Only two games in and it’s already crunch time in Leaf Nation.
The Toronto Maple Leafs got a good enough look at 12 NHL hopefuls before they sent them packing on Thursday, putting their dreams hold.
Coincidently, one of those cut was forward Michael Liambas, who put another player’s career on hold last season thanks to a vicious hit on Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli.
While playing for the Erie Otters, Liambas skated at full speed and demolished Fanelli into the end boards, using his shoulder to smash the Oakville native’s head into the glass, leaving him sprawled out on the ice in a pool of blood.
The incident occurred on Oct. 30, 2009, and the result was a fractured skull and a week-long stint in the hospital for the now 17-year-old.
It also resulted in an unprecedented season-long (including playoffs) suspension for the now Liambas, 21, ending his career in junior hockey.
Leafs’ GM Brian Burke, though, decided to give the Woodbridge native a shot at Toronto’s rookie camp, which began in London, Ont., on Sept. 11.
“He’s an honours student,” Burke told thestar.com in September. “Everyone that’s ever played with him raves about his character… He’s a very intelligent player, a natural leader, and he’s tough. So we’ll see what he can do to stay with the Marlies.”
Playing for the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, is another option but that has yet to be determined.
Other cuts closer to home
Along with Liambas, there were also 11 other players who bit the dust courtesy of coach Ron Wilson, including several natives of the GTA and surrounding area.
Jamie Devane hails from Mississauga, and will be returning to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. The 19-year-old has played in 115 career OHL games, registering 31 points.
Oshawa’s Richard Greenop will suit up for a familiar squad, the Marlies. The 21-year-old has 42 games of AHL competition under his belt with five points over that span. He also has 168 games of OHL experience, amassing nine goals and 25 points.
Andrew Engelage is another representative of Oshawa cut by the Leafs on Thursday. Engelage, 21, goaltender won a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2008-09.
Etobicoke also saw one of its own say goodbye to the big club as Dale Mitchell and his 294 career OHL points will be reporting to the Marlies.
Other cuts include: Josh Nicholls, Ken Ryan, Barron Smith, Justin Hodgman, Mikhail Stefanovich, Josh Engel, and Quebec’s Drew Paris.
Wilson has more cuts to make, as 52 players remain in training camp, with the number expected to be reduced in half by the weekend.