Nylander and Toninato soar at Toronto Maple Leafs rookie camp

Ryan Kennedy
Dom-Toninato

Yes, it’s July and yes, it was only a scrimmage, but do you like hockey or don’t ya? The Toronto Maple Leafs, like many NHL franchises, held their rookie development camp this week and the festivities ended with a scrimmage. Far from orthodox, the game featured a 15-minute period of 4-on-4 with players changing every 45 seconds, followed by a similar format but 3-on-3 (there was also a “normal” 15-minute period to begin with).

One player who looked pretty sharp was center Dakota Joshua. A member of the United States League’s Sioux Falls Stampede, the Dearborn, Mich., native was great on the forecheck, dogging defensemen and keeping plays alive in the corners.

“That helps me out a lot in the USHL, to make plays and help put points on the board by winning puck battles and finding the open teammate,” Joshua said.

The growing pivot will have an expanded role on the Stampede next season, as the team is losing a bunch of veterans. After that, he’ll head to Ohio State.

“It was a perfect overall fit for me,” he said. “It’s in the Big 10, which I felt was one of the best conferences in college hockey and it’s close to home. I know I’m going up against the best talent in America every night.”

Here’s who else stood out to me on the day:

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St. Louis Blues prospects don’t fit the Russian stereotype

Ryan Kennedy
Ivan-Barbashev

When T.J. Oshie ended a classic Olympic showdown by outduelling the Russians in the shootout, he became an instant hero back in the United States. And while most of the host nation was crestfallen by his derring-do, Oshie had at least one Russian on his side: Maxim Letunov thought the American was great.

As luck would have it, Letunov was selected by Oshie’s NHL team, the St. Louis Blues, mere months later at the draft. He went later in the second round after the Blues had taken countryman Ivan Barbashev 33rd overall. Both players may be Russian, but they shatter stereotypes.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are stocking up on Swedes

Tom-Nilsson

Two of the most prominent Toronto Maple Leafs of the past half-century were Borje Salming and Mats Sundin. And while neither could deliver a Stanley Cup to the franchise, they are beloved to this day. Scanning the roster of Toronto’s rookie development camp roster, it’s easy to see the infatuation with Swedes has only grown over time.

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Americans and Connor McDavid will rule the 2015 draft

Eichel-McDavid

I thought it was a bit unfair that some news outlets were already running stories on the 2015 draft class before the 2014s had even strolled up to the podium in Philadelphia, but now that NHL Central Scouting has released its watch list, it’s time to weigh in.

In terms of hype, 2015 is going to be a big year. If the prospects at the top develop on the path I expect them to, you’re looking at three or four franchise-changing talents, followed by some more excellent players after that. In terms of potential, it blows 2014 out of the water.

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What do the players think of a major junior union?

Ryan Kennedy
CHL-Prospects

It’s unfortunate, but efforts to get a players’ association started for the three major junior circuits always seem to get off on the wrong foot. As reported by the Toronto Star on Monday, Hockey Canada nemesis Glenn Gumbley is back on the scene, this time teaming up with Unifor (which also represents Star reporters), a major private sector union.

Based on the comments and situations described in the article, neither Gumbley nor Unifor should be anywhere near a potential CHL union drive, but that doesn’t mean I dismiss the idea. What the concept does need, however, is support from the constituents themselves. So I hit the ol’ modern rolodex and asked major junior players from across the country what they thought. The respondents represented all three circuits: Ontario League, Western League and Quebec League. Some were high NHL draft picks, some haven’t been drafted yet, while others signed pro deals as free agents.

And there was one common thread when I asked what the players would want from a union: More money.

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The top 10 undrafted players at NHL development camps

Scott-Savage

Many NHL teams have prospect development camps going on this week, with some already underway. These sessions are a great way to teach new draft picks how the organization works and get them familiar with their peers from past draft classes who are also attending. Usually there’s some sort of tournament or scrimmage at the end.

