High praise for Leafs' Reimer

Leafs goaltending consultant Francois Allaire says James Reimer is as good as any young goalie he...

Leafs goaltending consultant Francois Allaire says James Reimer is as good as any young goalie he has coached in his career. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency Files)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

OSHAWA - As if James Reimer won’t be under enough pressure when the Maple Leafs open training camp this weekend, he got a heap of praise from the team’s goaltending consultant, Francois Allaire, on Sunday.

“I have started a lot of young kids in the league, some really good ones, and I think James is as good as anyone else I have coached so far in my career,” Allaire said. “(Reimer’s) progression has been phenomenal for one reason — his work ethic has been phenomenal. I’ve been impressed with James the last two seasons.”

Allaire had a hand in making Patrick Roy what he became in the National Hockey League. Jean-Sebastien Giguere won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim with Allaire as his guide.

While Reimer is the guy that everyone in Leafs Nation hopes leads the club to the promised land — and right now, that’s simply a playoff spot — Allaire wants to see Jonas Gustavsson take another step this season. Heart troubles have kept Gustavsson going in a loop for a while.

“Now is the time to turn the corner in his career,” Allaire said. “You cannot stay in the same spot for three or four or five years in a row. He needs to be at the top of his game and show everybody he can play at that level.”

Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, who is running the bench at the rookie tournament at the General Motors Centre, said Reimer took a bit of time to get accustomed to Allaire.

“I remember James coming to me and saying, ‘There are some things he wants me to do with my equipment, and he has me doing this,’” Eakins said. “I just told him, ‘This guy has a track record of success, you have to be open to change, stick with it.’ And James gave it a chance and it worked for him.”

Point shots

One of the smarter Leafs in a 5-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins rookies on Sunday night was Greg McKegg, who had 49 goals and 43 assists in 66 games for the Erie Otters last season. After giving the puck away in the Toronto end early in the game, McKegg, the Otters captain, rebounded with a pair of nice assists, setting up Josh Nicholls and Mitchell Heard. The Brampton Battalion’s Sam Carrick scored a pretty goal early in the second for a 3-1 Toronto lead, skating in front and beating goalie Maxime Lagace between the legs ... Garret Sparks was sharp after allowing a Pittsburgh goal on the first shift of the game. Sparks has been told by Allaire to keep it simple, and the 6-foot-2, 204-pounder did that, kicking away repeated Penguins scoring chances. Sparks, who played the entire game, got an ovation in the second period when he stopped a Paul Thompson backhand from five feet ... Both McKegg and Sparks did something coaches love to see: They were able to forget quickly about initial mistakes and recover effectively ... Heard is one of those kids you watch and wonder how he slipped through the draft in June. He’s a heads-up player who moves the puck well ... With Leafs general manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson in the building, McKegg capped a solid evening with a goal on a backhand deke on a breakaway midway through the third period. Tyler Brenner, who set up McKegg, scored the final goal when he tipped the puck past Lagace ... McKegg should be in the running for a spot at Canada’s world junior selection camp in December. He was invited to the development camp this summer, and clearly has the world juniors in mind. “It’s something every Canadian kid hopes for at Christmas,” McKegg said. On what he wants to accomplish at the rookie tournament: “Improve each game and soak up as much as I can.” ... Sparks finished with 29 saves. “That was something, eh?” Marlies assistant coach Jim Hughes said. “They came in waves at times. He was a big factor in the game.”

From the hash marks

Stuart Percy and David Broll both were hurt during the game, but Hughes said neither injury was serious ... For those who want fighting gone from the game for good, remember that the next time a fight happens and no one boos. When the Leafs’ Kyle Neuber got the best of the Penguins’ Stefan Fournier in the first period, ripping the helmet off Fournier and pulling the sweater over his head, the fans cheered in support. Naturally, the biggest roar came when Neuber punched Fournier, who could not find his bearings, in the back of the skull ... One Leaf who didn’t have a problem throwing his body into the Penguins was Brenner. But Brad Ross, who makes a living as an agitator with Portland of the Western Hockey League, kept his nose clean for most of the game ... There were three fights and a couple of other potentially nasty situations. Can’t imagine how these kids built up so much hate for each other so fast ... The Leafs scratched forward Matt Frattin, who has an outside chance of making the big club, defencemen Jake Gardiner and Jesse Blacker and forward Kenny Ryan.


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