A Litte Bit of Revisionist History

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A Litte Bit of Revisionist History
*Disclaimer—I wrote this back in September of 2009. I find it to be uncanny, at times, as to how accurate, or in some cases, how not so accurate, I am when it comes to making prospect assessments.
So our prospects have played three games in the rookie tournament, winning the first and losing the second and third. This tournament isn't really about wins and losses, it is more about assessing what players this organization has.

For those of you who have watched this tournament, who would you say has stood out the most and really boosted/lowered their stock within the organization?

Here's my take...

Ratings are out of 5:

1 - Mediocre
2 - Decent
3 - Good
4 - Very good
5 - Excellent


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Alex Berry (3/5 Rating)—He should start out with the Marlies, the guy has a great deal of heart and grit but very little skill to go along with it. He started a scrap or two, but didn't do well. Very hard worker, I even saw him leading the team in the huddle before the first game vs. Pittsburgh. Vocal leader, an important minor league player to have. The culture in the Marlies dressing room is as important as the one at the ACC.

Positives:
- Team player, grit and character.

Negatives:
- Lack of skill or fighting skills.

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Tyler Bozak (4/5 Rating)—Bozak has shown that he's a very complete player. Doesn't look that big on the ice, but he's pretty strong on his skates. Reminds me a lot of Mike Richards. Saw him rush the net a couple times tonight in game three (vs Pittsburgh) and he seemed very dangerous. His best game was game two vs. Boston, tonight he didn't do poorly but it was evident he was fatigued. I think he's very close to being a lock to make the Maple Leafs. His attitude has been the most impressive thing so far, the guy seems to be a really hard worker and carries himself like a veteran. I think once we see him alongside NHL calibre forwards, he'll put up some decent rookie numbers. I'm expecting to see him play 70-80 games for the Maple Leafs, barring injuries. Seeing as John Mitchell managed 29 points in 76 games as a rookie, I think Bozak will finish with 40-45 points.

Positives:
- Maturity, skating, skills and grit.

Negatives:
- Lack of game play since December '08 may be a factor.

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Joel Champagne (2.5/5 Rating)—Impressed with his size and willingness to play physical. He's still young and will be sent to the QMJHL to continue his development. It's good to have big, strong centres who are willing to play physical. His stock didn't really change for me, I still look at him as a long-term hopeful to play in the NHL, we might see him in 3-4 years, depending on how he handles the AHL.

Positives:
- Great size, better skater than I thought he would be.

Negatives:
- Still very raw at this point.

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Jamie Devane (2.5/5 Rating)—I still think he was picked too high in the draft, but he was one of the youngest players on the team and did suprisingly well with the minutes he was given. He's a very big kid, suprised me with his skating. Heard a lot about his skating problems, but from what I saw the guy was pretty decent on his skates. Suprisingly good puck skills for such a big guy, he's already better than Wade Belak in that department. An interesting prospect to have in the system, hope he starts the season off well in Plymouth.

Positives:
- Huge, good fighter.
- Decent with the puck for a big, tough guy.
- Better skater than I thought he'd be.

Negatives:
- Not a negative, but still very early in his development.

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Stefano Giliati (2/5 Rating)—Saw him tonight vs the Penguins, he's a gritty player along the boards and a good skater. Not very tall, but he's got some size. Kind of similar to Dale Mitchell, in that he's not a big kid, but he's like a fire hyrdant. I'm not holding my breath on him becoming a Maple Leaf regular anytime soon, but he'll be an effective player for the Marlies.

Positives:
- Works hard, good skater.

Negatives:
- Limited potential.

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Richard Greenop (2/5 Rating)—A bear, very big. Not the best skater, but he's no Mitch Fritz. Good to have some young toughness in the system, he'll probably end up playing more games in the ECHL than with the Marlies.

Positives:
- Big, tough SOB.

Negatives:
- Mediocre skill-set and a long shot to develop into a serviceable NHL player.

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Christian Hanson (4/5 Rating)—Showed some very good physical play and puck pursuit in this tournament. He's looking good, but with Bozak and Stalberg as legitimate threats to make the Maple Leafs roster, I think Hanson may be a victim of the numbers game. Hard working player, good attitude. It really depends what the Maple Leafs do with older vets like Wayne Primeau and a guy like Rickard Wallin. Christian has been impressive and I expect him to be ready for training camp.

Positives:
- Hard worker, great size, good shot and very good skater.

Negatives:
- I still think he can fill out if he's going to be affective in the NHL.

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Nazem Kadri (4.5/5 Rating)—Most talented player on the ice in all three games. Still lacking the size (weight), but he's got the speed and tenacity to make up for it. Reminds me so much of Doug Gilmour. Kadri may be the most talented prospect we've had in the organization since...um, well...a very long time ago.