But the camps aren’t just for draft picks. Along with previously signed free agents, teams bring in kids on tryouts. Not only does this fill out the roster, but it also gives the franchise an opportunity to get a longer look at some players they may have overlooked in the draft – or simply ran out of picks before they could snag. Here are some of the best names in that cohort.

Scott Savage, D – Boston College (San Jose, Anaheim)

The California native is double-dipping back home, taking part in camps hosted by the Sharks and Ducks. Coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Savage was a physical, defensive D-man without ideal size. But he’s always had mobility and put up decent numbers with the Eagles this past season.

Bobo Carpenter, LW – Austin Prep (Toronto)

The son of ex-NHLer Bobby Carpenter, ‘Bobo’ is short for Robert and he’s the third generation of that name. After his high school season ended, Carpenter put up nine points in nine games for Sioux City in the United States League and despite his obvious offensive talent, he didn’t hear his name called at the draft in Philly. Skating might be a factor, but the Maple Leafs are giving him a whirl.

Ken Appleby, G – Oshawa Generals (Arizona)

Appleby has excellent size, standing 6-foot-4 in the crease, but as a backup to Carolina prospect Daniel Altshuller, he didn’t see enough time to intrigue an NHL team. His .920 save percentage actually edged Altschuller’s .917 mark and perhaps that’s why the Coyotes would like to see more from the youngster.

Joe Hicketts, D – Victoria Royals (Detroit)

One look at Hicketts’ measurements – he’s 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds – and you can see why NHL teams may have been scared off at the draft. There was also a shoulder injury that truncated his season, but the blueliner can put up offense and he’s feisty out there; physical play is no issue. The Red Wings were intrigued enough to bring him along to their camp.

Sam Anas, LW – Quinnipiac Bobcats (Montreal)

Another smaller player, Anas will fit in perfectly in Montreal. Ha ha! Just kidding. But seriously, the 5-foot-8 winger is tremendously talented in the offensive zone and put up more than a point per game this past season while playing on Quinnipiac’s top line. The Habs are giving the college kid a chance to shine in the summer now, too.

Damian Bourne, LW – Mississauga Steelheads (Calgary)

At the other end of the spectrum is 6-foot-4, 209-pound Bourne, who never really got on track offensively this year. A big, powerful winger, Bourne can dish out the punishment and perhaps he’s destined to be a bottom-sixer. Whether or not he develops into a power forward, the Flames wanted another look.

Kevin Tansey, D – Clarkson Golden Knights (Ottawa)

Tansey has been to a camp before in Toronto, but now it’s the hometown Senators giving him a shot. The physical, defensive blueliner missed all of 2012-13 due to a concussion and injury to his ribs, but rebounded this season and put up solid numbers in the ECAC.

Blake Clarke, LW – Saginaw Spirit (Detroit)

Clarke went through a dreadful scoring drought this season and was traded from North Bay to Saginaw in between. The big winger also dealt with a shoulder injury that messed with the mental side of his game, but he’s been a scorer in the past and clearly the Red Wings want to see if he can rediscover that touch.

Jordon Cooke, G – Kelowna Rockets (Los Angeles)

At 5-foot-10, Cooke does not have ideal size for a modern netminder, but he did have great numbers for one of the best teams in the nation. Was that because of the players in front of him, or was he part of the reason the Rockets succeeded? Cooke was named CHL goaltender of the year, so there’s a pretty good clue there. At the least, the Kings are intrigued.

Jack Flinn, G – Owen Sound Attack (Toronto)

Again, we have opposites. Flinn comes in at 6-foot-7 with lots of potential but poor numbers. He was the backup in Owen Sound this year, but split the playoff workload with starter Brandon Hope. The Leafs are willing to test out Flinn’s huge frame at their camp this week.

Getting to know 2014 NHL draft prospect and Arizona Coyotes pick Brendan Perlini (video)

Ryan Kennedy
Brendan Perlini

Why did the Arizona Coyotes take Brendan Perlini No. 12 overall ? THN senior writer and prospect guru Ryan Kennedy takes a closer look at the talented winger in this scouting report, part of a series of videos we did in conjunction with Bleacher Report spotlighting the best players available in the 2014 draft. Read more