Toffoli shapes up for draft

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

Tyler Toffoli was not going to make the same mistake twice.

The 67’s forward had a turtle-like start to the last hockey season, and he’s going to pay for it this weekend. Ranked in Central Scouting’s Top 10 nine months ago, Toffoli is now listed 18th among North American skaters and no longer guaranteed to go in the first round of the 2010 NHL entry draft.

“Last summer wasn’t really the biggest key to my success this year,” admitted Toffoli, who would round into fine form and score 37 goals and 79 points in 65 games for Chris Byrne’s team. “I wasn’t in the best shape.”

Toffoli, a Scarborough native, has stayed in the nation’s capital this off-season and is working out five days a week with trainer Scott Heffernan at the Ottawa Sports Performance Centre. 

“I feel I’m already in great shape and I’m already ready to play,” he said. “I’m excited for next season to start. I know I’m really going to turn some heads.”

Toffoli should still be the first locally connected prospect selected in the draft. 67’s teammate Ryan Martindale will likely be next, probably picked in the second round. Then there’s Dalton Smith, also from the 67’s and Kanata-raised Peterborough Petes forward Ryan Spooner.

If the final rankings hold true, Gatineau Olympiques goalie Maxime Clermont, 67’s goalie Petr Mrazek,  Ottawa West-raised forward Corey Durocher (who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs) and Olympiques blueliner Adam Janosik are expected to have their name called Saturday.

Toffoli was interviewed by 27 teams at the combine in Toronto, where he said he tested “a lot better than probably people expected me to.

“People think that’s an issue for me, fitness, so I think I really showed them what kind of month I had after the season was done,” he said.

As for Friday, Toffoli admits he’ll have some anxiety issues — what player in the stands won’t? — as teams take their turns on the podium.

“It would definitely help my confidence, just being recognized as a first-rounder,” he said. “It’s something every kid wants to be. It definitely would mean a lot to me, but at the same time I know it doesn’t really matter. You never know what can happen, and if you really turn some heads at camp, you’ll be treated as a first rounder.”

Martindale, who has all the tools, was looked at as a first-rounder, too, and while he could still be picked Friday (Central Scouting has him ranked 27th among North American skaters) one scout said this week there remains concern about his “consistency and involvement.”

Martindale, who had 19 goals and 41 assists, knows he can get better.

“Going into the end of the year and the playoffs, I really developed my game to a point that I wanted it at,” he said, “but there’s room to improve in all areas.”

As for draft weekend itself, he added: “You can’t even begin to predict what people are thinking. There have been some interviews where you (leave) feeling better than others, that teams are more interested, but at the same time, going into the draft, it’s so unpredictable. You just have to go in with an open mind and hope for the best.

“I’ve always had high expectations for this draft. Obviously, whether I’m picked Friday or Saturday, it’s going to be exciting.”

In the 12 hours before the alarm clocks went off in the Spooners’ Kanata household Wednesday morning, 18-year-old Ryan played hockey. Twice. A late afternoon session, then a 9 p.m. game at the Sensplex.

“It’s a league I’m in,” he said, minutes prior to lacing up the blades for the second time. “I’m just helping the boys out.”

Then he headed home for a few hours of shut-eye until a 4 a.m. wake-up and 7 a.m. flight to Los Angeles, where it’s predicted he’ll be drafted early in the middle rounds (3, 4, 5) — around the same time the 67’s Dalton Smith is expected to go.

Whereas Smith is a power forward who will score “dirty goals” and fight in the NHL, Spooner is quite the opposite. He’s tremendously skilled, a great skater and puck handler, but he is also smallish at 5-foot-10 and 175 lbs.

Spooner had 30 goals in his rookie season with the Peterborough Petes, then, while missing 21 games with a broken collarbone last season, had 54 points in 47 games.

He was 39th on Central Scouting’s final rankings.

“It’s a big step for me in my career,” Spooner said of the draft. “Hopefully it goes well.

“I’d like to get drafted in the first round, but that might not be a possibility, so I’m not really expecting too much. Wherever I go, I go, and I’ll be ready to go to camp and work my hardest.”


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