2015 -2016 Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Camp Roster Invitees

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been busy pretty busy this summer, whether it be at the draft or trading Phil Kessel they still found a way to throw together a pretty solid prospect camp up in Collingwood (with the Pan Am Games in town their regular facilities were unavailable). Unlike previous years, there was a complete revamp of the camp that focused primarily on player growth as opposed to a skills demonstration with scrimmages like in previous camps. There was an absolute tonne of invites extended this year and for the entire list of players attending see the official list below:


As in previous years there were some interesting invite’s extended along with the younger Maple Leafs drafted prospects (including but not limited to the likes of Nylander, Marner, Gauthier, Kapanen, Brown, Verhaeghe, Johnson, Finn, Valiev, Loov and others). Can’t imagine people were familiar with a number of the included names so I decided to throw together a bit more information on each of those that might be considered legitimate Maple Leaf prospects and who might be worth acquiring. Below are more details on the top four prospect forwards, defensemen and two goalies. The remainder are summarized after.


1. Gabe Guertler
20 years old
5’9”, 190lbs
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

One of the more interesting forward invitee’s to camp, Gabe Guertler overaged with the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL after leaving the University of Minnesota to pursue what one can only assume was additional playing time (it is fairly well known that rookies very rarely see top line minutes at University south of the border). There is also a connection with Kyle Dubas, the former GM of the Greyhounds which most likely lead to the invite. Put up pretty solid season points and is known for solid faceoff percentages and skating but it was mentioned that he needs to work on his defensive zone coverage and composure (noted to take unnecessary penalties).

Future Considerations had a really interesting article on Guertler when he was still playing on the USHL’s Fargo Force which can be found below:


2. Michael Joly
20 years old
5’11”, 172lbs
Right Wing
Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Joly who hails from Gatineau, Quebec had his season derailed by injury but was most likely already on the Leaf’s scouting staff radar given that he plays on the same team as Fredrick Gauthier. Potentially viewed as undersized, Joly was passed over twice in the draft but did attend camp with the Buffalo Sabres last year and possesses some intriguing qualities one of which is summed up nicely in the video below:

Joly appears to at least statistically speaking be a pretty clutch playoff performer however according to WildcatMapleLeafs28 on HFBoard’s who has watch Joly play quite a bit this last year “He has good IQ , great hands and a shot but isn’t the best skater and doesn’t play a 200 foot game”. Would be curious to see his advanced stats as it may have been the reason an invitation was extended. Maple Leafs Hot Stove also had an interesting article about his attendance which can be found below:


3. Alex Kile
21 years old
6’0″, 190lbs
Left Wing
University of Michigan (Big-10)

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Kile produced solid numbers in his sophomore season playing with Zach Hyman at the University of Michigan, putting up 26 points (13 goals) in 36 games; he is a great combination of size (6’0″, 190lbs), speed and silky smooth hands. The 21 year old winger appears to have grown in terms of both physical size and overall game and at the same point in his career has surpassed both Casey Bailey and the aforementioned Hyman and is an intriguing invitee to say the least. There was a great review over at SBNation/MaizenBrew found below:


4. Nikolai Skladnichenko
20 years old
6’0″, 198lbs
Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Skladnichenko is already playing in the KHL with some regularity, putting up 5 points in 16 games with Metallurg this past season. Has good size at 6’0″, 190lbs and was selected to the Russian World Junior U20 team in 2014 while also being included on the roster for the Subway Super Series in 2013. It is mentioned that he has an incredibly hard wrist shot although beyond that there really isn’t a whole lot of information out there about him. Put up 50 points in 42 games as a 15 year old playing in the GMHL (junior A) for the Bobcaygeon Bucks before returning to Russia. Could be another interesting name to watch out for.


1. Gavin Bayreuther
21 years old
6’1″, 195lbs
St. Lawrence University (ECAC)

After being passed over in previous drafts, Gavin Bayreuther could be another prime example of a late blooming defenseman who is just starting to find his stride and is currently regarded as one of the top offensive defensemen in the NCAA. Know for an absolutely blistering slapshot and solid offensive awareness with great vision, areas of potential improvement mentioned include both skating and conditioning. The Canaan, New Hampshire native and cousin to current NHLer Ben Lovejoy of the Anaheim Ducks could be an interesting dark horse prospect if Barb Underhill can get here hands on him on a regular basis. Here is a great overview of Bayreuther by powerplaycj14 over on Youtube:

2. Nikolas Brouillard
20 years old
5’11”, 168lbs
Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

Potentially another case of teams being scared off by a players size especially given the position he plays, Brouillard has been passed over at the draft and two training camps despite posting some pretty impressive offensive numbers in the QMJHL. It was reported via le Soleil that the Maple Leafs had already been in touch with Brouillard’s agent even before the end of the season and that an invitation to the development camp was extended right after the draft; given the assumed interest I am looking forward to seeing if there is another invitation to come. Appears to have offensive awareness, skating and hands but it was mentioned that his defensive game needs work (along with all other offensively minded defensemen it seems).

3. Aiden Jamieson
19 years old
6’2″, 185lbs
London Knights (OHL)

A definite Mark Hunter invite given the team Jamieson plays for, he would be quite familiar with the player who for all accounts is a solid defenseman with decent puck moving skills and ability to drive play (given the number of assists he racked up last year) with size and room to grow. Bill Placzek over at DraftSite.com had this to say about Jamieson:

“Terrific skating rearguard who is a second year eligible. The issue is that he has balance issues during contact, so he is less engaging than you expect. Plays lighter than he is. Has developed a bit more but this a long term developmental prospect.”

So potentially another late bloomer that has potential and size who I would not be disappointed to see invited to prospect camp.

4. Connor Boland
20 years old
6’3″, 194lbs
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhouds (OHL)

The Whitby, Ontario native completed his overage year with the Soo Greyhounds after being traded from the Peterborough Pete’s with Nick Ritchie (a team he captained) putting up totals of 22 points in 61 games and finishing the season with a plus/minus of 20. Given the familiarity that Kyle Dubas has with the Greyhounds it was good to see Boland’s included as you can be assured there is something he may know about the prospect over other teams scouts that could be advantageous to the club.

