Jerry D’Amigo calls it his second go-round and he intends to make it work for him.
Friday, D’Amigo and 24 other aspirants report to the Leafs rookie camp at the MasterCard Centre.
On Saturday, the team hits the ice with a morning practice and an evening game against the Chicago Blackhawks rookies.
The Leafs will play Pittsburgh Sunday and Ottawa on Tuesday. All three games begin at 7 p.m. Find out how you can watch on TV and online
Since the Leafs drafted him in the sixth round of the NHL draft in 2009, D’Amigo has twice skated for Team USA in the World Juniors. He attended RPI in New York State, signed with the Leafs, struggled to learn the pro game and regained his mojo in junior playing in Kitchener with Swedish sensation Gabriel Landeskog.
“Last year was definitely a roller coaster,” said the native of Binghamton, New York. “Turning pro and then going to the rookie and big league training camp, then the Marlies and junior, that’s a lot of different experiences. Going to Kitchener was a challenge at first but I got to see what the Leafs had in mind for me and it was a really good experience.”
This time, D’Amigo goes into the pre-season with his eyes wide open.
“One of the big things I learned was just to worry about my game,” he said. “You worry about yourself, you take care of your teammates but you have to concentrate on what you need to do to get better.”
D’Amigo has sheared his body of extra fat and is weighing in at 198 pounds, 15 pounds under his listed weight.
“It all ties in to being professional. You have to take care of yourself carefully. You have to be v
ery directed about how you eat, how you rest, how you work out. The competition is very tough at this level and you have to give yourself every edge you can.”
Meanwhile, right winger Matt Frattin
is entering his first camp in the wake of a good review from General Manager Brian Burke.
Burke is a proponent of players spending an apprenticeship similar to D’Amigo’s in the American Hockey League but he has publicly wondered if the 23-year-old Edmonton native might be the exception to the rule. Frattin played the Leafs final game of the 2010-11 season and had five shots and an assist in a standout debut. Burke beat the drum more this week when he said he saw only one real opening up front and named Frattin, Joe Colborne
, Nazem Kadri
and Philippe Dupuis
as contenders. All three have much more pro experience than Frattin.
“That was a really nice thing to hear,” said Frattin who scored 36 goals and recorded 60 points in 44 games with the University of North Dakota. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable in Toronto, I have been in town for a month and I have met about 75 per cent of the team.”
First-round draft choice Stuart Percy
will attend the camp as well as Jesse Blacker
, Jake Gardiner
, Swedish goalie Mark Owuya
and Portland Winter Hawks standout Brad Ross
The Leafs exhibition season kicks off September 19.