Follow Notch’s observations all week long at the Leaf’s rookie tournament in Kitchener.
It's morning now and after a terrible sleep at my parents’ house, I am ready to recap Monday’s events…
In Kitchener at the Memorial Auditorium – or the Aud as it is referred to locally – to watch the Ottawa prospects take on the Pittsburgh prospects. Great seats, first row and right beside the tunnel where the players come in and out.
My eyes first went to the goalies to see who was in the nets. Robin Lehner for Ottawa and Brad Thiessen for Pittsburgh. I paid a looney for a single piece of paper that has the rosters for all four teams in this mini-tourney.
Since Ottawa won the game 3-1, I will start with them. Once again and with the same wording, Lehner is massive. He fills up so much of the net when he goes into his deep crouch. He is down every shot no matter where it comes from. When he is down in his full or half butterfly, good luck getting anything in along the ice or 11 inches off it. He has is covered. When he is down, his body is high, upright and square. He ate up a majority of the shots with no rebound. He did let a couple rebounds out that stud NHL goalies wouldn't have, but he recovered well and got right back into position if the next shot was coming. Lehner had to make a bunch of quick reaction saves on Ottawa giveaways and he made them with ease. Very, very impressive. He reads the play so well.
In order of how much the players impressed me:
Erik Karlsson has to be next. I don't see it anymore; he is not as small as people say. He has a baby-face, sure, but he is not tiny out there. When I first got to the rink he was in the penalty box, four feet away from me. Anyways, once his penalty is over he steps out of the box and promptly gets a partial breakaway. He skates in with his smooth stride, I am expecting great things and just as he is about to pick a spot to shoot, the puck takes a bad bounce and goes off into the corner. He made up for it very quickly. His passes are phenomenal, NHL-ready. He led a couple rushes and made passes through sticks and bodies right onto the tape of his teammates. Early in the second period he is sitting at the top of the Pittsburgh blueline watching Peter Regin play with the puck. Regin fed a soft pass over to Karlsson and with one quick motion, a one-timer is fired on net that the goalie doesn't even try and move for. The puck was already by him before he could react. Everyone knows the struggles Ottawa had on offense last year was due to one reason and one reason only – no puck-moving defenseman;
Karlsson reminds me of Brian Rafalski; a perfect match, those two. Be happy Sens fans, Karlsson will be fun to watch for years to come. He did get caught pinching a couple times in the neutral zone which led to two odd man rushes, so there is room for improvement. Pair him with Phillips, Volchenkov or any veteran presence and you can just tell he will be a sponge and soak in their knowledge. Almost forgot, Karlsson was the defenseman on a 3 – 1 against, Eric Tangradi was the puck carrier who tried to feed a cross-crease pass for a tap in, Karlsson went down blocked the pass, Lehner covered it. No shot on goal. It w