Bring on the rookies
Step 1 of many NHL training camps these days is the rookie tournament, and here in Toronto, it's no different for the Maple Leafs. Beginning on Thursday, Ricoh Coliseum in downtown will play host to a four-team round robin event that features three NHL teams' top freshmen.
What makes things even more interesting (depending on who you ask, I suppose) is that one of the four teams will be not an NHL rookie squad, but a full-fledged roster from Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) — the Canadian equivalent to the NCAA. More info on tournament can be found on-line through the York Lions, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The Florida Panthers will be the fourth team taking part.
The Lions were an average squad in the OUA last season, and as such may have a tough time competing here (whereas some of the top CIS teams, like the Alberta Golden Bears, could — and often do — beat NHL rookie teams). As with many of the NCAA vs. CIS basketball games going on lately, however, I suspect York head coach Bill Maguire is merely looking to get his players some additional experience playing high-end hockey.
I'll be taking in the tournament on Saturday, so check back for some bits and bites this weekend.