Toronto Maple Leafs Youngsters Making Headway

September 22nd, 2011 2 Comments

We are only a few games into the 2011-12 NHL pre-season, but already there are a few youngsters that are starting to impress the Toronto Maple Leafs brass and fans.

Forward Matt Frattin had two goals on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Jake Gardiner looks very close to being NHL ready, while big body goaltender Ben Scrivens hasn’t looked out of place.

With a little seasoning at the AHL level with the Toronto Marlies it appears as if both Frattin and Gardiner will be with the big club at some point this season, while Scrivens may need a full season with the Marlies before he gets consideration with the big club.

Gardiner’s smooth skating, hockey sense, ability to move the puck and uncanny calm and collected style of play have many fans and teammates throwing praise at the 21-year old.

Brought to Toronto via the Anaheim Ducks in the Francois Beauchemin trade, Gardiner  spent most of the 2010-11 season with the University of Wisconsin, registering 41 points (ten goals, 31 assists) in 41 games before joining the Marlies for a ten game stint, registering three assists in ten games.

While Gardiner may be hard pressed to crack the lineup straight out of training camp, many see him as the seventh man on the Leafs back end before long and a player that could easily fill in should one of the Leafs six regulars succumb to an injury or prove to be ineffective.

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke heard some criticism from many fans when he acquired the former first round (17th overall) draft choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft from the Ducks, but those critics have since quieted down as Gardiner continues to evolve into an all-round defenseman.

Like Gardiner, Frattin has impressed fans throughout the pre-season, playing an aggressive, fast paced game that saw him put his quick hands and release on display, lighting the lamp twice on Wednesday night.

Frattin has come a long way since he was charged with a DUI on August 19, 2009.

In fact, a month earlier Frattin was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly throwing a lawnmower and a kitchen table (amongst other objects) into a street while attending the University of North Dakota.

Police said alcohol was a factor in Frattin’s behavior that night, which, given his behavior in this incident and subsequent DUI charge, led many to feel he was a troubled player struggling with his maturity (or lack thereof) and use of alcohol.

Frattin was acquitted on his DUI charge but received a fine of $225 for his lawnmower throwing antics and was placed on probation for a term of one year.

With two incidents involving alcohol and a lack of focus being sited by his coach, Frattin was let go by his team, losing his scholarship in the process.

Abandoned by his team, Frattin returned to Edmonton to live with his parents and began working on a cement crew. It was a life altering experience, one which helped Frattin regain his focus and love for the game of hockey.

After a few months away from the team Fighting Sioux coach Dave Haskol invited Frattin to re-join the team.

Having learned a valuable lesson and looking for redemption, Frattin accepted coach Haskol’s invitation, rejoining the team and putting into motion his comeback.

Frattin struggled for much of the 2009-10 season, but came on in the final weeks to finish with 19 points in 24 games.

Rejuvenated and hungry to prove his critics wrong, Frattin went on to have a monster season in his senior year, registering 60 points in 44 games, including an impressive total of 36 goals—best in the NCAA.

When you combine Frattin’s six foot, 205 pound frame, character, skill set, compete level and physical play with his determination and new dedication to hockey, Frattin looks to be set to take the NHL by storm sooner rather than later, which has many fans excited.

In Ben Scrivens the Maple Leafs have another big body goaltender (he stands 6’2” and weighs in at 180 pounds) who has the potential to be a starter some day.

Scrivens spent four years with Cornell University in the ECAC before joining the Reading Royals of the ECHL in 2010-11, followed by a 33 game stint with the Toronto Marlies, posting a 13-12-5 record to go along with a 2.33 goals against average and a save percentage of .924.

Scrivens (25) put up a combined 65-37-13 record with Cornell, posting three consecutive seasons with a save percentage of .930 or better, a total of 19 shutouts, registering goals against average of 2.30, 2.02, 1.81 and 2.32, respectively.

Scrivens will likely play a full season at the AHL level as the Toronto Marlies starter. His presence in the organization speaks to the Maple Leafs’ depth at the goaltending position, which already includes James Reimer (23), Jonas Gustavsson (26), Jussi Rynnas (24) and Mark Owuya (22)—who also looks to be a tremendous prospect.

What it all means is that help, or more importantly, talent, at every position—forward, defense and goalie—is on it’s way to the big club and, by the looks of things, we are talking about players that can expect to be in the Blue and White for a long time.

Brian Burke said from the beginning that he fully intended to bring a more competitive atmosphere to the entire Leafs’ organization from top to bottom—Gardiner, Frattin and Scrivens are helping Burke make good on his promise.

Until next time,




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