advantage in the offensive, but Kressler received rave reviews for his entire game when he was just 16.

Here is a quote from Brock Otten (Paywall), an OHL scout for McKeen’s, about unannounced OHL prospects who were not allowed to participate in a game in the past year:

What particularly impressed me about Kressler last year was its versatility. He’s been used in so many different roles by Flint and he found a way to excel in all of them. He showed great offensive instincts and a high level of competition playing on the wing alongside a guy like Ty Dellandrea, working hard to get dump-ins, opening up in the slot and keeping the cycle low. Kressler may not be big, but he is very difficult to catch on the offensive as he masters traffic well thanks to his terrific edge work. His agility and side explosiveness really help separate himself from the defenders outside the puck. He struggled to get many of the chances he was offered so it will be an area to focus on to improve your shot, but he definitely deserved his fair share of it.

Here’s a quote from Elite Prospects’ Draft Guide that also enjoyed their entire game:

“Kressler was one of the smarter players on the ice, always in an open lane to support the game, check his skating and pre-scan for the next game.” David StLouis, Elite Prospects’ lead scout, wrote in a November -Report. “He’s patient with the puck, looking for the best option even when he’s behind him.”

Kressler also brings a quick passing game under pressure and above-average skating. His speed is derived from a healthy stride shape, knees that bend 90 degrees and go past the toes, with his ankle flexing for speed and agility. His skating should remain an asset even at a professional level, mitigating some of the weaknesses that come from being smaller.

These skills are supposed to generate a ton of opportunities for himself or his teammates, but he lacked the finishing to capitalize on. Working on his shot would help. The other problem, however, is that as a smaller striker it will be much more difficult for him to have a real two-way influence at higher levels. He really needs to show enhanced skills that could help make up for a lack of size and strength. Better skating, better stick work, better game anticipation, smart positioning, and so on. He will also need his offensive to take good steps forward and turn the opportunities he creates into more real goals.

It will be interesting to see where the Leafs play him in the other two games in the line-up and how he deals with the chance he’s given.

TO THE LINKS

Maple Leafs signs Nikita Gusev for a PTO | from Katya

2021 Top 25 under 25: Auston Matthews is number 1 | from Katya

2021 T25U25: Last Community Vote | from Katya

2021 T25U25: Official List and Votes | from Katya

The NHL has announced the date and location of the draft next year, so we’ll be hosting a Free Agencies Day again after Canada Day.

The PWHPA season announced that ticket sales will be available soon, but the dates are fixed.

Many Leafs fans were happy yesterday, and some even know why:

And there was an upheaval in the ownership of OHL.



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