Leafs rookies gear up for tournament

Jerry D'Amigo

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospects will get a chance to show off their stuff in the next few days.

Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin, Jerry D’Amigo and 2011 first round pick Stuart Percy are among the 25 players who will take to the ice for the Leafs at the GM Centre in Oshawa for the team’s annual rookie tournament Saturday to Tuesday.

For Gardiner, this will be his first tourney with the Leafs after coming over in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks in early 2011.

“He’s a real good skater, we project him as a top four defenceman,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said during a press conference announcing the trade on Feb. 9. “This is a skilled, hard-working, really powerful skater, really got a lot of jump in his skating.

“That’s the reason he was drafted as high as he was.”

Burke picked Gardiner 17th overall in 2008 when he was the Ducks’ general manager and acquired the six-foot-two, 193-pound defenceman along with Joffrey Lupul for Francois Beauchemin.

Gardiner played three seasons at the University of Wisconsin and signed a three-year entry level contract with Toronto on March 15.

Frattin was a Hobey Baker Award finalist after recording 36 goals and 24 assists with the University of North Dakota last season and already has some NHL experience after a one-game call-up with the Leafs on April 8. The 23-year-old forward is expected to compete for a position on the big club when training camp opens.

“We’ve left one spot open, we want some competition for that forward spot,” Burke told reporters on Tuesday. “Whether that’s Matt Frattin or Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne or whomever, we do want to have some competition for a spot.”

D’Amigo played for the U.S. in the world junior championships in 2010 and 2011, winning the gold and bronze medal, respectively, and the 20-year-old forward split last season with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies and the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers.

The Leafs selected Percy 25th overall after the 6-foot-1, 186-pound defenceman helped the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors on their path to the Memorial Cup final.

“He’s a kid with a vision,” Leafs director of player personnel Rick Dudley told The Hockey News. “He’s got things that are difficult to teach.

“He can find people quickly and accurately with a pass, he can see the ice very well and he’s got a real competitive element to him that’s likeable too.”

Goaltenders Garret Sparks and Mark Owuya will be between the pipes for the Leafs during the tournament. Owuya gained notoriety for rapping on the Swedish version of American Idol as “Mark In Da Park.” Owuya, 22, played 32 games for Djurgardens in the Swedish Elite League and recorded a league-best .927 save percentage.

The Leafs will face the prospects of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, Pittsburgh Sunday, and the Ottawa Senators Tuesday, with all games beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

About this article

By: Jonathan Brazeau
Posted: Sep 8 2011 11:45 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports