Prospects, prospects, prospects! They’re everywhere to be seen in the Subway Super Series – both recently selected and soon to be drafted players.
The annual tournament began back in 2003 and features a team of Russian junior level all stars traveling throughout Canada to play two games each against the QMJHL, OHL and WHL. The event also serves as an evaluation for the management team assigned to prepare Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Last night, the middle portion of the series – two games vs. the OHL – concluded with another win for the host country. After picking up a 4-0 victory on Thursday, they capped things off with a 2-1 shootout win last night. The sweep runs their record to a perfect 16-0 vs. the Russians all-time.
Prior to becoming NHL players, Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds had represented the OHL in the Super Series. This year, that responsibility fell to Ottawa 67’s forward Tyler Toffoli, the Kings second round selection at this past June’s NHL Entry Draft.
On the other side of the ice was Russia’s Maxim Kitsyn, another 2010 Kings draft pick.
Now, let’s see what Toffoli has to say about the OHL’s pair of games versus Russia…
MM: This was your second time playing in the tournament. Last year you had two goals in two games and you picked up an assist in the game last Thursday. Aside from the statistics, how was this year different for you and how would you rate your performance versus last year?
TT: I’d say it was a little different. I was ready to accept a bigger role and play more minutes this time. I was lucky enough to play a lot on the power play and get a lot of chances to show off my offensive skill too. So, overall, I thought I played better this year. I had a lot of scoring opportunities. I worked hard at both ends of the ice. I also think I showed up a lot better than last year, even though I scored last year. Having that confidence from last time helped me quite a bit.
The OHL entered this year undefeated against Russia. Was that something the coaches or the players talked about at all prior to the two games this year? Or is that just something the fans and media bring up?
The coaches definitely brought it up. I think it’s a little bit of both. Obviously, the fans around the Ontario League want us to stay undefeated. And I think it’s important for players in the league to show that we want to be the best. We’ve played really well versus the Russians the last 15 or 16 games and we just wanted to win. That was the ultimate mentality coming in and the streak was there as well.
Unfortunately you didn’t play last night, but did you watch the game? If so, what did you think about the adjustments each team made vs. the game on Thursday?
I saw some of the highlights. From playing in Sudbury I know it’s kind of a smaller rink, so I expected it to be a lot more physical and it was. So, I think the guys in the OHL knew what to expect and they tried using that to their advantage. Besides that, obviously the players like being in the shootout. I saw both of the goals and they were really nice goals too.
The only player to score for Russia in the shootout was fellow Kings prospect Maxim Kitsyn. Any observations from playing against him on Thursday?
He was really good. I also talked to him a little bit on the ice. I asked him how he was doing and stuff. He played well. I thought he was one of the better players on the Russian team. His speed is something you notice. He is so quick. He can go from one side to the other really quickly. He can get by you, he’s really shifty for a guy of his size.
Going back to the draft for a minute – TSN and a few others had you pegged as a possible late first rounder. When the Kings traded up a few picks in the middle of the second round, did you think they might be taking you?
I kinda had an idea. I had talked with them a lot. Obviously, speaking to a team a lot gives you a little bit of an idea if they’re going to take you. When they moved up it was kinda where I was supposed to go in the draft. Coming into the weekend, of course I still wanted to be a first round pick. But, I was really excited when LA drafted me. It’s a great organization and I’m pretty happy.
Immediately following the draft you attended the Kings Prospect Camp here in Los Angeles. What was something the coaches said to you then that has really stuck with you?
Just to work hard and to have the mentality that you need to go out there everyday with a purpose. I’ve really tried to take everything I learned at both camps (including training camp in September) and bring it back with me to my Ottawa so we can have a winning team and a good season.
The World Juniors are coming up next month. How much are you thinking about that right now?
It’s probably still in the back of my mind right now. I’m just tying to win here (Ottawa) and am focused on helping my team in any way I can. My team has been playing pretty well and we just had a good weekend. Being invited back to the camp (in December) and to make Team Canada would obviously be an honor. Right now though my focus is definitely on the Ottawa 67s.
Your GM there in Ottawa, Brian Kilrea, called you a ‘great playmaker’ when we spoke with him before the season started. Is that how you see yourself?
I think I’m an all around offensive guy. I try to score goals and I can make plays. Passing the puck is important. But, I want to be an all around offensive type of guy.
Well, then you’re probably pretty happy right now. Your 18 goals lead the team and have you fourth in the OHL. You had a hat trick on Friday night and were just named the OHL Player of the Week. So, how do you rate your performance so far this year and what part of your game are you trying to improve the most this season?
I would say my game has improved every weekend this season. My game has been getting better and I’ve been playing a lot more minutes. My coaches really trust me at every end of the ice. And that’s one thing I keep working on, my defensive game. Winning all the little battles, that’s something I’ve been working on. That’s also one of the things I took from my time in LA this summer.
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Toffoli is hoping to eventually bring some of what he learns in Ottawa back to Los Angeles. Another strong season in the OHL would continue to elevate his status among Kings prospects. Although he’s listed as a center, hockeysfuture.com has him rated as the number one right wing in the organization.
We’ll have more from Toffoli after the World Juniors.
The Super Series will conclude later this week with two games vs. the WHL, where the Kings will be represented by Jordan Weal and Linden Vey. More on that starting Wednesday.
Super Series Game 3 Recap – notes on Toffoli and Kitsyn
Interview with Ottawa GM Brain Kilrea – the player to score a goal in Kings history