Monday would have been the first pre-season game at the Air Canada Centre between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators if not for the NHL Lockout.
But Leaf fans starved for hockey only have to look in their own backyard to see that their beloved franchise – or at least, the future players – is lacing up the skates and already playing some meaningful games.
Ontario Hockey League
The OHL kicked-off its first official games of the season this past weekend, with eight Leaf prospects on the ice for its respective teams as they begin again the race to the Memorial Cup.
In the Eastern Conference, 2011 first rounder and 22nd overall draft pick Tyler Biggs made his OHL debut last Thursday with the Oshawa Generals after leaving Miami University (Ohio) following his freshman year. The right winger’s debut was shortened however, when he was giving a two-minute instigator penalty. He also received a game misconduct for instigating at 7:33 of the second period, in addition to the five-minute fighting major during the 5-2 win over Peterborough.
It wasn’t until the following day verses the Sudbury Wolves – featuring 2011 third-round draft pick and left winger Joshua Leivo – did Biggs secure his first OHL point of his career, an assist on Boone Jenner’s first period goal. However, Biggs was also a minus-2 in the game as the Generals lost 4-2.
Leivo meanwhile was a plus-1 with an assist on the game-winning goal. He would add a goal on Sunday against the Brampton Battalion and was a plus-1 performer to start the year strong.
The 2011 25th overall pick and captain of the Mississauga Steelheads, Stuart Percy, saw his team get shut out on Friday against the Kitchener Rangers. But the scoreless streak did not last long as the offensive defenceman scored the team’s first goal of the season at 7:42 of the first period, leading his team to a 3-2 win.
In the West, 2012 sixth round centre Ryan Rupert’s London Knights proved to be an early juggernaut in the OHL, as they scoring 16 goals over two games with 8-2 wins over both Erie and Guelph. Rupert reaped the benefit of a high-scoring team, cashing in five assists, four of which were from Sunday’s game over Guelph, including a +3 rating.
Of course, London’s early success hurt fellow draft picks, such as 2012 sixth round pick and right winger Connor Brown of the Erie Otters. The captain did manage assists in both goals by the Otters against London, but still skated away with a penalty and a minus-1 as they start the season 0-2.
But no one felt the impact of the London Knights more than goaltender Garret Sparks and defenceman Matt Finn of the Guelph Storm.
Sparks, a 2011 seventh round pick, started the game against London and allowed all eight goals on 40 shots. Despite winning his first game of the season by making 23 saves in a 4-3 win over Saginaw, Sparks’s numbers took a serious hit. He currently has a 5.47 goals-against average and a mediocre .833 save percentage. The consolation is that it is still early in the season.
Finn had two assists in the game against Saginaw, and managed to score a goal against London. But the 2012 second-rounder also came out with a -4 rating against London as well, proving the game to have been a mixed bag of results for the defenceman.
And finally, 2011 sixth-rounder and 152nd overall pick David Broll had a productive weekend with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In a win and a loss, he had one goal and two assists.
Western Hockey League
The WHL may only have one Leafs prospect playing games there, but he is perhaps the most intriguing player. A fifth overall draft pick in the 2012 draft, defenceman Morgan Rielly played during a win and a loss for the Moose Jaw Warriors in a home-and-home series against the Swift Current Broncos.
He had an assist on the first goal by Moose Jaw, sparking a three-goal rally to eventually win 4-3 on a penalty shot in overtime on Friday. Rielly also had the lone goal in a 7-1 thrashing by the Broncos on Saturday.
The NCAA and its five Leaf prospects have yet to start their hockey season, but the teams in Europe have already played a handful of games, including three players in Sweden and one in Finland.
All three of the players in Sweden are defencemen, pointing to the strong relationship that the organization has with the country. But only one of them, 2010 116th overall draft pick Petter Granberg is playing in the Swedish Elite League (SEL), though he has yet to play a game this season.
The other two, 2012 seventh rounder Viktor Loov and 2011 fourth rounder Tom Nilsson, are still plugging away in the Allsvenskan, a second tier league of the SEL. Loov, a two-way defenceman with Sodertalje SK has played four games, but has zero points and is a -3, while Nilsson, with Mora IK, is also pointless in three games, and has four penalty minutes.
Daniel Brodin, meanwhile, has scored a goal and an assist in four games for Assat Pori of the Finnish Elite League. He is also a plus-1 while having served six penalty minutes.