If you're absolutely aching to see the red and black and white stripes streaking across and ice surface somewhere, than you need wait no longer than this weekend . The Maple Leafs Rookie tournament kicks off tomorrow, and the Hawks kids get to wear the real unis and everything. Hey, it'll probably beat watching Michigan-Notre Dame. Will either of those programs ever be relevant again?
Anyway, couple story lines to follow for this thing, and to me they all start with Jeremy Morin. While my belief he was going to get a real chance to make the roster out of camp has waned with his inclusion in this tournament (and the lack of one for Ben Smith), I doubt the twinkle he produced in the coaching staff's eye has completely disappeared. Maybe this is just a test to see how healthy he is after missing the second of half of the Pigs season last year after a neck injury. Maybe it's to get him as much action as possible. Either way, you have to believe that at some point Morin is going to be part of the Blackhawks, if it's just as a result of injuries, and seeing how he looks here is probably worth the time.
Secondly, it was in this tournament last year that Shawn Lalonde looked as if he was about to fall asleep on his front stairs with a half-eaten twix bar. I only watched parts of each game, and I think I still remember no less than 57 odd-man rushes against as a result of Lalonde being nowhere near where he was supposed to be. Most everyone thinks he took some steps forward last year in Rockford, hopefully he won't be the Rickey Henderson Lecture Series he was last year.
Another player to watch is Dylan Olsen. Olsen almost certainly figures into the Hawks plans a year or two down the road, but pretty much got his head kicked in at Rockford last year after leaving UMD for basically being Anthony Soprano in the classroom. While Olsen did look the classiest player at Prospects Camp, as he should, he didn't dominate every shift either. Not a lot can be gleaned from a campfire in July, as probably it can't from a tourney like this. But everyone would be encouraged if he looked a step above here.
Mark McNeil and Phillip Danault are also part of the squad. McNeil didn't impress me much at that camp in July either, but maybe in some actual competition he'll stand out more. He also admitted to being a tad out of shape then, he might not be now. i liked the look of Danault at Johnny's, so there's that.
Anyway, the first game, tomorrow night against the Leafs, will be on 30-minute delay on their site. So about 6:30 our time. Enjoy.