by Kyle Cushman
As the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp winds down, here are four takeaways from the week-long event at the MasterCard Centre:
Four Takeaways from the Toronto Maple Leafs Development Camp
Where is Jack Walker?
When the Maple Leafs announced their roster for development camp on June 30, there were a few notable names not present. With European clubs starting training camps soon, the likes of Yegor Korshkov, Vladislav Kara, and Jesper Lindgren were not expected to attend.
However, one name not on the list came as a surprise: Jack Walker. Drafted as an overage prospect in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Walker is coming off of a 72 point season with the Victoria Royals. As a 2016 draft pick, it would be expected that the Leafs would still control Walker’s NHL rights.
An often forgotten about part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement explains why Walker may actually be an unrestricted free agent, not Leafs property. Section 8.6 of the CBA explains reserve list-exclusive rights:
If, on or before June 1 of the calendar year next succeeding the Entry Draft, the claiming Club makes a Bona Fide Offer (as defined below) to its claimed Player of an SPC, the Club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for the services of such Player up to and including the second June 1 following the date of his selection.
A “Bona Fide Offer” is simply a team offering an unsigned prospect an entry-level deal. As long as the offer meets the minimums set forth by the National Hockey League, the team retains the player’s exclusive rights. This offer is only required for CHL players. Teams do not need to make offers to retain the rights for collegiate and overseas players.
The Maple Leafs may not have offered Walker a contract by the June 1 deadline last month, making him an unrestricted free agent. Contributing to suspicion, Walker is currently attending the Minnesota Wild’s development camp.
Kristian Pospisil Making a Case for a Contract
The 21-year old Slovakian has put up some impressive numbers at the Leafs development camp. In three scrimmage games, the Sioux City Musketeer scored six goals. After bouncing around multiple clubs the past few seasons, Kristian Pospisil is looking to find a home in the professional game.
Last season in the USHL, the 6-foot-2, 193-pound winger recorded 18 goals and 40 points in 45 games. That was good for third on the team in scoring, behind 2017 first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen and undrafted 19-year old Phillip Nieves. Pospisil also led the team in penalties, with 111 minutes.
The concern with the big Slovakian is his skating. He has proven hands and goal scoring abilities, but his movement remains an issue. However, Pospisil has been very good at development camp, making his case for a contract. Tight against the 50 standard player contract limit, the Leafs may look to add Pospisil on an AHL contract as depth. He has played in North America for two seasons and now looks to make it in the NHL.
Jacob Tortora Should Have Been Drafted
The 5-foot-8, 162-pound winger from Victor, New York has put on a show at the Leafs development camp. In the final two scrimmages, Jacob Tortora scored back to back hat tricks, dominating the Leafs draftees alongside Pospisil and Dubuque Fighting Saint Austin Rueschhoff.
The diminutive winger had an impressive 38 points in 51 games with the US National U18 Team, finishing seventh on the team in scoring. A Boston College commit, Tortora went somewhat surprisingly undrafted last month. He is still just 17 years old, with a fairly late birthday of July 25.
Tortora is heading to Boston College, a program that has produced smaller players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Cam Atkinson, Nathan Gerbe, and Brian Gionta. Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco also committed to play for the Eagles but left after only five games to play in the OHL for the Kitchener Rangers.
An NHL team should have drafted Tortora last month, but he will continue to prove his worth in the coming years in college. The Leafs will get many looks at him as well, as Tortora will play on the same team as their prospect Joseph Woll.
Plenty of Uncertainty
One of the common themes with the Leafs draftees present at development camp was an uncertainty on their upcoming season.
We’ll start with Vladimir Bobylev. After starting the 2015-16 campaign with HC Spartak Moscow, the big Russian returned to the Victoria Royals to finish out the season. At 20 years old, Bobylev would like to play in the AHL with the Marlies, but that currently seems unlikely as they are loaded on the wings.
Continuing down the list, Nikolai Chebykin is one of a small handful of European players who came over for camp. On a two-way contract with Dynamo Moscow, Chebykin was not one of the players released to free agency after the team failed to pay players last season. He could end up playing in the KHL with Dynamo, but could also find another home. The whole Dynamo Moscow situation is a mess and the Leafs likely want to get Chebykin to a stable team.
Latvian Martins Dzierkals is another CHL player making his case for Marlies minutes. After two productive seasons with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Dzierkals is looking to turn pro. At camp, he expressed his desire to join the AHL rather than going back for an overage season in the QMJHL. A winger, Dzierkals is much more likely to make the jump to the Marlies than the previously mentioned Vladimir Bobylev.
Looking at Liljegren
First round potential steal Timothy Liljegren even has some uncertainty around him. His home for the upcoming season is undetermined. He could return to Rogle in the SHL or join the Marlies as early as this season. There have been questions about Liljegren and Rogle’s relationship due to his treatment last season. Liljegren will stay in Toronto until the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan later this month.
There are also big, deciding years coming up for the likes of Pierre Engvall, Nicolas Mattinen, Keaton Middleton, and Nolan Vesey. The Leafs have to make decisions on all five of them come next spring, as their exclusive rights expire.
The next time we will hear from the Leafs will be the Rookie Tournament, which is moving from London, Ontario to Toronto this September. In the meantime, we could see a couple prospects at the previously mentioned World Junior Summer Showcase later this month.