2014 Leafs Prospects Tournament Preview: Senators could be challenged by 2013 runner-up Leafs

By Ken McKenna

2014 Leafs Prospects Tournament - William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen

Photo: A pair of 2014 NHL Draft first round selections, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Kasperi Kapanen, highlight the prospects taking part in the 2014 Leafs Prospect Tournament in London, ON (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images/Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

While the Traverse City Prospects Tournament is the most heralded NHL prospects gathering, it is not the only one taking place over the course of the next few days. Over in London, ON, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be holding their annual prospects confab that includes players from four NHL teams – the Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Leafs tournament has moved around Ontario in the few years it has been held, but has settled in at London’s Budweiser Gardens in 2013 and 2014. The Ottawa Senators are the defending champions from the 2013 tournament as they logged a perfect 3-0-0 record, defeating the host team 6-2 in the last game to grab last year’s prospect bragging rights.

 

Below is a thumbnail look at some of the more interesting prospects taking part for each of the four teams participating at this event. Also included are links to a tournament schedule and/or roster information.

 

Chicago Blackhawks

 

The Blackhawks come to London with some solid talent in the forward and defensive ranks. Up front, the team will feature four first round picks from 2011 through 2013. 2012 first round selection Teuvo Teravainen leads the quartet of top picks that also includes 2011 first round duo Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault and 2013 selection, Ryan Hartman. Also of note at forward is Matt Carey who was a sought after college free agent that signed with the Blackhawks following the 2013-14 season. The collegiate ranks also supply a pair of interesting defensive prospects drafted in 2010, including former University of Minnesota defender Justin Holl and hulking Stephen Johns from Notre Dame. A third defender making his debut, Trevor van Riemsdyk, was another college free agent of note that landed in Chicago following last season. He is the brother of James van Riemsdyk.

 

You can view more information about the Blackhawks roster at this link.

 

Ottawa Senators

 

The defending tournament champion Senators will bring a more unheralded group to London this year. Heading the forward unit is a pair of first round picks, Curtis Lazar (2013), who was an integral part of the Memorial Cup-winning Edmonton Oil Kings squad a few months back, and Matt Puempel (2011). 2011 second round selection Shane Prince is another notable prospect in the forward ranks, as is a pair of 2011 NCAA draftees, Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick. Defenseman Fredrik Claesson, who is entering his third professional season in North America, leads a group of defenders lacking star power. Goaltenders Chris Driedger and Andrew Hammond will split the duties for the Seantors, with Hammond coming off of a solid pro debut season in Binghamton.

 

The Senators’ tournament schedule and roster can be viewed at this link.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

 

The Penguins come to this year’s tournament with a solid squad that could be difficult to score on. Two of the CHL’s top goaltenders from 2013-14, Tristan Jarry from the Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings, and Matt Murray from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, will be between the pipes in London. Added to that strength is a slightly less heralded but solid group of defensemen led by former London Knights’ rearguard Scott Harrington and second-year pro Brian Dumoulin. Leading the way for the Penguins up front is 2014 first round selection Kasperi Kapanen, who will be joined by Josh Archibald, a 2011 selection coming off of a breakout season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Penguins’ 2010 draftee Bryan Rust is another NCAA forward turning pro following a strong season, in Rust’s case, at Notre Dame.

 

The tournament schedule and roster for the Penguins can be accessed at this link.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

 

The forward unit should be the strength of the Maple Leafs prospect contingent competing in London. That group includes three first round picks, including 2014 top pick William Nylander, with Frederik Gauthier (2013) and Tyler Biggs (2011) also lending their talents to this year’s squad. 2012 sixth round pick Connor Brown is coming off of a breakout 2013-14 season for the Erie Otters while 2011 third rounder Josh Leivo is looking to build off of a solid rookie season in the AHL. The defense is led by 2012 second round selection Matt Finn, who captained the Guelph Storm squad that went to the 2014 Memorial Cup final. Nomadic defender Rinat Valiev, who has competed for teams in three different countries over the past two seasons, will get his first taste of the pro game after being chosen by the Leafs in the third round of this year’s draft. A trio of goaltenders will guard the net for the Leafs at this tournament, with Garret Sparks (2011) and Christopher Gibson (FA) both coming off of seasons where they split time between the AHL and ECHL.

 

The Maple Leafs’ tournament schedule and roster can be found at this link.

 

Hockey’s Future writer Jason Menard will be covering this tournament for HF. You can follow him on Twitter via @JayCMenard.