Tonight’s exhibition pitted lines centered by two centres picked within two spots of each other in the first round of the 1998 Draft. In fact the Maple Leafs traded down, out of the #8 slot, where the Blackhawks took Mark Bell, because the Leafs management knew that Nikolai Antropov was a project and would be there at #10. .
They both won about the same amount of face-offs. Antropov was bigger but was less able to maneuver in the jammed spaces that occur during the game. In the open ice he moved easily and passed the puck quickly, always looking to set up scoring opportunities for his linemates. In the first period, Bell was behind the Leaf’s net moving out.. Antropov attempted to take control, but Bell maneuvered back and forth behind the net, gaining room on Antropov. But as he started out, Glen Healy poke checked the puck away in what looked to surprise Bell.
In the third period Bell came in on defenseman D.J. Smith and Jimmy Waite, and was able to let off a lightning quick snap shot which Jimmy waite stopped chest high. On the way back up the ice Smith checked Bell. Then att the end of the shift Bell lost it and cross-checked Smith, and continued after the whistle to let Smith know his displeasure. He saw an early dressing room.
Another Hawk prospect who obviously came to play was Geoff Peters. When Leaf centre Kevyn Adams tried to get the puck loose from Thibault, Peters followed him to the corner and dropped the gloves. Peters put him to the ice with a solid left hand.
Calder did what he had to playing with Tony Amonte: give him the puck. Calder looked very undersized and out-matched in wall battles but he continued to work the boards despite the result. For two periods, I was convinced that Calder was never going to make it in the NHL until the third period, where he showed moxy by flying around players in traffic and setting up a play, ending up in front.
Following the game Calder stated “It’s a huge confidence-builder playing with those two.” Calser also said, “My ultimate goal is to play (in Chicago) this year, but if not I’ll stay positive and go to the farm team.”
“All through juniors he (Kyle Calder) was a gritty player whose strengths lie in the tough areas,” said Molleken. “We want to see what he does playing with skill players like Tony and Alex.”
So far Amonte is impressed with Calder, who had an assist in the win.
“It’s still an adjustment for him,” said Amonte. “We’re trying to get him not to carry the puck through center ice so much. I’ve told him to get the puck to Alex and get open.”
The team played most of the game with the following lines and defensive combos:
Brown 2 Manson 22
Amonte 10 Zhamnov 13 Calder 25
McCabe 44 Bicanek 32
Perrott 43 Peters 56 Vandenbussche 14
Muir 37 Rohloff 46
McAmmond 19 Gilmour 93 Clark 17
McNeil 43 Bell 28 Leroux 23
Rohloff tried to play aggressive and was caught out of place in many situations. He reacted poorly and ended up taking pims. He did enter the attack and spent some time close in on some attacks.
Shawn McNeil was the only Hawk tryout guy who is still around. He may be vying for a contract as an organizational player. He was the scoring leader of his junior team, Red Deer, in the Western League. He showed good stickwork but was slowfooted in his baptism.