Three games into the 2012-13 season, he was diagnosed with mononucleosis and missed seven weeks. A big strong defenseman who plays with an edge and beat attackers who go one on one with him. A solid passer in transistion. Bill Placzek at DraftSite.com

You have to root for a guy that also throws hits like the one below at a camp no less :)


1. Alex Lyon
22 years old
6’1″, 200lbs
Yale University (ECAC)

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Alex Lyon was quite possibly the most recognizable name invited to the Maple Leafs development camp, an undrafted goalie playing for Yale who has put up the best statistical numbers of the entire ECAC with a 1.62 goals against average paired with a .939 save percentage along with 7 shutouts which landed him the Ken Dryden Award as the league’s most outstanding goalie. Chances are Lyon will return to Yale and will therefore be ineligible to join the Leafs for the upcoming rookie camp but definitely a player to keep a tab on.

“You knew what you were going to get every day at practice, every weekend going into games. He has the right combination of physical ability, mental toughness and hockey sense. To me, that’s why he’s a really good goalie.” Keith Allain, Yale Coach via the New Haven Register.

2. Lucas Peressini
20 years old
6’2″, 188lbs
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB.com

Taking the majority of the starts for a fairly average Frontenacs team, Peressini posted the second best Goals Against Average (GAA) in the entire OHL last season behind Ken Appleby of the championship Oshawa Generals and eventual Memorial Cup winners, not bad company to be in which also landed Peressini the OHL Goaltender of the Year award for his efforts.. Possesses decent size at 6’2″ although I was amazed to see comments made online that he was considered small for a goalie.

There was a great article on the Whig about Peressini which can be found below:


So there you have it, outlines of some of the more interesting invitee’s to attend the Maple Leafs development camp but by all means were not the only ones that attended that may be worth watching in the months/years to come. Below are small snippets of the remaining invitee’s who attended.


Stephen Baylis is a 20 year old winger playing Junior A for the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) who was in the top 10 in terms of overall points in the league with 69 points in 54 games who possesses good size at 6’0″, 186lbs. Has incredible speed mixed with equal parts grit.

Scott Eansor is a 19 year old center who just finished his second year with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL putting up 37 points in 72 games; possible playoff performer with 5 goals in 6 playoff games. Undersized at 5’9″ 170lbs who’s season was severely impacted by a bout of mononucleosis, has good speed and above average hockey sense.

Viktor Liljegran is a 21 year old native of Stockholm, Sweden currently plying his trade as a left winger with R.P.I. of the ECAC. Put up 12 points in 40 games playing as a rookie but possesses size at 6’3″ 200lbs and at one point lead the team in goals. Danny Martin of newsminer.com had a good article about him found here http://www.newsminer.com/sports/ice_dogs/newcomer-liljegren-adjusts-quickly-to-ice-dogs/article_11c526fe-30b7-11e3-b034-001a4bcf6878.html

Kevin Rooney is a 22 year old centre who just finished up his third year playing for Providence College putting up 15 points in 41 games. Good size at 6’2″, 190lbs who is a solid two way forward with good faceoff skills.

Zack Saar is an absolute monster tilting the scales at 6’5″ 236lbs and at only 22 years old could find his game catch up to his rapid growth. Had a disappointing sophomore season but could be one to watch out for if he can put it all together as you just “can’t teach size”.


Matthew Abt is a 21 year old good Albertan boy finishing up his freshman year with R.I.T. putting up 9 points in 33 games. Possesses size at 6’4″, 180lbs who’s development should be monitored in the coming years.

Brien Diffley is a 20 year old finishing his freshman year with Boston University where he put up 11 points in 40 games. Also possesses size at 6’2″, 184lbs. SB Nation has a great article about Diffley found here http://www.sbncollegehockey.com/hockey-east/2015/6/25/8844947/2015-nhl-draft-prospect-brien-diffley-boston-university-defenseman-ncaa-bu

Nolan Gluchowski put up a solid 16 points in 29 games as a rookie defender for St. Lawrence University. The 21 year also has some size at 6’0″ 196lbs and has ties to Babcock, see article here http://www.miprepzone.com/oakland/results.asp?ID=12189

Jordan Gross is a solid offensive defenseman putting up 28 points in 42 games for Notre Dame. The 20 year old is a little undersized at 5’10” 177lbs. Bill Placzek over at DraftSite.com has this to say about Gross Long term developmental defenseman prospect who displays exceptional mobility, and feet. Possesses a huge deadly shot. Makes a good breakout pass and handles the puck well. Needs time to get bigger and stronger. Was named to the U.S. World Junior A roster for the Junior A Challenge.

Cameron Lizotte is a 17 year old patrolling the blueline for the Peterborough Pete’s of the OHL who put up a modest 9 points in 67 games with an unusually high number of PIM’s. Has NHL size at 6’2″, 193lbs and is characterized as a rough and tumble type of player. Originally cracked the NHL Central Scouting rankings at 99 but remained undrafted, Lizotte may be a project worth spending more development time with.

Brendan Miller deserves an honorable mention and I really should have included him in my outlines above. At only 21 years old, the 6’1″, 190lbs defensemen put up a staggering 55 points in 65 games playing for the North Bay Battalion, adding a further 12 points in 15 playoff games. It is almost a mystery how he went undrafted and here is hoping the Leafs add him to the upcoming main camp taking place later this summer. Brock Otten over at OHL Prospects had this to say about Miller “Miller’s had an absolutely fantastic OHL playoffs, which is obviously something scouts key in on. He has good size and plays in all situations for North Bay, including helping to quarterback their powerplay. He’s also slowly developed into their premier puck rusher/mover, but has added more of a physical element to his game this year. At 6’1, 200lbs, Miller has the size to develop into a quality two-way player at the next level and has blossomed under the tutelage of Stan Butler.”

