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:
William Nylander: Naturally the 2014 first-rounder was under the microscope and as the scrimmage wore on he got more dangerous. Nylander has excellent vision and a wicked wrister, which he used to score. Early on, he really got after the opposing defensemen when they had the puck.
Dom Toninato: After a successful year with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Toninato returned to camp with confidence and scored two goals thanks to his speed and a great wrist shot.
Viktor Loov: The slick-skating defenseman showed off some of his nifty offensive skills on a beautiful give-and-go that resulted in a goal by Matt Rupert.
Frederik Gauthier: The 2013 first-rounder was fascinating to watch out there. Gauthier is a huge center and sometimes it’s hard to know how fast he’s going because of that size. He’s great in the defensive zone and uses his reach to his advantage. If he can quicker, he’ll be a handful.
Connor Brown: The sniper’s blue team couldn’t put one past goalie Jack Flinn, but Brown had plenty of great chances. The Erie Otters winger is very creative with the puck and often does the unexpected to keep netminders on their heels.
Jeremie Fraser: The Quebec League defenseman, in camp on a tryout, had no problem jumping into rushes and has a great point shot. Also used his stick to break up passes effectively in the neutral zone.