Toronto Maple Leafs Training Camp Invitation Doesn’t Make Sense

Toronto Maple Leafs Training Camp Puck (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs Training Camp Puck (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have shocked the world of junior hockey when they released their list of invitees. One of them just doesn’t add up.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced invites for eight players to join them when training camp opens in September. They’re even giving a shot to Josh Ho-Sang after signing him to a PTO. While it’s great to see the Maple Leafs give an opportunity to some young exciting athletes, there is one player they’re bringing that doesn’t make much sense.

I will admit my bias off the top. As someone who has spent a great deal of time in Ontario’s local and Junior rinks, I am partial to the players I have seen compete. However, one of them doesn’t look as good as others who play the same position in the league.

Three of the players that Toronto invited, play in the Leafs own backyard, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). They are Ryan Del Monte, Landon Cato, and James Hardie. There is one player coming from the United States Hockey League (USHL), defenceman Jacob Guévin. The rest of the Leafs invitees compete in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). They are goaltender Francesco Lapenna, center Theo Rochette, left-winger Brett Budgell, and defenceman Vincent Sevigny.

The Head-Scratching OHL Group

I like James Hardie and Del Monte is a player I would love to see signed to join the Toronto Marlies. In my opinion, Del Monte was considered a diamond in the rough in the 2021 draft. However, his former minor hockey teammate, Cato, getting a training camp invitation is a shock. Granted, he has only had one season to prove himself but there are better undrafted players who didn’t receive make the Leafs list.

Cato is a right-shooting defenseman. So too is Ruben Rafkin, a more versatile defender who can also add offense. With the OHL shutdown due to COVID-19 last season, Rafkin went to play in the Finnish Elite League for TPS Turku. While there, he posted 4 goals and 12 assists in 48 games. If I were handing out invitations, Rafkin would be the first to receive one. What I like most about him isn’t that he can produce offensively but that he can shut opponents down in his own end. Rafkin is still raw but he looks like he can be a solid pro with some more seasoning.

It’s very strange to see Cato get this opportunity when even his own teammate on the Niagara Ice Dogs, Isaac Enright, is a better player at this point in his development. It’s surprising that Enright didn’t get drafted and criminal that Cato is getting a shot to go pro ahead of him.

I would also have liked to have seen the Brampton Battalion’s right-defenceman, Paul Christopoulos get an opportunity ahead of Cato. That’s not to take anything away from Cato. It’s great to see him have a chance to prove himself and show the Leafs that he belongs at the next level. It’s head-scratching that these other undrafted prospects were passed over for Cato. I wonder what the Leafs see in the blueliner or if they know something that hasn’t been made public yet.

The defensemen I mentioned aren’t the only ones I would like to see get a chance with Toronto. The final player I wish the Maple Leafs had invited is Brett Brochu. This 18-year old undrafted goaltender looks like he will have a bright future. He even got to start for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in their last game of this past season. It doesn’t look as though he has an agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so the Toronto Maple Leafs should acquire him before the Penguins do.

Brochu’s rookie (and only) season for the London Knights in the OHL was solid. He played in 42 games and won 32 of them. In that time, he had a 2.40 goals-against-average and a 0.919 save percentage. The Toronto Maple Leafs would be wise to get a closer look at Brochu, who at worst could be a useful netminder in the ECHL for the Newfoundland Growlers once he’s finished playing Major Junior hockey.

Next. An Early Prediction of the Maple Leafs Lines. dark

This has been a tough year for scouting so some things will naturally seem out of place. As exciting as it is for the players who will be attending Leafs camp, it would be great to get answers as to how they were selected and why others were overlooked.