By Stan Smith
Earlier this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospects played their third and final game in the Traverse City Prospects tournament and walked away with a 6-5 win over the Detroit Red Wings prospects.
A Surprise Star for the Maple Leafs Prospects
Brandon Lisowsky, who is a 19-year-old, seventh-round (218th overall) pick by the Maple Leafs in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, scored a hat trick to steal the spotlight from the star prospects. The hat trick was both a surprise and not a surprise. Lisowsky is no stranger to scoring. He had 71 goals and 139 points in 133 regular season games over the last two seasons for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. He also added six goals and 18 points in 23 playoff games in those two seasons.
Undersized, at 5-foot-9 but with a solid 180-pound build, Lisowsky showed a great shot when he stormed off the bench, received a pass from Ryan Tverberg, and fired a wrist shot from the deep slot that beat Red Wings goalie Sebastion Cossa clean on the glove side. He also showed good hands when he accepted a pass from Easton Cowan while he was moving left to right across the Detroit net and went forehand to backhand to beat Cossa for the hat trick and put the Maple Leafs up 5-3 in the third period.
Throughout the game, he showed a nose for the net. On one goal, he worked his way down low and knocked in a rebound of a Fraser Minton shot to open the scoring for the Maple Leafs in the second period. There was also speculation he might have actually got his stick on the 6-5 game-winning goal with 35 seconds left in the game. However, he and Cowan, who were both in front of the net when defenseman Tommy Miller fired a floating wrist shot through traffic from the point that found the net, insisted neither one of them touched the puck.
Lisowsky Is Still Unsigned by the Maple Leafs
Lisowsky is still unsigned by the Maple Leafs and is expected to return to the Saskatoon Blades for the upcoming season.
Even given his hat trick, Lisowsky wasn’t the best player on the ice. That designation goes to Red Wings’ goalie Jan Bednar. The most notable moment in the game for the Maple Leafs may have been when Detroit replaced Bednar at 12:24 of the second period. Until that point, Bednar was perfect stopping all 29 shots that he had been peppered with by the Maple Leafs in the 32:24 that he played. He was then replaced by Cossa, as the Red Wings had planned. Cossa gave up all six of the Toronto Goals on just 18 shots.
The other goal scorers for the Maple Leafs were Cowan, Jacob Frasca, and Miller to win the game.
Dennis Hildeby Had a Solid Game
Dennis Hildeby, while not as sharp as he was in the Dallas game, still played well in the two periods he played. He gave up three goals on the 27 shots he faced. The game was a wide-open affair with lots of scoring chances. Hildeby made several solid saves.
The same can’t be said for young Maple Leafs goalie Vyacheslav Peksa. Peksa only gave up the two goals in the third period but he showed none of the calmness that Hildeby showed. In addition, things got quite adventurous when he attempted to play the puck.
Cowan and Minton Played Key Roles for the Maple Leafs
While Lisowsky was the star of the game for the Maple Leafs, Cowan and Minton still played key roles with several dominant shifts. It will be interesting to see how they do when they return to their junior clubs. Hopefully, we can see them both in the World Junior Tournament when it gets underway in Sweden on Boxing Day.
I wrote in my report of the Dallas game that I was planning on paying more attention to the play of Topi Niemela in this game. It was not to be, however. Both Niemela and Matthews Knies were scratched. It was not made public if there was a health issue with either player or if the Maple Leafs just wanted to see other players in action. I expect we will see both players when the training camp officially opens on Friday.