TORONTO - When Spanish goalie Ander Alcaine stopped a penalty shot on Tuesday, the urge was to shout ‘Ole!’ from the stands or have skating coach Barb Underhill toss him a rose from her perch on the Brian Burke balcony.
But toreadors aside, Arcaine is a very interesting story at Leafs prospects camp. Born in Jaca, near the Pyrenees Mountains, he’s the first player from his country to play for a senior club team, French champion Briancon. He took to the ice as a five-year-old when given the choice between soccer, basketball and hockey. Spotted by goalie coach Francois Allaire at his school in Switzerland, Alcaine was directed to Leafs prospects camp to see how he stood up to North American shooters.
Greg McKegg beat him twice in Tuesday’s scrimmage game, but he blocked Brett Welychka’s penalty shot and survived some bumping in his crease.
“I know it’s more difficult here,” the 20-year-old Alcaine said. “I have to learn.”
Allaire saw the slender Alcaine as a butterfly goalie and the youngster has since studied the form of Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonas Hiller and ex-Leaf Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Jim Hughes, Leafs’ director of player development, thought Alcaine did fine in his first outing.
“For European goalies coming here, the rinks are smaller, the angles are different, the shooters are probably more aggressive in terms of how they shoot and the quality of (chances). That’s a learning curve and I’m sure he’ll get better and more acclimated.”
Alcaine already feels like a winner here, watching Spain win Euro 2012 from his hotel on Sunday.
Franson waits out Leafs
Restricted free agent Cody Franson told TSN.ca
this week he was not going to rush into a new pact with the Leafs, based on the way his first season in Toronto unfolded.
The ex-Nashville Predator was an opening night scratch under Ron Wilson and sat 25 games during the year. He was no more assured of steady work under Randy Carlyle with talk now of Korbinian Holzer and perhaps another rookie moving up to the blueline in 2012-13. The Leafs qualified Franson before July 1, but he will likely see what some other defencemen get in new contracts before signing.
McKegg making push
McKegg saw his two goals on Tuesday as a good omen. He needs to impress as a stepping stone to the main camp in September.
“This is my third go-round (at prospects camp),” said the third-round pick from 2010. “You get better as you go along. I know what to expect now. I have gained a lot of confidence in the last year. I want to show the brass I can play a two-way game. Playing in London (Memorial Cup finalists) helped a lot.”
Hughes spelled out what he wants from McKegg from now on.
“You can see he has the hockey IQ. He’s gifted offensively (52 points in 45 games), now we have to continue with his skating, getting more power, more explosion. We saw that today.”
Tuesday was a tough start for undrafted Niagara IceDogs forward Joe Wigle. A high clearing attempt struck him in the side of the face while he was sitting on the Blue team’s bench. Leafs medical specialists and a plastic surgeon looked at him, but Hughes assured he would be fine ... Besides McKegg, scorers on Tuesday were Charles Sarault, Greg Carey and Adam Hughesman ... Forward David Broll said he picked up his Brolldozer nickname as a minor midget in the GTHL after laying a big hit in front of his team’s bench. “One of my buddies came up with it, just threw it out there. I thought it was pretty funny and it stuck with me.” ... Winger Leo Komarov was kept out of Tuesday’s scrimmage, as was the plan. The Leafs don’t need to see the 25-year-old in every game, more concerned with having him use this camp to get on a weight program with strength coach Anthony Belza and orient himself around Toronto ... Hughes liked the work of Petter Granberg on Tuesday, noting the influence that former NHLer Jan Erixon had on coaching the Swedish junior gold medallist. “He understands positioning, he moves the puck intelligently. We’re now a few years down the road with him. You can see he’s making the progressions.” ... Other goalies at Leafs camp are seventh- round pick (2011) Garret Sparks, German Mathias Niederberger of the Barrie Colts and Franky Palazzese of the Kitchener Rangers.