Half Dozen Hopefuls Fuel Toronto Maple Leafs Continued Improvement Upfront

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26:  Greg McKegg smiles after being drafted in the third round by the Toronto Maple Leafs during day two of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

And in Toronto sports news: the Jays lost, TFC lost and the Argos lost.  The Leafs won.  Yes, The Toronto Maple Leafs beat The Chicago Black Hawks.  No, the season hasn't started.  But the fun has begun.  

For fans of The Leafs also weighing the lineup options facing Brian Burke and his legion of advisors, the first Prospects Tournament game provided our initial look at the young men anticipated to fill some holes up front.  Over three games, these excellent prospects are playing for a chance to be invited to the Leafs' training camp... like a reality show.

Dallas Eakins was coaching an extremely hopeful lot and the team jumped, with uncommon blazing speed, to a 3-1 lead - demonstrating the individual quickness needed to capitalize on scoring opportunities to win games.  As a whole, the team proved effective on both the power play and penalty kill, indicating a collective smartness, as well being well trained.

Offsetting some good goals and some good saves - in fact Rynnas had two really good stops in the 3rd - were the slew of penalties in the middle frame and to-be-expected turnovers.  By the end of the 2nd, however, Toronto took a 5-3 lead into the dressing room.  

Nazim Kadri played well, using his now-bigger body to effect along the boards and in open ice territory, while showing nice hands winning draws and control skills moving the puck.  But five other forwards to watch, based on their debut performances, if one game is any indication in helping to shape the future of a prospect, include:

Greg McKegg (6'0" 191lbs) who scored a beauty in the 1st, powering down the right wing and putting a great shot into the top corner.

Kenny Ryan (6'0" 204lbs) played with some inspired jump to his game and had a nice goal late in the 2nd, deftly flipping the puck over the goalie pads from in tight, and I like the way he buzzed around the net.  He made his presence known, so if Marcel Meuller falters, expect Ryan to get a shot.

Brayden Irwin (6'5" 215lbs) and Brad Ross (6'0" 175lbs) both had their chances around the net and delivered some good shots, yet Dale Mitchell (5'9", 207lbs) played with spunk and drives to the net well, surely will play with the Marlies this year and thus offers himself a wildcard call-up.

Other than Kadri and Meuller, Jerry D'Amigo (5'11" 196lbs) will certainly be playing these games under the microscope.  But I wouldn't be surprised if he is invited to Training Camp and is among the Top 3 young options that Burke could realistically insert into the opening night lineup.  D'Amigo played with confidence, and proudly asserts his ability to crack the lineup.