Toronto Maple Leafs' 2011 Rookie Tournament: A Look at the Future

Jason Ham@@Jason_HamCorrespondent IISeptember 10, 2011

LONDON,ON - SEPTEMBER 23: Greg McKegg #69 and his Toronto Maple Leaf teammates enjoy the shootout in a pre-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers on September 23,2010 at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Flyers 3-2 in a shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Repeat.

You can feel it, can't you?

The slight drop in temperature outside? The excitement coming from within? The nervousness and anticipation that accompanies the start of a brand new NHL season?

For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, this summer has been a strange one. There has been some major roster movement since the 2011 Draft. However, since The Lebda Trade on July 3rd, little else has transpired. The silence has been deafening.

Burke was able to re-sign players that we all knew he would be able to re-sign. It was certainly comforting to know that players remain loyal to the Leafs and that Burke is capable of retaining them.

However, the thirst I have as a Leafs fan has not been quenched properly in over two months.

The good news? This will all change this weekend in Oshawa, Ontario, where prospects for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will do battle in the annual Rookie Tournament to kick off the NHL preseason.

Finally! Leafs-related hockey is cheap enough for me to be able to reasonably justify purchasing lower-bowl seats.

For the record, when the Leafs host the Senators on September 19th at the Air Canada Centre to kick off exhibition play, there were tickets available that cost $743.50 each.  EACH!

To clarify, these seats were available. They are sold out. For the life of me, I cannot imagine to whom. 

Now, I know it's not actually the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it's going to be just as exciting for fans—this layoff has been unbearable.

There are many players on the 25-man roster that have a reasonable chance at making the NHL in future years. 

Forwards such as David Broll, Jerry D'Amigo, Jamie Devane, Matt Frattin, Greg McKegg, Kenny Ryan and Brad Ross all play different roles, but may all be contributing directly to the Leafs success sooner than later. The same can be said for defencemen such as Jesse Blacker, Jake Gardiner and Stuart Percy.

Although all of the Leafs' prospects will be on the same side of the puck, make no mistake about it—they are competing against each other as individuals just as much as they are competing collectively against the teams iced by Chicago, Pittsburgh and Ottawa.

In order to make a positive impression on Leafs management, they all must demonstrate that they have what it takes to out-perform their cohorts. They all must demonstrate that they have the drive to do more out on the ice than the next guy. They all must demonstrate just exactly why the Leafs have pursued them in the first place.

Luckily for fans who will be in attendance, this virtually guarantees that games will be played with the speed, grit and desperation that Brian Burke and company covet in players at every level of the system. For this reason, I could not be more excited for this weekend.

It may not be NHL hockey.

But it's EXACTLY what I need to kick-start the 2011/2012 NHL season properly. 

Thanks for reading!


    DeBrusk Is Mr. Game 7 for Bruins

    NHL logo

    DeBrusk Is Mr. Game 7 for Bruins

    NBC Sports
    via NBC Sports

    Turn It Up to 11? Pens, Caps Have a Lot to Live Up to

    NHL logo

    Turn It Up to 11? Pens, Caps Have a Lot to Live Up to

    Sean Leahy
    via ProHockeyTalk

    Bruins & Maple Leafs: Biggest Moments of Game 7

    Toronto Maple Leafs logo
    Toronto Maple Leafs

    Bruins & Maple Leafs: Biggest Moments of Game 7

    Cody Rivera
    via The Hockey Writers