London wants Leafs' rookie tourney

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

London wants more of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL club is already coming to the John Labatt Centre on Sept. 23 to face the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers in a preseason game for the second straight year.

But Tourism London has submitted a bid to play host to the Maple Leafs’ rookie tournament in September at the JLC.

“We approached the Leafs to see if this was a possibility,” said Tourism London GM John Winston. “We’re very adept at putting together proposals and we don’t lose very many.”

Last year, the Leafs held it in Kitchener. It included Ottawa, Boston and Pittsburgh, with seven games over four days.

The JLC and London’s dream participants for filling up the rink’s lower bowl?

“Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver,” Winston said

Under the John Ferguson Jr. regime, it looked like the London had scored the Leafs’ NHL training camp in 2004. But that ended up back in Kitchener — its longtime partner — as Ferguson became annoyed when word of London leaked out.

The Leafs aren’t confirming setting up shop in London.

“We’re in the process of trying to secure a fourth team so we can have a tournament this year,” said director of media relations Pat Park. “Nothing’s been announced from our end yet.”

The JLC or the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium work just fine for Leafs’ third-round pick Greg McKegg.

The St. Thomas native, selected 62nd overall last month in Los Angeles, feels right at home in both as he plays there so often with his Erie Otters, in the same division as the OHL rival London Knights and Kitchener Rangers.

“They’re both places I’ve grown up in,” McKegg said, “so it’ll be great for me whatever they decide.”

He attended the Leafs’ prospects camp this month. It was an eye-opener.

“It was nice to finally be on the ice with the rest of the guys. It was pretty busy. They put us through a lot of different things.”

And what does a new draft pick do to get the lay of the land?

Watch last year’s first-rounder Nazem Kadri.

Like Kadri, McKegg would love to push the brass into making a tough decision on him this year.

He’s currently in Goderich for high-intensity workouts with several Otters on Brian O’Reilly’s summer crew, which includes son Ryan, the former Erie standout and now a Colorado Avalanche forward.

“No one goes into a training camp thinking they’re not going to last,” McKegg said. “It’s a goal of mine (to play in the rookie tournament) and show them what I can do.”

And maybe he’ll earn the chance to do what Kadri did last year — score his first Leafs exhibition goal on JLC ice.

Kadri will return for his second Toronto camp but it’s still up to Leafs brass to decide if he’ll be involved in the rookie tournament. There are other Knights too, who could be involved if their teams are tabbed by the Leafs.

If Boston is back in the mix, second-rounder Jared Knight and goalie Michael Hutchinson will take part.

Chris DeSousa and Michael D’Orazio will attend St. Louis rookie camps. Daniel Erlich and Phil Varone are going back to San Jose. Reid McNeill was picked by Pittsburgh and undrafted goalie Michael Houser will work with the Vancouver Canucks before returning to the Knights.

Former assistant coach Pat Curcio won’t, though. After a year with the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL, he has returned to the OHL to help Denny Lambert in Sault Ste. Marie.

“I’m happy to be a Greyhound,” Curcio said. “I had a great time in Salt Lake, but I missed working with the young kids, helping them develop.”

London GM Mark Hunter is expected to pull double-duty on the bench for the majority of the games with brother Dale and Jacques Beaulieu.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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