Leafs prospects assessment – 2009 Leafs Rookie Tournament

Dobber Sports




As the former Leafs writer for Hockey’s Future, I can’t pass up an assessment of the Leafs top prospects after watching two games at the 2009 Leafs Rookie Tournament in Kitchener this week.


There were endless surprises, not the least of which was finding out after the fact that Christian Hanson scored three goals against Boston on Monday, Sept. 7th. He must have taken the next two nights off as he was hardly noticeable in a Sept 9th, 4-1 loss to the Penguins and a Sept 10th, 7-1 pasting at the hands of the Senators. Hanson 6’3, now weighs in around 227 pounds which makes him big but little else as far as I could tell. For someone who played five games in a Leafs uniform last season, he was awfully quiet in what were essentially AHL games. He received lots of quality ice time with quality linemates but showed little. Knowing Leafs GM Brian Burke likes to go with a clearly defined top-six and bottom-six, pencil in Hanson for perennial bottom six duty on this Leafs team.


Tyler Bozak was more intersting and tougher to guage. Bozak, 23, signed with the Leafs as a free agent last season out of Denver University. I expected more offense out of Bozak but his gorgeous rush and high stick side goal against Ottawa late in the third period showed me something. Bozak has some speed, but whether that translates into NHL-caliber speed remains to be seen. One thing that impressed me immensely was his defensive game. This is clearly a player who takes his defensive responsibilities seriously and who appears willing to get his nose a little dirty despite his average frame. Bozak comes as advertised – a third line centre with some offense who has some upside as a second liner. He doesn’t have the puck skills to be a first line centre.


A third round pick in 2007, Dale Mitchell has fought hard for everything he has. A member of the Memorial Cup winning Windsor Spitfires, Mitchell played a crucial second line role in the Spitfires victory. His performance agains Pittsburgh and Ottawa just confirmed that he will do anything he can to play in the NHL. Mitchell is only 5’9 but weighs 200 pounds and has decent wheels. He was one of the few Leafs who showed up in the first period against Ottawa and had a couple of good chances late including ringing one off the post. He was used a lot on the second line with Bozak.


Goalie James Reimer was absolutely horrific against Ottawa. Normally, it’s tough to judge goalies but it was so obvious Reimer had no glove hand that the Senators kept exploiting it until the game was theirs. The second, third and fourth goals were all high glove side with only marginal screening. It was obvious the Senators were told where to shoot and the scouting report was accurate. You can’t blame Reimer for the fifth, sixth and seventh goals because they were caused by huge defensive breakdowns.


Undrafted Andrew Engelage was extremely solid in net despite allowing four goals against Pittsburgh. The 6’5, 210-pound goalie for the Windsor Spitfires also shut out t