Maple Leafs News: Matthews, Rielly and Rookie Tournament

With the World Cup of Hockey in full swing, hockey fans are getting spoiled with the amount of talent being iced each and every game.

In a short tournament, anything can happen. We’ve already seen an upset, as Team Europe stunned the American squad in their opener. One of the most exciting games so far involved Team North America clashing with a tough Russian side, with the Russians coming out victorious, 4-3.

There are many different Toronto Maple Leafs currently competing at the World Cup. Two of the most talked about are currently big name players on the North American squad. Auston Matthews, the most recent first overall pick, and his teammate Morgan Rielly, have made great impressions in a very short amount of time.

Matthews and Rielly Key Pieces in World Cup

On a team so loaded with talent, it’s often extremely hard to stand out. Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Matthews and Rielly however, have found a way to do exactly that.

I had the pleasure of attending the game between Russia and North America. I was able to get an up-close-and-personal view of both Matthews and Rielly and have drawn some conclusions based on how they both performed.

Despite not playing his first NHL game yet, Matthews looks like and NHL player. He’s displayed speed, strength and excellent defensive awareness. He’s a natural center, but for the tournament, he has been shifted to the wing. If you thought that might hinder his play, you’d be wrong.

He scored the first goal against Russia off a pretty feed from last year’s first overall pick Connor McDavid. Matthews is a player that draws attention whenever he is on the ice. Starting camp as an extra forward, Matthews has earned more minutes and has seen his stock rise tremendously.

Morgan Rielly was another bright spot on the North American blueline. The former fifth overall pick played big minutes, anchoring the top pairing alongside Colton Parayko. He was making crisp passes all night and played a strong game in all three zones on the ice.

With North America trailing Russia near the end of the second, Rielly stepped up and fired home a bullet that found twine behind Sergei Bobrovsky. It gave the young guns some life heading into the third. Rielly has been given a lot of responsibility this tournament and has passed every test with flying colours.

Maple Leafs Rookies Go Undefeated

While the World  Cup of Hockey has captured much of the attention of NHL fans, there is still other hockey being played. The Maple Leafs rookies recently finished their mini-tournament where they took on Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Montreal. They took game one against the Senators by a score of 2-1 in overtime, then beat the Canadiens 4-3. The final match saw them overcome a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-5 in overtime.

There were some big name Leafs rookies on display throughout the games. Arguably the biggest to watch was Mitch Marner, the prolific forward from the London Knights. While Marner didn’t light up the tournament offensively, he played a steady and reliable game in all three zones.

Playing well defensively is a huge challenge for a young player entering the league. and with Marner getting set to challenge for a roster spot, showing that he can hold his own without the puck is imperative.

There were also impressive performances out of the 2015 draft class, as Dmytro Timashov and Martins Dzierkals were both stellar. Trevor Moore, the University of Denver product, was also extremely noticeable. He’s an excellent skater who possesses great vision and control. He was able to open up space for his linemates multiple times.

While only a rookie showcase, the Maple Leafs young prospects going 3-0 is something to talk about. The organization finally has some real talent in the pipeline and developing them the right way will be key to their success in the very near future.