Well kids, it is finally over and the fun is only just beginning. Although I still hold a fairly large grudge over the lockout and won’t be fiscally supporting the league this year in silent protest, there is still be plenty to write about especially when it comes to the seemingly inevitable roster movements that are going to occur in the AHL and with the Marlies.
Somewhere you have to imagine Dylan Yeo had a pretty darn big grin on his face when the tentative agreement was announced. Why you ask? well imagine being a professional athelete and being told that you get to play every 5th game moving forward. Not so much fun in my mind but Yeo managed to hide his frustration pretty darn well and was a real trooper by putting the team first and deserves to be applauded for his patience/character. With the Maple Leafs training camp almost underway, it appears that there will be a number of holes on the Marlies roster to fill, at least in the short term and here is what we should most likely expect over the next two weeks.
Well, we might as well start with the Marlies defense core which is going to be essentially gutted as a number of d-men are expected to head to Maple Leafs training camp after showing significant potential this year and I don’t think anyone is really going to be surprised by this.
Noticeable absent may be Paul Ranger, whom has all but re-established his skill set as an NHL capable defenseman. I was a little curious by this and after doing some research it seems that management is stating that Ranger has requested to stay in the AHL this year and for the remainder of the AHL contract that he is currently on. As much as I believe he would make an immediate impact, the rumoured reasons for his original departure from the game and his request to slowly re-integrate into the hockey world, you really have to respect him and his wishes and by doing so will solidfy the teams relationship with that player whom should they decide to return to the NHL would be a very welcomed addition to the squad.
With all that being said, it does gives another opportunity for the remaining hopefuls. Jake Gardiner upon his return from a rumoured concussion is all but a shoe in however in the meantime someone has to fill the spot until he returns. With Ranger not attending and Gardiner out I would suspect that Mike Kostka, Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser will head to training camp to show what they can do. Each have slightly different games and skill sets that differentiate them from one another and I believe at least two of the three will stay up with the Leafs at the start of the season, albiet temporary and as a number 6 and 7 defenseman.
This could further be supported by the recent PTO (Professional Try Out) contracts announced by the Leafs for defensemen Ryan Grimshaw and Corey Syrvet both who have been associated with the Leafs after attending rookie camp or Marlies camp if memory serves me correctly. Well…who are these guys anyways and what do they bring?
Born Jan 28 1990 — Rochester, NY
Height 6.00 — Weight 195 — Shoots R
— Regular Season —
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/-
2012-13 Trenton Titans* ECHL 23 3 3 6 4 -2
*courtesy of HockeyDB
As with most of my opinions, which are primarily based upon available statisctics Grimshaw is relatively young, decent sized and puts up the odd point. The ECHL Trenton Titans currently sit at the bottom of their division and it looks like it has been a bit of a revolving door player wise so that could very well account for the +/-. Captain at Harvard University and a member of the under 18 National Team Development Program in the U.S. (US NTDP), Grimshaw was noted to be a solid stay at home defenseman and could potentially replace Holzer on the Marlies blueline (at least comparatively speaking of course).
Born Feb 19 1989 — Millgrove, ONT
Height 6.02 — Weight 200 — Shoots L
Selected by Florida Panthers round 6 #181 overall 2007 NHL Entry Draft
— Regular Season —
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/-
2012-13 Alaska Aces ECHL 32 1 17 18 32 +10
*courtesy of HockeyDB
Syvret is an interesting addition and has been loaned to the Marlies from the ECHL Alaska Aces. Appears to have size, grit and a little more offense than Grimshaw although one should remember that the Aces where stockpiled with NHL talent during the lockout and this could have inflated his number slightly playing with the likes of Dubinsky, Gomez, Crabb and Thompson. However on the flip side playing with that caliber of player can only but help in ones development.
All in all they appear to be two serviceable replacements and if the Leafs/Marlies are annoucing these two additions, perhaps that means they intend to keep two Marlies up. Hopefully Kostka is one of them, he really has patiently built his game up and as a late bloomer (a la Jason Garrison) really does deserve a lengthy audition.
I think one can safely assume that both Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin will head to camp, their names have been mentioned way too often in the Twitter rumour mills and Kadri as a natural center may get a lengthier audition if a certain goalie is traded for, sending a Leafs centerman the other way hint hint. Frattin is also a big strong winger and could technically steal someones job with a decent showing. Don’t make the mistake of counting out Joe Colbourne either, his size and amazing hands gives him a natural advantage over others and his game has returned to the right track after being derailed by injuries last year. Keith Aucoin is a point per game AHL’er and has seen time in the NHL, given his skill set I would not be surprised to see him on the squad at some point during the season.
There may be some camp attendee surprises as well, so don’t count out Ryan Hamilton. The Marlies captain has the size, grit and scoring ability to be a decent power forward at the next level and at minimum could be a valueable fourth line winger either to start or as an injury replacement. Same goes for Carter Ashton who is a big physical young man that could have an impact as he grows into the role over time.
Thankfully some of the younger Marlies rookies will now see more ice time a la Ross and McKegg and with the additions of Devane and Crescenzi, it will definitely inject a little more younthful vigor into an already pretty young and hungry team. Veterns like Ranger and Zigomanis will definitely have to step up and continue to lead by example.
With the recalling of Mark Owuya who spent time with the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers, posting a record of 3-3-0-0, with a goals against average of 2.97 and a 0.904 save percentage lends to the rather easy argument that Ben Scrivens is headed to Maple Leafs camp. There were also rumblings that Jussi Rynnas may also be given an opportunity and I would hazard a guess that if there is an annoucement of a goalie PTO (Andrew Engelage anyone?) then we can safely assume that will also be the case.
Dallas Eakins definitely has his work cut out for him now in the coming weeks, integrating new players into an already pretty youthful squad but you couldn’t ask for a better man to take on that task. One must remember that the AHL is a developement league and it isn’t all about the winning but it would certainly be nice to see the Marlies continue on their roll even with some of their upper tier players heading out. Plenty of Marlies possibilities with the big club and we haven’t even hit training camp yet.