A camp like no other.It sounds much like a bad horror movie released in the late 90’s. I assure you despite both containing ‘cuts,’ this one will be far more enjoyable to watch.The lights on the Toronto Marlies practice pad at MCC turned on Friday morning and for the first time this season, a group wearing Marlies sweaters took to the ice; 11 skaters and one goalie. Marlies camp is open for business.
The Toronto AHL club took its current form after the Maple Leafs made their first round of cuts to what once was a 70-man preseason squad. It was a large camp, a roster that included every player who participated in the rookie tournament, and with that comes a Marlies group with an extra week of focus and training.
One who admitted to benefitting from the extra time was Marlies forward Matt Caruana, signed to an AHL deal over the summer. It was Caruana’s first time attending Maple Leafs camp, and only his second main camp of his career.
The Bowmanville, Onatrio, resident admitted the extra time was like nothing he had experienced before and strongly believed it has provided him a leg-up on the upcoming season. Caruana played 33 games with the Marlies last season as an injury recall from the ECHL Royals and made the most of his opportunity potting six goals and 10 points in the AHL after leading his team in Reading.
Another name well known to Ricoh regulars who was on hand Friday. Offensive defenceman Josh Engel, who is coming off his best goal output since highschool with eleven tallies, took part in skating drills with Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins and assistant coach Derek King. Although unsure if he’ll be slotted in on the wing or the blueline, the multitalented Wisconsin native showing last season he can handle both, Engel is confident he can build on last season’s performance to put up another year of career offensive numbers.
With the option of playing at the American league level for the first time of his career, it was encouraging to see young Jamie Devane on the ice dressed in Marlies colours. Eakins admitted to being impressed by Devane’s development during the three-game rookie tournament, and now will be permitted a longer look at the Maple Leafs third round selection from the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Of note on Friday was both Dale Mitchell and Jussi Rynnas participated in the morning drills. Mitchell has been sidelined since the spring with a lower body injury sustained after a hit by Mike Liambas during the ECHL playoffs. Rynnas, sporting a new helmet for the upcoming season, received a minor ankle injury during the Leafs main camp and looks to be back in full form for the Marlies preseason games commencing October 2nd.
Unlike last season, all those entering the Marlies training camp are coming from a week of development with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Eakins has been granted a group that have already started their on-ice work, drill development and positional planning. For those involved, it is an AHL camp like no other.
Now it’s time for the season to match.
Notes: Joining Caruana, Devane and Engel on assignment to the Marlies are Will Acton, Tyler Brenner, Dave Cowan, Brayden Irwin, Kyle Neuber, Denny Urban and Kelsey Wilson … of the ten, six are returnees to the AHL club.