Positives:
- Most talented player in all the games I saw him play.
- Tremendous skater and amazing puck skills, great shot.

Negatives:
- Didn't utilize his linemates as much as he should have.
- Needs to add weight to be more affective physically.

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John Kurtz (3.5/5 Rating)—Sign him, draft him, do whatever it takes to get bring him in. Not overly skilled, but he's got pretty guy size and is a good skater. Tremendously hard worker and a factor in the corners. He should return to the OHL and do quite well, one of the most underrated players in the OHL.

Positives:
- Hard worker, hustles and has average to above average skill-set.

Negatives:
- Limited upside, but not every prospect needs to have a 9.0 HF rating.

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Dale Mitchell (2/5 Rating)—Saw him play tonight, I got what I expected out of him. Worked hard, gritty and gets in the middle of things. Great shot, but it didn't end up on goal as often as you'd like. Short in height, but pretty strong on his skates. Kind of like a bulldog. Should be an important player in the Marlies dressing room.

Positives:
- Gritty little bugger, great shot and good skater.

Negatives:
- Despite being a very gritty player, doesn't have the size to push opponents around.
- Limited puck skills, average puck handler.

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Greg Scott (2.5/5 Rating)—Good attitude, hard worker, good skater and willing to play physical and get knocked around. Doesn't have the skill to be a top 6 or even 9 forward, but he could be a decent depth forward. Should do relatively well in AHL as a rookie, he may even end up with Reading (ECHL).

Positives:
- Worked hard every game, good speed and could become a decent grinder.

Negatives:
- Limited talent, needs to add strength to compete against AHL players.

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Robert Slaney (3/5 Rating) - He was a pleasant surprise. Good size, character and a good skater with good size. He hasn't really done anything incredibly well, but he's been good across the board. I like his character, from everything I've heard and seen he's a team player. It seems repetitive, but he was also a very hard worker throughout the tournament. I'm glad we signed him, he should start off in the AHL.

Positives:
- Solid on his skates, good size and gritty.
- Stood up for his teammates.

Negatives:
- Again, limited potential.
- Not many negatives to speak of, given what he is (UFA signee).

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Viktor Stalberg (4.5/5 Rating)—The most NHL ready prospect we have at this tournament. He's big, can fly and has excellent offensive talents. Very smooth, always buzzing around and seemed very strong against other prospects, especially with the puck along the boards. The things I was reading about Stalberg from Vermont fans were bang on. I think he may be our best forward prospect at the moment. He has a wicked shot, too...just needs to get it on net. Hopefully he can still add some size, it would be scary to see a 6-foot-3, 220lbs Viktor Stalberg skating around. Tonight he was skating in the neutral zone and a Pittsburgh player flattened him, a clean hit. It didn't seem to faze Stalberg. I'm very excited about him, in my opinion he's got the talent to be a top 6 NHL forward.

Positives:
- Best skater on the ice, great speed.
- Very good puck skills and a hard shot.
- Strong on his skates and in the corners in this rookie tournament.

Negatives:
- Needs to work on his shot accuracy.
- Not sure how he'll be able to compete physically against older pro players this year.

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Mikhail Stefanovich (2.5/5 Rating)—I was kind of disappointed in his performance through the first two games, but he played very well tonight vs the Penguins. Still seems to have a problem with getting really involved in the play, digging in the corners and playing physical...but he's still very young and not used to the size and speed of even a rookie tournament. Mikhail scored a beautiful goal down low, made a great play and deked Brad Thiessen out of his shorts. Seems to be a very opportunistic goal scorer. I like the fact that tonight, on numerous occasions, Stefanovich went to the net. On one play Kadri was skating down the right side of the Penguins zone and I was watching Stefanovich, he did well in going to the slot and keeping his stick on the ice. He ended up with a couple wacks and almost put it in the net. He needs to develop his game, size and skills are there. If he adjusts to the AHL game and pays his dues, I think he can be a very good top 6 forward. It'll be interesting to see what Dallas Eakins thought about Stefanovich's performance in this tournament.

Positives:
- Looks like a sniper
- Seems to know where to be on the ice in order to have an opportunity to score.
- Good skater, size and great hands.

Negatives:
- He doesn't seem to be 'involved' in the game at all times.
- He was invisible in the first couple games.

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Jesse Blacker (4.5/5 Rating)—Blacker was our best defenceman throughout the tournament. He's not very big, probably around 6-foot-1, 190lbs...but he's a great skater and has a wicked slap shot. Good with the puck considering he's still only 18 years old and was playing against guys who have AHL experience. Tonight we looked fatigued and made a couple mistakes in his own zone, but I think it wouldn't be a great shock if we saw Jesse Blacker at Team Canada's camp for the 2010 WJC's. He might be as good of a prospect as Carlo Colaiacovo was back when we drafted him. He plays a similar style to Colaiacovo. I also love that he dropped the gloves in game 3 and has shown that he is very proud to be wearing his hometowns colours. Blacker being from downtown Toronto is a bonus. Very happy with this pick in the second round, I think he has 1st round talent but is still relatively raw. He's without a doubt our best prospect on the blueline and I think he's a top 6 or 7 prospect in this organization. I have no doubt that he's going to step up in Windsor this season and dominate, he could put up 50+ points in the OHL.

