Rookie Tournament Preview: Who To Watch


The Toronto Maple Leafs will host their rookie tournament this year in London, Ontario from September 11th to the 14th, and Maple Leafs Hot Stove will have unprecedented, wall-to-wall coverage of the event.

Join us here for live game blogs, game previews, game reviews, exclusive interviews, and more!  Today, we will look at the top ten Leafs players who will be worth paying extra close attention to at this weekend’s event.

1) Nazem Kadri, C

A relative no brainer here.  Like Eric Tangradi for Pittsburgh, and Kyle Beach for Chicago, a lot of eyes will be fixated on Nazem Kadri this weekend, as the on ice process begins in his quest to make the NHL full time.  Kadri has done a lot of work off the ice all summer, and will be looking to make am impact with the Leafs in camp this year to prove he belongs in the National Hockey League.  A strong showing at the rookie tournament would be a great start.

2) Jerry D’Amigo, LW

If Kadri ranks number one, D’Amigo might well be 1A.  A meteoric rise has landed D’Amigo near the top of the Maple Leafs prospect depth charts, and there are many who feel he has a chance of making this team out of training camp in just over a months time.  With all the Leafs brass watching, D’Amigo could do himself a favour by making the rookie tournament his personal playground, much like he did at this past World Juniors.

3) Jussi Rynnas, G

Much like Jonas Gustavsson before him, the Maple Leafs and their fans are hoping that they have found another European goaltending gem with Jussi Rynnas.  Rynnas will likely split time with Ben Scrivens, another goalie the Leafs signed this past year out of College.  Rynnas, along with Scrivens, Giguere, Gustavsson, and Reimer, give the Leafs organizational depth as far as the goaltending position goes, and Rynnas could do himself a big solid by establishing his presence between the pipes in this tournament, as he battles for time on the Marlies in the AHL.

4) Keith Aulie, D

For everyone who was excited when the Leafs traded for now team captain Dion Phaneuf, there were perhaps just as many happy that Keith Aulie was included as part of the deal as well.  Aulie is a big defenseman who is slated to be a big part of the Toronto Marlies defense corps this season.  Recovering from a shoulder surgery, this will be the first competitive action for Aulie in quite some time.

5) Marcel Mueller, LW

When the Maple Leafs signed Marcel Mueller earlier in the offseason, they felt content, having once again won what Leafs GM Brian Burke described as a bit of a horse race to obtain the services of the German forward.  Mueller has good size, scoring touch, and uses his body well to protect the puck.  He also has good speed that should benefit him going forward.  Lots of people are interested to see how Mueller does on North American ice when he suits up this coming weekend for the Leafs

6) Brad Ross, LW

Ah, the Maple Leafs very own “dirt bag.”  At least that is what more than a few scouts were saying of Ross when asked to give a brief description of what the Maple Leafs got when they selected him in L.A. at this past June’s draft.  However, it was a dirt bag label that has been given to Ross, in a way, as a sincere compliment.  Ross is a tough player who likes to hit and be physical.  He likes to play chippy and stir it up on the ice.  Scouts are already talking about him being the next Steve Ott, or due to his allegiance with the Leafs, the next Darcy Tucker.  One would have to think Leafs fans would be happy with either.

7) Greg McKegg, LW

You’ll remember that I spoke with McKegg in the days following the draft in which he was taken by the Leafs, and he came across as smart, motivated, and passionate about playing in the NHL, and more specifically with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  While he won’t be cracking the big club for another few years, McKegg is what the Leafs brass would consider an above average prospect that they felt they stole when they called his name with the 62nd pick in the draft.  McKegg has good skating, and a pure goal scoring ability.

8 ) Jesse Blacker, D

Earlier in my writing career I also spoke to Blacker, about a weekend after he was drafted.  He came across as a well grounded kid who was excited to be drafted by his favourite team in the NHL.  Blacker also has Memorial Cup experience during his time in Windsor, although there was a falling out there and he was dealt to Owen Sound.  Blacker possesses good offensive ability, and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself in the rookie tournament this weekend.

9) Kenny Ryan, RW

Another player that the Leafs felt they stole when he fell into the second round a few years ago, Ryan has moved out of the US National Development Program and into the CHL, and the transition has helped him as he has gained great experience with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.  Many feel Ryan could become a prototypical power forward for the Leafs someday in the future, and it would be a good start to see him employ that while wearing the blue and white in London, Ontario this weekend.

10) Simon Gysbers, D

He’s a little rough around the edges.  He’s a pretty unpolished prospect.  But boy, is there potential there.  Gysbers is a big defenseman who has good mobility.  Signed as a free agent defenseman, Gysbers has been labelled one of the “big four” by Brian Burke, referring to big defensive prospects Juraj Mikus, Keith Aulie, Korbinian Holzer, and Gysbers.  He is a big guy with talent, but he needs to refine his style to be successful at the NHL, and AHL level.  He should continue making strides towards that at this year’s rookie tournament.