Will Reilly is a 17 year old from Toronto playing for the North York Rangers of the OJHL. Put up 35 points in 47 goals and has good size already at 6’2″, 190lbs. Looking forward to tracking his progress over the next couple of years. McKeens had a great write about him found here http://www.mckeenshockey.com/uncategorized/scouting-william-reilly-2015-nhl-draft/


Collin Delia put up solid numbers with Merrimack College with a 1.86 Goals Against Average and 0.937 Save Percentage. Has size at 6’2″ 190lbs and was scouted by a number of Division 1 schools. Another strong candidate to watch for in the coming years.

Justin Nicols is an interesting addition who originally signed at ATO with the Toronto Marlies of which more information can be found at The Leafs Nation here http://theleafsnation.com/2015/4/21/marlies-sign-justin-nichols-to-an-ato Not often you see expressed interest in a goalie that only stands 5’9″ so definitely curious to see him play at camp.

Quite an interesting trend of some larger bodies who were invited to camp mixed in with a couple of definite dark horse prospects. Looking forward to seeing who in the coming months gets invited to camp as there are definitely a couple I am personally keen to watch.

2014 – 2015 Toronto Maple Leafs Establish New Multi-Tiered Prospect System

With summer free agency looming, there is a pretty good chance that the Toronto Marlies along with their East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) affiliate Orlando Solar Bears will be pretty busy this summer. Both clubs managed to secure playoff berths this year but were unfortunately eliminated in the first round of the Calder and Kelly Cup playoffs respectively. With changes coming at MLSE in both their approach and philosophy on how to best leverage an ECHL affiliate, a new multi-tiered prospect system appears to have been proposed where both the ECHL and the AHL will serve as legitimate destinations for prospects. With that in mind, there is a pretty good chance that both teams will be fairly active on the trade and or acquisition front this summer and although these moves will most likely not be reported in the mainstream media, none-the-less could significantly increase the number of legitimate prospects the Maple Leafs would have in their system moving forward.

The assumed multi-tiered approach especially for a team with the kind of financial backing the Leafs have makes too much sense and it is strange that they didn’t implement it earlier. There are always going to be late round picks and undrafted players who will excel at different rates and being able to bring those types of players that show long term potential while being able to keep a close eye on them could increase the ability of the organization to discover and essentially hold the rights to these diamond in the rough type players. Examples for the sake of argument of such players that have attended Leafs prospect camps in the past included Charles Sarault and Adam Hughesman who are 23 and 24 years old respectively. Both took longer to establish their professional games but both have made their way up to the AHL and shown consistent progress. Dane Fox was in a similar situation this past year, after going undrafted the 21 year old was signed by the Vancouver Canucks and put up solid numbers (30 goals) in his first professional year with the ECHL Kalamazoo Wings. Its these types of players that teams really should have invested more time in but they had neither the roster space, cap space or the patience.

On the players side of the equation it use to be more lucrative to head to Europe if you didn’t make the NHL after a couple of years after turning pro instead of continuing to stick it out in the AHL/ECHL. With the new multi-tiered approach, if you offer prospect players, especially the younger ones a more structured environment with the potential to move up through the organization from one of the proposed tiers (AHL or ECHL) and give them access to first class facilities, living arrangements, staff, coaches etc. then it becomes a lot more desirable for those players to stick it out in North America. It may not be all that well known but the Orlando Solar Bears are an absolute first class organization who are well supported within their community, have great facilities and have plans to build another training facility consisting of two practice pads at nearby Winter Gardens, Florida in the near future. Let’s also not forget that getting paid to play hockey in Florida could be a fairly desirable for a young prospect and these examples of the tangible differences could very well sway some prospects to join the organization over another.

In previous postings on this blog we covered some of the players the Maple Leafs had already started to acquire with this multi-tiered system in mind. It is quite plausible that recently acquired players like T.J. Foster and Erik Bradford start their professional careers in the ECHL and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. They will be given every opportunity to play much larger role along with more minutes as opposed to sitting in the press box with the Marlies all season but will also push them to succeed given the opportunity to move up in the organization if they exceed expectations at that level. The same can be said for players that are not performing at the AHL level, they could be move to Florida to work on their game, reestablished their confidence and play more meaningful minutes. It’s a win win situation no matter how you look at it.

If we apply the thinking expressed above to the acquisition of longer term projects/prospects for the ECHL affiliate there are a couple of players currently playing in that league that the organization should consider taking a look into acquiring especially given the success they found with Byron Froese.

Matthew Register is a 25 year old native of Calgary, Alberta that has been plying his trade as a defenseman in the ECHL and is showing progress each year after turning professional. Solid +/- while putting up on average 45 points over the last two years in the ECHL, he recently spent 6 games with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) and put up 4 points. At 6’2”, 205lbs (Wikipedia has him at 6’4”, 200lbs), the undrafted defenseman has size and the innate ability to put up points that might make him ready to make a jump to the AHL but at minimum could be a solid acquisition for the Orlando Solar Bears next season.

Jason Bast is a 25 year old center from Regina, Saskatchewan who finished up a Canadian university career with St. Francis Xavier two years ago before turning pro. In his first full year with the ECHL Idaho Steelhead, Bast put up 52 points in 52 games, 30 of which were goals. Although slight at 5’10”, 190lbs he may have shown enough skill to consider taking a closer look at so that the team can more appropriately determine his potential at the AHL level and at worst he could also assist the Solar Bears next season. There was a great article about Bast on Hockey’s Future found here:


Tyler Barnes, a Burnsville, MI product plied his trade with the University of Wisconsin for four years before turning professional and joining the ECHL Toledo Walleye. Possess soft hands putting up 74 points in 71 games and as a rookie joined the ECHL All-Star squad. May very well be another dark horse the Marlies should consider given their lack of depth scoring the teams appears to be suffering from. Decent size at 6’0”, 198lbs, Hockey’s Future had this to say about Barnes earlier in his career:

“Barnes is a competitor, who shows a positive character at all times. His key strengths are his ice awareness, creativity with the puck as well as being noted as a goal scorer. He’s also noted for having a good shot and good hands. Though Barnes has not quite stopped growing, he plays big for his size. He has earned a lot of praise when he plays hard and does not shy away from physical game. Said to have limitless potential if he continues to develop at the base as he did over the last 2 years. He does need to display a consistent hard work ethic, gain overall strength, and learn to use his speed more effectively.”

With the additional roster space that may finally be realized now that the Maple Leafs will have more flexibility to send younger prospects to the Orlando Solar Bears to play more meaningful minutes and the likes of Colton Orr and Fraser McLaren unlikely to return to the team there is the potential that the Toronto Marlies may still yet sign more players over the summer to fill out their roster. In my opinion below are some of the players the organization should consider acquiring if they are not resigned by their current clubs (it is believed most are restricted).

Greg Nemisz’s career has in short been plagued by injury and if ever there is a team to take a more long term position with him, it is the Maple Leafs organization as they won’t have any need to fast track his career and have the resources to assure he is given every opportunity to succeed. At only 24 years old there is still time to turn it around for the former first round pick (25th overall Calgary Flames in the 2008 NHL draft) and he has shown flashes at being an effective center with the size 6’3”, 197lbs to back it up. Nemisz signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes in July 2014 and may be available this summer. Hockey’s Future has this to say about Nemisz:

“Nemisz, a former first round pick by Calgary, has the size and hands to be an NHL forward, but needs to avoid injuries and put everything together to get back on track. When healthy he can drive the net hard while showing his soft hands in tight and has solid decision-making skills along with good defensive instincts. The lanky winger needs to increase his overall strength to help the physical side of his game in order to become a power forward in the NHL.”

Given his most recent injury there may be a chance the Hurricanes decide not to resign him and in my humble opinion the Leafs should consider adding him to their system given the potential risk/reward.

Danny Kristo was drafted in the second round, 56th overall by the Montreal Canadians in 2008 but was included in a trade to the New York Rangers during his four year tenure at the University of North Dakota. A former Fighting Sioux teammate of Matt Frattin, Kristo’s AHL numbers look almost identical to Frattin’s and at only 24 years of age may be another ‘tweener’ that the Leafs should consider as a potential player for the upcoming NHL season if he can crack the roster at camp. There is still every possibility that the Rangers attempt to keep Kristo but his prospects to play in the NHL may be greater with the Leafs. Here is what Hockey’s Future had to say about Kristo:

“At times, Kristo lacks the consistency and the work ethic needed to play at the NHL level but definitely not the skills. He has quick acceleration, a powerful stride and uses his explosive speed to help make space for him offensively. The talented winger is equally fast with or without the puck and has developed the ability to shoot the puck while in full stride toward the net with a quick, accurate release.”

Tomas Kundratek has been quietly plying his stay at home defensive skills in the AHL and been patiently awaiting an opportunity to join the Washington Capitals full time. The 25 year old Czech Republic native appears to be a fairly solid all round defender with some ability to put up points and is essentially in the same position as TJ Brennan, one of the best defenseman not yet in the NHL. If something can be worked out with Washington and/or they do not resign him for some reason, this may be another prospect worth taking a shot at. Here is what Hockey’s Future had to say about him:

“Kundratek is a solid all-around defenseman with a good cognitive game in both the offensive and defensive zone. He possesses a good shot and a solid first pass out of the zone while still being capable in his own end. While he could definitely improve his reads defensively and his strength, Kundratek has developed well since his early days in the Czech Republic and his curve has been a positive one. He could still stand to pack on a bit of muscle as well.”

“Tomas has been slowly developing over time in the AHL and got a solid stay in the NHL in 2012-13. He very much is on the cusp of being a mainstay in the NHL. While he doesn’t do anything spectacular he has been solid in many regards for a young dman still finding his game.”

So there you have it, there are prospects out there at the lower levels that the Maple Leafs organization should consider looking into and really no stone should be left unturned this summer. Now that there is a new structure in place there is no excuse to acquire a significant number of prospects over the summer outside of the draft. With that being said with respect to the upcoming draft there is a good chance that there will be a couple of players that go undrafted that may be worth taking a risk on and the club should immediate attempt to sign them to AHL contracts. Could be a really interesting summer if this keeps up.

Toronto Marlies Begin Late Season Acquisition Spree for Potential Playoff Run and 2015 – 2016 Season

A change in direction, if not a change in philosophy has definitely become apparent when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their renewed focus on restocking a once depleted prospect system after years of neglect. In recent weeks it seems that they were quite literally leaving no stone unturned with a number of signings from some rather un-Maple Leaf like areas including the Kontential Hockey League (KHL) and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).

The moves appear to bear the ‘Mark’ of ‘Hunter’ (groan) and fans should be excited, not so much by the caliber of the players obtained but by the sheer fact that the team is starting to step outside of its own comfort zone, flexing their financial muscle and taking on higher risk with the potential for reward type players they may not have considered in the past. They are also signing a number of these players to AHL contracts as opposed to entry level deals meaning they don’t count again the teams 50 player cap; something the Leafs should have been doing for years. With a continued affiliation with the Orlando Solar Bears there is also the potential that some of these players will start next season in Florida with an opportunity to make an impact for a solid Orlando team with an envious fan base, while playing a fair number of minutes to help in slowly acclimatizing them to the rigors of the professional game all with the potential to join the Marlies at a later date. So without further ado here are the players that have joined the club in recent weeks.

Jack Rodewald
Right Wing
Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Born Feb 14 1994 — Winnipeg, MAN
Height 6.02 — Weight 188 — Shoots R
*statistics via HockeyDB.com

21 year old Rodewald spent this past season as an overager with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL and after going undrafted last year managed to put up solid points and expressed continued growth in his game. Any prospect you can pick up without having to burn a draft pick or an entry level deal is just good risk management. Rodewald is signed to an ATO for the remainder of this season and an AHL contract next year so the Leafs didn’t have to burn another NHL SPC on him and he wont count against the player cap. Spending some initial time in Orlando and bringing him up to the Marlies after some seasoning next year might be the best for both parties, from an ice time perspective as well as from a development perspective. Appears to have some size and is said to have decent skating, this low risk signing was another positive step forward.

Erik Bradford
Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Born Oct 19 1994 — Orangeville, ONT
Height 6.00 — Weight 191 — Shoots L
*statistics via HockeyDB.com

Bradford has bounced around a little but the 20 year old ended his last season with the Owen Sound Attack putting up 73 points in 69 games. He suffered a badly broken femur earlier in his career which may have impacted his skating and stumped his development cruve but what can be found about him indicated that he is a talented player with above average hockey IQ, a good shot and is solid at both ends of the ice. Will be joining the Marlies on a ATO for the remainder of the season and if his development was impacted by the mentioned injury there is a definite chance he could be a savvy acquisition.

Reggie Traccitto
Defense — shoots R
UPEI Panthers
Born Jul 5 1989 — Oakville, ONT
[25 yrs. ago]
Height 6.00 — Weight 207 [183 cm/94 kg]
*statistics via HockeyDB.com

Traccitto is a former Niagara IceDog who went undrafted even after putting up 38 points as a defenseman in his final OHL season. Has solid size at 6’0″ 207lbs and has been brought in on an ATO contract for the remainder of the season and appears to be in a position where he will be a depth player for the team during the potential playoff run where management will most likely have more time to have a closer look and evaluate him during the period.

T.J. Foster
Right Wing — shoots R
University of Alberta Golden Bears
Born May 28 1992 — Slave Lake, ALTA
[22 yrs. ago]
Height 5.11 — Weight 175 [180 cm/79 kg]

*statistics via HockeyDB.com

22 year old Foster is a Slave Lake, Alberta product who was, up until recently, playing for the University of Alberta Golden Bears who he lead to two national championships while putting up 42 points in 28 games. The former Edmonton Oil King signed a 2 year AHL contract with the Marlies and is set to join the club next season. Any time you can pickup a player that is putting up points at an above average rate at his level is worth the risk.

“Pros: Good stickhandler. Decent shot. Decent Skater. Always goes to prime scoring areas. Cons: No physicality. Could improve his defensive awareness” SEPH at HFBoards.com

Nikita Soshnikov
Forward — shoots L
Moscow Oblast Atlant – KHL
Born Oct 14 1993 — Nizhny Tagil, Russia
[21 yrs. ago]
Height 5.11 — Weight 183 [180 cm/83 kg]

*statistics via HockeyDB.com

21 year old Soshnikov signed a three year entry level contract with the Maple Leafs recently after going undrafted but progressing up through the KHL minor league system where he put up solid points and has shown growth every year since. There are things you have to like about his game that were summarized in the video above, he appears to posses good speed, solid hand eye coordination and a willingness to dig in the corners and take the puck to the net. It will be interesting to see how this will translate to the North American game but you have to like the fact that Soshnikov is willing to report to the AHL if necessary, something he stated after signing the agreement.

With the above taken into consideration and with the players that will be joining the organization next year (including Frederik Gauthier, Carter Verhaeghe, Andreas Johnson, Tony Cameranesi and potentially Max Everson) there is going to be a significant influx of youth into the organization. Only time will tell but this could potentially bode well for the Marlies as well as the Maple Leafs prospect cupboards if even a couple of these players develop and make the next step to the NHL.

2014 – 2015 Toronto Maple Leafs Road To Rebuilding the Fourth Line and Defensive Core

With the pending ground up rebuild coming to Leafs land, there is a significant opportunity that may be presenting itself to a number of Maple Leaf rookies currently striving to make the jump into the NHL or back to the NHL given the number of roster spots that may become available over the summer. If management does indeed decide to ship the likes of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Tyler Bozak out and free agents such as David Booth, Trevor Smith, Joakim Lindstrom, Zach Sill and Eric Brewer are not resigned, it will leave no less than 9 roster spots open; depending on whether or not the team acquires young roster players in any of the larger pending transactions that are pretty much set to happen this off season.

In terms of replacing top six forwards, of all the players that are set to becoming unrestricted free agents (UFA’s) at the end of the year, management in my opinion really should attempt to retain the services of winger David Booth who has reacted positively to an increase in ice time adding 5 points in the last 6 games recently and 8 points in the past 17 games since being added to the top six at the beginning of February. If the Leafs do ship out the likes of Kessel and Lupul, Booth would be a valuable veteran top six player that has the potential to put up points and at worst may be an inexpensive resigning. He is also driven to rekindle the type of success achieved earlier in his career and may be the kind of lead by example player the team will surely need in their room; Booth is in phenomenal shape and his tenacity on the ice could be contagious.

There is however a lack of free agents this summer who may be available to the team that could potentially slot into a top six roll; of those who are available, not many would be interested in joining a team in the midst of a complete rebuild or they may command significant contract dollars or term in order to entice them otherwise. Leafs management will need to practice patience this coming off season and stick to a proper rebuild through the draft while also waiting to see what UFA’s remain before the start of the season in an attempt to sign viable players to short term deals who could be dealt at the trade deadline for draft picks. Although one hates to admit it, for the short term especially if the team trades the likes of Tyler Bozak, they may need to consider utilizing Nazem Kadri as the top line center while bringing in the likes of a Brad Richards to fill the 2C role.

There are also two avenues the team may need to consider for next season with respect to how they will approach rebuilding the fourth line. The current unit are all UFA’s at seasons end and given the teams struggles there is little chance they will be retained. However do the Maple Leafs build out the line with free agents who could add some bulk to the corps while remaining defensively responsible OR do they bring up prospects currently with the Marlies to garner valuable NHL experience which could be the more logical long term investment.

In terms of the third and fourth lines the Leafs already have a decent third line made up of Leo Komorov, Peter Holland and Richard Panik but the entire fourth line is open for debate. This is where it may make sense for management to focus on building a workhorse fourth line from available free agents that could also be a force on the PK. Perhaps they consider pending Boston UFA’s Dan Paille and Greg Campbell along with Avalanche grinder Cody McLeod. It would also not surprise me if the team looks at the likes of Daniel Winnik again along with Chris Stewart for supporting roles who can also chip in the occasional point with the ability to play up and down the lineup.

That being said the team should also consider putting together a young Marlies fourth line and focus on getting more young players into the lineup, who could play sheltered minutes. Although there has been plenty of discussion circulating about Connor Brown and William Nylander, who are having solid years in their own right with the Marlies, both players could use some additional seasoning in the AHL to develop both physically and on the defensive elements of their games. Nylander is just 18 and Brown 21 and with some trying seasons coming for the Leafs it may make sense for both players to continue enjoying success in the minors and take more prominent roles with the team. The Marlies look poised to become even younger this summer which will increase the overall importance of players like Brown and Nylander to take more prominent roles with the club.

That being said there are still a couple of players currently with the Marlies organization that the Maple Leafs could consider extending camp tryouts to that may be able to make an impact next season who will also be very cap friendly and are at a point in their development where playing at the NHL level may be the best thing for them. Some players have been left off the list below given their relatively young age, as it just makes more sense to continue their development with the Marlies for another year logging a lot more significant minutes however below are some who may make sense to consider:


LW Age Center Age RW Age
Josh Leivo 21 Sam Carrick 23 Matt Frattin 27
Jamie Devane 24 Byron Froese 24 Connor Brown 21


TJ Brennan 25 Andrew MacWilliam 24
Stuart Percy 21 Petter Granberg 23

Josh Leivo has made considerable strides at the pro level over the last two years with a couple of cups of coffee with the Maple Leafs where he managed to produce a couple of points. A right handed shot, left winger like Lupul, Leivo at times looks almost bored at the AHL level, he has an NHL release and it might almost be necessary to bring him up for an extended look to give him a shot in the arm especially given his potential and the positive impact it may have on his development.

Sam Carrick has also been up and down between the two leagues over the last year and didn’t look completely out of place. An extended look on the fourth line if the team does not resign Trevor Smith, which seems likely given the change needed to the teams direction, may give him an opportunity in sheltered minutes at center to determine if he can make an impact on the draw and play against NHL players on a regular basis. His tenacity alone may be worth the positive impact it could have on other players.

Matt Frattin appears to have re-established his game and his confidence levels have returned to a point where he is making smarter decisions with the puck, using his body and has become a go to player to generate goals for a young Marlies squad. This may be his last chance to make an impact at the NHL level given his age and it will be up to him to grab the opportunity and run with it.

TJ Brennan may have been the most patient player in the AHL over the last two years, who has done absolutely everything necessary to be given a legitimate shot at the NHL. However after leaving the Marlies for the New York Islanders, he was part of a trade to the Chicago Blackhawks who’s depth chart was no better. A late season trade back to the Maple Leafs for Spencer Abbott finally saw Brennan called up to the Leafs recently and it is expected he will slot into the lineup on the teams upcoming road trip. Long overdue but very much warranted.

Andrew MacWilliam played his first NHL game in front of his parents the other day against the Buffalo Sabres and did not disappoint, garnering his first professional point (see the 1 minute mark on the video below with his cross ice pass) an assist on Brandon Kozun’s goal and landing recognition as the third star of the game. Hopefully the Leafs will continue to rotate him into the roster for the rest of the season to get a better idea of where he may fit in to their future plans.

So the team has two options to explore over the summer with respect to rebuilding their fourth line and some decisions to be made on which young players would be best to integrate into the defensive core for next season, with a number of positives and negatives for each to weight. Here is also hoping that the team also considers leaving a spot or two free, in terms of the number of players they have signed next year, as an assumption could be made that there will be a player or two worth picking up on the waiver wire especially given the cap situation some of the other teams are in.

Given how passionate and knowledgeable this fan base truly is, the team will hopefully consider acquiring and fielding as many young prospect players as they are able who have the potential to grow with the team over the next couple of seasons. They would be at the very least entertaining to watch and along with their own development may help re-develop a passion for the team long lost in the circus that has been the last couple of seasons.

2014 – 2015 Newest Toronto Maple Leafs Member and Current Toronto Marlie Brendan Leipsic

With respect to the trade announced recently between the Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the more interesting pieces of that deal coming back to Toronto that will have an immediate impact on the Toronto Marlies was prospect Brendan Leipsic along with a late first round draft pick and veteran centreman Olli Jokinen in exchange for Leafs defenseman Cody Franson and versatile forward Mike Santorelli. As far as a rental transaction goes both teams made out pretty well. The Predators come away with two solid players that will definitely bolster their roster for a lengthy playoff run with coveted right handed and offensively minded Franson who has a previous history with the team and versatile winger and center Santorelli who can slot up and down the roster. The Maple Leafs on the other hand come away with a coveted first round draft pick in a really deep draft year and a veteran centerman that may be another asset to trade away if his audition with the team goes well; with rumors the Leafs would seek a lower round draft pick for his services, which would make perfect sense for the team and a veteran player who would love nothing more than going on a lengthy playoff run. The remaining piece was prospect center Brendan Leipsic which at first glance appeared to be an undersized agitator with upside but upon further investigation revealed that he is much, much more.

Leipsic was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the third round, 89th overall in the 2012 draft and looking at his statistics (via HockeyDB.com) they paint a much more interesting picture:


The 20 year old Leipsic put up some solid numbers on a dominant Portland Winterhawks club during his last two years of junior and in his rookie AHL season has been impressive, putting up a solid 35 points in 47 games while keeping his PIM’s down, which is equally impressive given some of the situations he found himself in back in the WHL, including a personal favorite, ‘bottle gate’:

While going through some of the highlight videos available on Leipsic, he appears to be a solid passer that has good vision while being quick and agile on his skates. His stats indicate a pass first mentality which could be pretty dangerous is you pair him with the likes of Connor Brown, William Nylander or Matt Frattin. Many thanks to SEER Video via YouTube for throwing this one together:

The talent analysis at HockeysFuture.com lends to our assumptions made above, although it is interesting to note they have him listed at left wing. With the Marlies current lack of depth up the middle it will be intriguing to see where he plays for the rest of the season and even more so next year when the likes of centers Frederik Gauthier, Carter Verhaeghe and Tony Cameranesi make the professional jump and join the Marlies ranks and who will end up slotting where.

“Leipsic is a small, energetic winger who hits everything that moves and makes life miserable for his opponents. The speedy forward is offensively skilled, a gifted finisher, and can produce on the power play. He needs to add strength, more consistency throughout the season, and play on the edge without going over the line. The physical winger could project into a top-six forward at the NHL level but at worst, a checker with some offensive upside.” HockeysFuture.com

At the end of the day the Leafs managed to acquire a top 100 projected prospect who while on the smaller size (conflicting reports have him at 5’9″ – 5’10” between 165 – 177lbs) has all the remaining tools to make an impact. Even more importantly for the club right now is influence Leipsic may have on the Toronto Marlies, a young club decimated by call-ups this year and who are thin down the middle at the moment. If you have to applaud the Leafs on one thing, they finally seem to have changed their antiquated view on the types of prospects they acquire and who they draft, electing to focus on overall skill level more than anything else. Would be curious to see if Leipsic’s advanced stats had anything to do with this as well. Looking forward to seeing who else joins the club before the end of the year.

2014 – 2015 Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Deadline Moves Will Open Up Opportunities

It really is no longer a question of if but a question of when. The Toronto Maple Leafs should, by now, be steeling themselves for an uncomfortable and complete ground up rebuild if Brendan Shanahan wants to make his mark and bypass the failures of his predecessors with the patch job mentality they applied to the team. Coaching changes only ended up further exposing that this particular team was poorly constructed; if your best offensive threats are putting in 100+ goals a year BUT are on the ice for 300+ against, that is a serious problem; regardless if a weak d-core was partly to blame. Combined with the wrong mix of offensively minded defensemen who were unable to turn the tide when facing other teams top lines, it really was only a matter of time before the final straw broke this camels back…in two…bits of camel flying everywhere.

A number of traditional media points (newspapers, radio, tv) are now throwing out odds of players being traded either before the trade deadline or over the summer and it appears that most are in agreement that a number of players are going to be traded away before the start of next season and I am sure most of us are all for it at this point given how the team has been playing. There has to be a parting of ways with the bromance we have with this particular collection of players; they haven’t been able to get it done and it’s time to break up with them. If the Leafs attempt to retain any players at this point in time they are kidding themselves. Any player over the age of 25 will be on the downturn of their career by the time this club is truly competitive again and more signings will only signal that Shanahan is taking the same route as his predecessors. The team should be Shanna-banning themselves from signing any player over the age of 25 for the next year or two (keeping the likes of Van Riemsdyke, Kadri and Reilly) unless there are UFA projects available on short team deals a la Mike Santorelli, David Booth and Mason Raymond; players the team may be able to turn into draft picks later on down the road.

Hard to say at this point who will actually be traded in the next couple of weeks but outside of the almost certain Cody Franson transaction (who they guestimate might be worth a late first round pick and a prospect, umm yes please) and Tyler Bozak who I still liked as a Leaf, just never in the first line roll he was pushed into (which was not his fault) the rumours the possible departures of Daniel Winnik, Korbinian Holzer, Mike Santorelli and Joffrey Lupul. Now if the Leafs are truly and I mean truly going to start from the ground up and stock pile both picks and prospects they should really also consider trading the following.

Listen to trade offers for Jonathan Bernier. The romantic notion held with Bernier needs to be ditched and one needs to look no further than the facts surrounding his tenure with the team. Bernier is 26 years old and by the time the Leafs are contending again he will be in his 30’s. He has shown signs of being a stellar goaltender but has also been derailed by nagging injury. Has put up decent numbers but perhaps we are at a crossroads, could his current trade value be enough to warrant parting with him? The Leafs have some young prospects in the pipeline and we really didn’t give up all that much to acquire him in the first place.

Roman Polak has proven to be everything we could have hoped for since the Leafs acquired him in the Carl Gunnarsson trade with the St.Louis Blues last year. A solid 5-6 defenseman with speed, heart and a daily axe to grind. For a team making a deep run into the playoffs he could be an asset that could draw some attention while being relatively affordable.

Jake Gardiner is sporting a pretty awful -21 this year. He is truly aggravating to watch while playing defense but sucks you right back in with a talented play in the offensive zone to the point where you are actually left wondering if he should just take a page out of the Brent Burns playbook and play forward for awhile. Unfortunately for him Morgan Reilly is a player of very similar style, younger with a higher upside and less expensive which may make Gardiner expendable. It might take some salary absorption to get a trade done but it may still be worth it if you land a high value, lower cap hit prospect in return.

Dion Phanuef was retroactively added to the IR but was slated for return before the March 2nd trade deadline and there is almost a palpable buzz surrounding him these days; it sounds like a couple teams are going to make serious inquiries about the Leafs captain to bolster their roster for a playoff run and it is rumored that the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars have all expressed interest in the 29 year old. In true Maple Leafs fashion, if anything, they have overvalued Phaneuf in terms of playing him as a number one defenseman and realistically he is more of a 2-4 and was never really comfortable as captain HOWEVER he is a solid asset and fans should not be surprised there is interest and a possible deal struck before the deadline. If a deal could be consummated that finds the Leafs saving cap space, any deal for Phaneuf could be the solid start to a rebuild the Leafs so desperately need.

If the Leafs are able to move a significant number of players before the end of the season for draft picks, one could expect that this could potentially work out in their favour. Firstly, it gives them a much better shot at drafting future core players for the franchise. For example, in the first round of the upocoming draft (at least at this time given the Leafs have the 6th worst record) this could very translate into the Leafs being able to draft a future core defensive defenseman they so desperately need like Ivan Provorov, who I believe Craig Button mentioned on TSN radio the other day may actually be the best defender available in the 2015 draft.

