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Eye on the Future: Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Tony Cameranesi, Minnesota-Duluth

A closer look at the Maple Leafs prospect.

Matt Christians

Minnesota-Duluth sophomore forward Tony Cameranesi was selected in the 5th round of the 2011 NHL Draft out of Wayzata(Minnesota) High School. After spending a year apprenticing with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL, he moved on to NCAA hockey at Minnesota-Duluth, where he put up an impressive 14-20-34 stat line as a freshman for the Bulldogs. He's a little off that scoring pace so far this season, with just 4 goals and 11 assists through 24 games.

I took a closer look at Cameranesi during the championship game of the North Star College Cup, a game Minnesota-Duluth lost Minnesota in a shootout, to help get a better idea of where Cameranesi fits as a prospect, and what his potential might be as a pro player.

Any scouting report with Cameranesi has to start with his skating ability. Cameranesi has really strong legs and plays with a low center of gravity, which makes him an excellent skater. He's got tremendous straight line speed, and his acceleration and agility are above average, though probably not elite. His skating is good enough to cover up a lot of deficiencies elsewhere in his game.

One area he'll need to improve on before he's ready for the pros is developing more upper body strength and getting stronger on the puck.  When he's fighting along the boards for a 50/50 puck, he's very likely going to lose the battle. But on other hand, he wins a lot of those battles simply by winning races to loose pucks and establishing possession before the opponent gets there. He was knocked over a few times by stronger defensemen, but still showed the balance to make a play and move the puck to a teammate.

Offensively, he was held pretty quiet against a strong Minnesota defense. His best scoring chance of the game came in the first period when he brought the puck into the zone on a 2-on-1, but just missed the far right corner. He plays on the perimeter on the right side of UMD's top power play unit, where he's effective at moving the puck. He picked up an assist in the third period when he found a crease in the Minnesota penalty kill, allowing him to make a cross-ice pass to the left point, which teammate Austin Farley fired for a goal. His hands and vision aren't elite-level, but good enough to be a fairly consistent producer at the NCAA level.

Cameranesi is pretty effective in the defensive end as well, once again, with his skating playing a big role. His speed and compete level make him very good on the back-check, where he does an excellent job picking up his man, and erasing odd-man advantages for the opposition. UMD also uses him on the penalty kill, where he can use his speed to cut down passing and shooting lanes, and is an effective shot blocker. At his size, he doesn't play much of a physical game.

Long-term, Cameranesi probably won't be the type of big scorer Toronto might have been hoping for when they drafted him out of Wayzata high school three years ago. But he's got NHL-level skating and enough hockey sense to use it effectively. He'll likely need his two remaining years at Minnesota-Duluth to get a little stronger in his upper body, and then a year or two in the AHL to adjust to pro hockey, and playing more of a gritty, grinding role, but could be an effective third or fourth line forward that kills penalties and chips in the occasional goal.