Not really hockey, not yet anyways, but hockey! The Traverse City Tournament is here, and Cathy has already put out the official news, full roster and the schedule of games:
But I'm here to elaborate on some of the players. Specifically, the camp invites who people may be more unfamiliar with. There aren't many, so let's just get to it:
Mazden Leslie – I was mildly surprised to see that Leslie went undrafted this summer. On the one hand, he is a 6'1" right shot defenseman on the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, who had 50 points in 66 games. He's had some hype ever since he first played in the WHL, and scored two goals in his debut. He gets some good comments from scouts for his skill, activation, manufacturing offense, effort on defense, and for being pretty skilled and toolsy. Watching some of his highlights, I can see why.
But he never really realized the hype. I've read this could be partly because he was on a bad team that just kind of let him do what he wanted, with some hands off coaching or guidance compared to what you may expect. His skating is not great, and aside from producing points, I would say he seems very chaotic on the ice – and not in a good way. Scouts characterize his play as having poor decision making – forcing passes, trying to dangle through a wall of defenders solo, etc. I figured a guy with his pointzzz, position, handedness and size would manage to entice one NHL team to look at Leslie and say "I can fix him". I'll be curious if he looks different after spending some time with Toronto's coaching, even if it's a very short period of time.
Spencer Sova – Sova was paired with Albin Sundin at the development camp exhibition, and it looked like the best pairing on either team. Sundin was very good, but Sova wasn't being carried. He is a 6'1" left shot defenseman, and only just finished his D+1 season (19 years old) making him still young-ish. He also has some pedigree as a former 8th overall pick in the OHL, but has yet to really realize the potential people thought he had a few years ago. Reading his scouting reports, he gets strong reviews for his physical tools, mostly through his skating, shot, and handling of the puck. He was also invited to Team Canada's summer camp for the World Junior roster. I wouldn't expect him to make their final roster, but that's an indication that he still is somewhat highly thought of.
But scouts also note that he has been plagued by inconsistencies with his decision making, not unlike with Leslie. He can be turnover prone, especially with his passing, and scouts note that he has been unable to consistently capitalize on the chances his skating and puck handling create with that next step. You can count him as similar to Leslie, in that any team wanting to work with them will treat him as a project to fix.
Jacob Frasca – At this point Frasca has been invited to two development camps in 2021, and this summer. He's a 20 year old, 6'4" center who played on Barrie in the OHL. Not a prolific scorer or offensive driver, but he did become their top line center being used in all situations. He didn't really stand out at all in the most recent development camp game, but we know how much teams like their tall guys. Could see a Growler signee out of him, if he can't get anything else. I can never remember the rules around this but he may return to the OHL for one more season as well. Given how often Toronto has brought him into their summer prospect rosters, I wouldn't be too surprised if they eventually signed him to some kind of deal, but I wouldn't get excited about him.
Tyson Greenway – The cousin of another Leafs prospect, James Greenway, who was drafted but never signed with Toronto. He's another 20 year old who is not a prolific scorer, and was also part of the development camp this summer. More like Frasca, he also didn't really stand out to me at all. He's got a bit of size (6'1"), is well below a point per game as a D+2 player in the WHL with a lot more goals (27) than assists (15), and his tracking data (on a pretty bad team admittedly) is pretty awful. He is a mix of decent speed and playing hard, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of skill there. Consider him a warm body they needed for their roster and not much more until shown otherwise.
Thoughts on the Maple Leafs Prospects
Since there were so few invites, and none of them all that interesting, I'll take the time to add some thoughts on the Toronto's actual prospects and AHL signees. This is not any sort of ranking, and I will only include notes on players where I have a new thought about them or their invite to this tournament.
Matthew Knies – It's kind of hilarious that Knies is still included in this. He should very easily be the best player on the team at the tournament. Make a line with him, Minten, and Voit please! Knies the do-everything leader, Minten the two-way center and sniper, and Voit the perimeter playmaker to get the other two going.
Roni Hirvonen – I am thrilled to see him invited to this tournament, as it hopefully means he is completely recovered from the concussion he suffered at the development camp a couple of months ago. Looking forward to see him up close in a fresh start after his years in Finland.
Easton Cowan – I am very interested to see how he does at this tournament, against some teams with more top prospects – and highly regarded prospects – most of whom will be older than him as well. It will be a challenge for him to stand out, both on the Leafs' roster and against their competition. I saw two pre-season games he's played on London so far, but you can't really take anything from those. I won't necessarily take anything from this tournament either, but seeing him in a different environment than the OHL on London does intrigue me.
Dmitry Ovchinnikov – He's a prospect I soured on last year. I don't know how much of an opportunity he'll get here or on the Marlies, but he'll be playing in a more difficult league now and I'll be waiting for him to show he can be an impact as an offensive player using his speed and skill in the second toughest league in the world. He didn't show much of it in the KHL already, and if some still want to excuse that over a lack of opportunity and ice time then he will hopefully prove me wrong on the Marlies.
Noah Chadwick – I've loved watching him in the bits I could manage, so I am just looking forward to seeing more of him. I want to see if he's been able to fill out some more, add some muscle and improve his coordination. Especially when it comes to his skating. I know he's spent some time working with Toronto's coaches at times this summer, so I'm hoping to see a noticeable improvement and hoping he gets some good minutes.
Nolan Dillingham – Also glad to see Dillingham at this camp. He got a lot of shit for throwing the hit that caused Hirvonen's aforementioned concussion, but up until that point I thought he was right up there with Sova and Sundin as the better defensemen at the dev camp exhibition. Not much in the way of offensive generation, but he can move the puck well and plays a hard, defensive style. Aside from that Hirvonen hit, he doesn't really have a long track record of braining guys or even taking a lot of penalties, and could work his way up to being an AHL leader on his team and a fan favourite whoever he plays for. I just wouldn't hope for an NHLer out of him.
Who are you most excited to see in this tournament? Let us know in the comments!