The Toronto Maple Leafs have now played two games during the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. Both games were 4-3 games and both went to overtime. In game one, they lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospects. In game two, the Maple Leafs’ prospects beat the St Louis Blues’ prospects by the same score.
In this post, I’m once again collaborating with long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith to review some of the standout players for the team.
Differences Between Game One and Game Two
The Maple Leafs’ prospects played much better in their second game than they did in their first game. The players were starting to get their legs going and seemed to be gaining more familiarity with each other. The Blues’ prospects were not as physical as the Blue Jackets’ prospects, and that seemed to suit the Maple Leafs’ prospects better.
Maple Leafs’ prospects coach Greg Moore made some changes for the second game. First, he moved Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (SDA) to the top line with Nick Robertson, and he moved Mikhail Abramov to the second line with Pavel Gogolev. Although none of them figured in the scoring, SDA’s speed seemed a better match with Robertson. Abramov and Gogolev are both a step slower than SDA and Robertson and that also seemed a better match.
Maple Leafs’ Prospects Who Stood Out
Player One: Nick Robertson
Although other commenters might disagree, Robertson wasn’t as impressive as we expected. Maybe we thought Robertson was so ready for the NHL that it pushed our expectations higher, but he certainly didn’t overwhelm the other prospects with the productivity of his play. That said, for both games, he was probably the most noticeable player on the ice for the Maple Leafs. He played well, but we thought he would dominate.
He had some good shifts with Alex Steeves in the first game. On one, he made a really nice play to steal the puck, create a 2-on-1 with Steeves, and fed him a great pass to set up a goal. However, for most of both games, Robertson seemed to be energetically flying around the ice but not accomplishing much. He’s all go; all the time. Perhaps with more seasoned stars, he’d have more success.
Player Two: Semyon Der-Arguchintsev
Der-Arguchintsev had two pretty solid games. In game one, he and Gogolev appeared to have some chemistry. SDA also looked a little bigger than previous seasons, which makes sense. He’s now 21 years old. Both Robertson and Der-Arguchintsev had chances playing together, but neither got on the scoreboard. Comparing the two, SDA seemed a bit more “in control” than Robertson.
Player Three: Alex Steeves
It was obvious that Steeves and Robertson have chemistry. Sadly, Steeves got hurt and was forced to leave the first game and didn’t play the second. He looks as if he’ll be a top-six forward with the Marlies.
Player Four: Mikhail Abramov
Mikhail Abramov had a better second game than first game. During the first game, he looked like he couldn’t keep up with either Robertson or Steeves. However, he was more comfortable in the second game. Maybe that’s because it was the second game. Maybe it was playing on the second line. Or, maybe playing with Gogolev worked for him.
Player Five: Pavel Gogolev
Is Gogolev really only 6-foot-0? He looked much taller. Except for Curtis Douglas, the Maple Leafs iced a small team; still, Gogolev looked bigger than his listed height. He doesn’t seem to be the fastest skater, but he’s solid on his skates and uses his body well to shield the puck.
Gogolev gave the puck away in his own zone a few times; one time ended in a goal. He also lost the puck a number of times on his own, which is hopefully something he can correct. For both good and bad, he was one of the more notable Maple Leafs’ prospects on the ice. He could become a bit more physical without the puck, and he sometimes didn’t engage opposition puck carriers.
Player Six: Curtis Douglas
It’s difficult not to notice Douglas every time he was on the ice. During the first game, he had a great first period and moved pretty well for a big man. Then his physical play dissipated and grew considerably slower as the game progressed. Possibly, he needs more conditioning.
Douglas was moved to the fourth line during the second game, and found himself with two different wingers (Jordan Frasca and Colby Saganiuk). This line seemed effective throughout the game. Douglas won puck battles at the boards, created two nice shots in tight for himself, and moved a rebound to McKenna for his second goal.
Player Seven: Matt Hellickson
Hellickson was a new player for us, but he played well. He scored a goal, and was usually the player covering on Joseph Duszak’s failed pinches. Hellickson stood out over the first two games for the Maple Leafs’ prospects.
Hellickson was a pleasant surprise during the first game, but he really shone during the second. He was good both with the puck and for his defensive play as well. He scored another goal with a bullet wrist shot. He was also noticeable for his ability to box out opposing players in front of his own net.
What Now with the Prospects?
With a few more chances to impress, the Maple Leafs have some notable prospects. We’ll do another recap later after we see more action.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf