It was a great two days down in Niagara to check out Auston Matthews and company at Maple Leafs Development Camp. I’ll have more from the camp in the coming days, but first, here are a few notes from today’s scrimmage:
- The Gale Centre was quite full to see a scrimmage of prospects and Matthews was given a rousing ovation as he stepped onto the ice for the first time as part of Team White.
- There was a lot of skill on the ice to begin the game, as Matthews centered a line with Dmytro Timashov (75 PTS in 57 GP in the Q) and fellow U.S. NTDP product Jeremy Bracco (playmaker who tore up OHL upon arrival in Kitchener, 64 PTS in 49 GP) for Team White up against Team Blue’s Mitch Marner (who played wing), Adam Brooks up the middle (WHL scoring champion) and Carl Grundstrom on the other side.
- Quick notes on Matthews, he had a brilliant backhand pass on the rush in the first to Trevor Moore that led to the first goal of the game from Jesper Lindgren, who’s nice wrist shot top corner beat Joseph Woll. Matthews also wowed the crowd with a spin-o-rama backhand shot off the rush in the second (think Malkin’s vs. Oilers) that was stopped by Woll, and a complete undressing of defenseman Nikita Lisov on an end-to-end rush where he created another solid chance. One thing you’ll easily notice about Matthews, he dictates the pace of the game, and if you want to get the puck off him, good luck. He’s extremely hard to beat one-on-one and will not give up on the puck if he loses it…Matthews left the game in the third after a high-stick from Dominic Toninato. He needed five stitches in his chin and was still bleeding come post-game scrum.
- Best overall players in the game were Marner/Brooks/Grundstrom. They had some nifty tic-tac-toe passing on the second goal they produced (a goal Lou Lamoriello said was the highlight of the game) and created a lot of quality chances. Marner explained after the game how he saw the play, and I’ll post it later, as his analysis and way he sees the game is off the charts. You never seem to know what Mitch is going to do with the puck, but he’s so creative and slick that it almost always results in something good, such as putting on the brakes just across the blueline on a rush and firing a no-look, backhand pass to Brooks that resulted in a chance.
- Aside from the Lindgren goal, Woll was very impressive. He robbed Tye Felhaber in the first with two pad saves and on a whole was quite solid, very little in the way of second chances for Team White.
- First goal for Team Blue was from J.D. (James) Greenway on a penalty shot, as all penalties ended up being a PS for whoever drew the penalty (Matthews had one after the high stick but missed the net). Greenway pulled off a beautiful backhand-to-forehand move to beat Kasimir Kaskisuo. He was also comfortable jumping into the rush and making plays in the offensive zone. He was the most noticeable D-man on the day.
-Thumbs up to Jeremy Bracco as well. He may be small-ish in size, but he’s incredibly tough to knock off the puck, and he always seems to find space and create offense.
- Post-game, Mike Babcock stated that for training camp in the fall, he’ll play Matthews with William Nylander by his side, and that Marner will be playing the wing.
- Also, as already reported, Lou Lamoriello has stated the Leafs will be acquiring a backup to Frederik Andersen after the trade of Jonathan Bernier to Anaheim.
I’ll have more shortly on camp, including a look at Matthews, the 2016 picks and what it means for these young men to wear the blue and white. Be back shortly!
Photo credit to torontosun.com