A third round pick of the Leafs in the 2010 Draft and a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, Greg McKegg has emerged as an early standout at Marlies training camp.
"For me right now, McKegg has separated himself from the group and he's going to have to keep it up," said coach Dallas Eakins. "I just feel like he's a step ahead. He's reading the plays, he's able to make clean plays, I think he's ahead of the group physically and he's had a little bit of a knack around the net."
McKegg split last season between Erie and London – he won the OHL championship with the Knights – totaling 75 points in 65 games. "You want to get noticed any way you can," said McKegg.
Kadri Moving Forward
Nazem Kadri was an energetic presence at the Marlies second intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday morning. The 21-year-old was joined on a line by Greg Scott and 33-year-old Keith Aucoin, establishing near-instant chemistry with the shifty Aucoin.
"I'm just worried about playing hockey right now and getting my body to where it should be," said Kadri, who is looking to move past a poor result on the body fat portion of fitness testing last week.
It was a bumpy ride for 21-year-old Carter Ashton last season. Formerly a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, Ashton was shipped midseason to Toronto in a swap for defenceman Keith Aulie.
The 2009 first round pick totaled 15 games with the Leafs, failing to hit the scoresheet. His Marlies resume was also thin, hurt by a concussion that limited him to just six postseason games. Ashton spent most of his summer back home in Saskatoon training under a strength coach with a group of "best buddies that I grew up with back home".
Those "buddies" include Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, Senators blueliner Jared Cowen and Sabres defenceman Brayden McNabb. All four were selected in the 2009 Draft, all but McNabb picked in the first round.
"Ever since then we keep tabs and we go back in the summer and spend every day together," said Ashton. "It's pretty cool to have that connection with some friends."
Depth on defence shouldn't be an issue for the Marlies with the NHL lockout ongoing, nor should mobility. "From my experience here, this should about the most mobile defence that we've ever had," said Eakins.
That mobility is apparent among all three projected pairs, which include Mark Fraser and Korbinian Holzer, Jake Gardiner and Mike Kostka, as well as Paul Ranger and Jesse Blacker.
"…we've got all these guys that have either played in the NHL or are healthy or have got a couple years of pro under their belt," said Eakins.
"That goes a long way on the back-end." Richmond Hill native Simon Gysbers and Dylan Yeo are also in the mix on defence.