Positives:
- Very mobile, wicked shot, willing to play physical and drop the gloves.
- Very passionate hockey player at such a young age.
- More potential than any prospect we have on the blue line, he could be a 'steal' in the 2nd round.
- Prospects with his package usually go in the 1st round of the draft.

Negatives:
- Being one of the youngest players in the tournament, made a few mistakes with the puck in his own zone.
- Unknown how he'll perform in his first full-time OHL season.

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Simon Lacroix (2/5 Rating)—Had an okay stint in his tryout, but I don't see him earning a contract or a part of this organization down the road. He has good puck skills with average size, lacks hockey sense and on most puck possessions looks more like a forward. I didn't see NHL potential, maybe a depth player in the AHL.

Positives:
- Good hands.

Negatives:
- Very raw, makes poor decisions with the puck, not a great skater.
- Not ready for the level he was expected to play at this week.

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Brandon Manning (2/5 Rating)—He's got good size and is a good skater, pretty poor puck skills and not much skill. Didn't try to do anything too fancy in the games I saw, played physical and worked very hard. Even though I don't see any NHL potential in him, I'm glad the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is giving opportunities to players that work hard.

Positives:
- Hard worker, good size and decent mobility.
- Seems to know his role on the team.

Negatives:
- Poor puck skills, limited upside.

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Juraj Mikus (2.5/5 Rating)—He's big, mobile and seemed to make a good first pass. Mikus looks like a professional hockey player, I think he'll struggle in the AHL, but he'll stick with the Marlies. He may turn out to be an okay No. 6/7 NHL defenceman because of his size and mobility on the blueline. Not very skilled.

Positives:
- Looked much better than Lacroix or Manning in the limited viewings.
- Good poise with puck, great size and good mobility.

Negatives:
- Mediocre puck skills, not much offensive upside.

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Carl Gunnarsson (4/5 Rating)—Didn't play tonight, but he was clearly the most professional defenceman on this roster. Very poised with the puck, can rush it and make a good pass in the neutral zone. Decent size and a good skater. Hard worker, made good plays in this tournament and didn't get noticed...which is a good thing for a defensive defenceman. I think he could turn into a serviceable NHL defenceman, a No. 6/7 guy. Should have a solid season with the Marlies.

Positives:
- Much more poised and experienced than most defenders in the tournament.
- Good hockey sense, good shot, doesn't do too much.
- Decent size and a good skater.

Negatives:
- You're not going to get much offensive production out of him.

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Barron Smith (2.5/5 Rating)—Smith has great size, but is lanky. Very good skater without the puck, made many glaring mistakes when the puck was on his stick. A late round pick, a project with limited potential. Hopefully he develops well in London, he's in good hands. At best I think he's a depth NHL defenceman, we'll see how it goes for him though. It's way too soon to be guessing what comes of Barron Smith.

Positives:
- Didn't give up, played hard despite making glaring mistakes.
- Very good size, needs to fill out with age.
- Good skater for a big guy.

Negatives:
- Poor puck skills, made many glaring mistakes with the puck.
- Didn't seem like he could skate and have the puck on his stick at the same time.
- Long-term prospect, if he ever makes it to the NHL it won't be in the next 5 years.

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Adam Wallace—Didn't see him play.

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Andrew Engelage (2.5/5 Rating)—His OHL statistics are nice, he's a square-to-the-puck goaltender, but I don't see NHL goaltender in his future. I'm pretty sure he's eligible for the 2010 draft, he'll probably get picked next year...but I wouldn't waste (kind of a harsh term, given his success) a draft pick on him. I see limited potential, I see Jeff Glass.

Positives:
- Square to puck most of the time.

Negatives:
- Not that big, lacks above average mobility from post to post.

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Jonas Gustavsson (5/5 Rating)—A monster. He could be our No. 1 goaltender. Very excited we have a young goalie to rival Carey Price. Signing him makes up for losing Tuukka Rask a few years ago.

Positives:
- Great size, mobility, glove, positioning and angle coverage.

Negatives:
- Is, and needs to be working on rebound control.

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James Reimer—I like him better than Justin Pogge. Despite giving up six goals vs the Boston Bruins, I like the tangibles and size he brings. Reimer could be a decent NHL backup, let's see how he does with a bigger role with the Marlies.

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