One of the other positives about stockpiling mid and low range draft picks right now for expiring UFA’s is that Mark Hunter now works for the Maple Leafs. This is the same Hunter who was successful in bringing players to the London Knights organization and building an incredibly dominant OHL club. Paired with Thommie Bergman in Sweden who has found high potential in a number of late round picks (Viktor Loov, Tom Nilsson, Andreas Johnson), it will be very interesting to see how these two men will make their mark on the Maple Leafs and potentially turn the teams draft fortunes around moving forward.

So with all the potential bodies moving out of the organization either by March 2nd or over the summer, the Maple Leafs will most likely start playing their prospects; if you are going to find a positive in this mess, that could very well be it.

In terms of forwards, the Leafs should bring up Matt Frattin immediately and play him for the rest of the year, no question. He appears to have rekindled his game again with the Marlies and the Leafs need to get him into the roster promptly to determine where he actually sits; he does currently lead the Marlies in goals. Josh Leivo has the size and speed to play at the NHL level and combined with a lethally accurate wrist shot should also be brought up and given a lengthy look. Brandon Kozun essentially made the Leafs out of training camp and brings a ridiculous amount of speed to his game and is another threat on the PK; injury derailed his season but adding him to the team could fill the void left by any potential departures and brings some additional bite to the PK. Troy Bodie and Jamie Devane should also be considered for the added grit they would bring that Don Cherry seems so desperate to add to their roster and both have upside if you compare them to Orr and McLaren, adding some bulk to the fourth line.

If the Leafs do indeed end up parting ways with Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson and even Jake Gardiner then the team should considering promoting both Stuart Percy and Petter Granberg, there is no better time for these two to get NHL experience without it having an overly negative impact on the club. They are already at the cusp of breaking into the NHL and the extended look may actually bolster their development. One other player that Leafs management should consider for promotion for the remainder of the season if a roster spot becomes available is Andrew MacWilliam, a solid stay at home defenseman plying his trade with the Toronto Marlies. Hockey’s Future has MacWilliam’s peg as a mobile defensive defenseman who has the innate ability to anticipate plays quite well, given that he is currently a +13 with the Marlies and logs large minutes is no coincidence. At minimum the 24 year old 6’2″, 220lbs could be returned to the Marlies and Viktor Loov could take his place.

For all the doom and gloom surrounding the team these last 12+ games, there are some honest to goodness positives to take away from this rather disgraceful season. At minimum, the team is going to stock their cupboards with some new prospects, add some valuable draft picks for this and next years draft and call-up some of their prospects for the remainder of the season (long overdue in my opinion). At best the team will be able to find homes for some under-performing and lengthy contracts giving the team more cap flexibility for the future and rid the team of core players who have been as a group at least a disappointment.

2014 – 2015 Toronto Marlies Add Center Bryon Froese; Advanced Statistics May Have Been Involved

It has been no real secret for those following the Marlies this year that the teams relative youth and inexperience has been a little more apparent with the off season departures of veteran goalie Drew McIntyre and AHL defenseman of the year TJ Brennan. They have had trouble finding the back of the net and with the loss of captain Trevor Smith and stalwart defenseman Korbinian Holzer to callup’s, rookies have been pressed into service with mixed results. Although it is important to allow prospects time to develop and see as much game time action as they are able; as a fan of the team, watching them lose a truck load of games in November and December was somewhat difficult.

Unfortunately this also appears to be further supported by some of the grass roots advanced statistics that are surfacing around the net these days where the lack of scoring has been attributed to the lack of scoring chances. Many thanks to Kevin McAllister (@joshweissbock) for the image below expressing Estimated Fenwick Close for the AHL:

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For those who are not quite familiar with all the new fancy stats seemingly coming out of nowhere this year from the hockey universe, Fenwick is essentially shot attempt differential excluding any blocked shots and the above clearly indicates that yes indeed the Marlies have had trouble scoring because they are not generating enough shot attempts versus the rest of the league. For a more in-depth explanation of Fenwick, Pension Plan Puppets has great article on it found below:


So the Marlies are being out shot and out scored which usually leads to losing, which really should not come as any great surprise. Thankfully however management seemed to be well aware of the problem and initially made moves back in early November to add a scoring or at minimum point generating forward. Mickey Lang, the reigning ECHL scoring leader from the Marlies affiliate Orlando Solar Bears was originally called up when the issue was becoming more apparent but the club suspended Lang before he could suit up in any games citing “personal reasons” which we can be sure was more along the lines of “conduct unbecoming a Toronto Marlie” which was unfortunate for the organization, the team and the player. Hopefully Lang is working hard to make amends. This however opened up opportunity for another player from the ECHL, enter Byron Froese.

Froese is a 23 year old centre from Winkler, Manitoba who was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 4th round of the 2009 NHL entry draft. A solid 6’1″ and 190lbs, Froese was riding a ten game point streak when the Marlies contacted the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL to consumate a loan agreement essentially allowing the Marlies to call up Froese for an undetermined period of time. What made this negotiation more specifically interesting was the fact that although the Cyclones are the ECHL affiliates of the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, Froese was only signed to an ECHL contract and was essentially available to any AHL team regardless of affiliation. The Cyclones director of new media and broadcasting, Nick Brunker had this to say about the seemingly unusual agreement:

“When any player is under an ECHL contract, such as Froese, he is eligible to be called up to any AHL team – not just an affiliate,” he said. “With Toronto in need of a forward, they were looking for a guy who can produce. Froese is among as hot as any player right now in the ECHL and certainly earned a promotion.” (via WCPO Cincinnati)

So far the move has proven incredibly worthwhile to the club with Froese contributing 6 points (4 of which were goals) in his first 7 games and the Marlies gaining some important ground after a pretty disastrous slide that has jeopardized their playoff chances. Although known to more of a defensive forward with an innate ability to chip in, if Froese can continue with the point production and sound defensive play he may find his way onto the Marlies or another AHL club in the very near future. A tandem of Froese and Rupert as bottom six centers in the near future if Carrick makes the jump, at least at this point doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. As always, puck for thought.