The Toronto Maple Leafs’ weakest area this season seems to be the defense. Multiple mistakes from pretty much every blueliner have cost the Leafs more than a few games already. We’ve seen defense pairings being broken up and reunited, veterans making more mistakes than younger guys and a defenseman once again being stuck in the press box.
Yesterday, we looked at the defenseman currently on the Leafs’ roster. Today, it’s the Marlies turn. So let’s take a look at what defensemen are the next wave because the current one isn’t doing so well right now.
The current captain of the Marlies, Campbell probably won’t see much time with the Leafs unless there is a rash of injuries. He did manage to appear in six games last season and managed to get one assist. Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft, he has only played 42 career games. Unless he moves to another organization, it looks like Campbell is a career minor-leaguer at this point.
Dermott was the Leafs’ second-round pick in 2005. After playing two more seasons with the Erie Otters, he made his way to the Marlies and played one game during their playoff run last season. Now entering his first pro season with the Marlies, he is currently tied for fifth in points. One of the Leafs top defensive prospects, it’s unlikely that the Leafs want to call Dermott up this season. While he could get the last game of the season treatment if the Leafs are out of the playoff race, it’s better he get’s a full season of development. Although, he could have a chance to win a job at training camp next season.
Originally drafted in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, Justin Holl ended up with the Marlies last season on an AHL-only deal. After recording 21 points in 60 games in the 2015-16 season, the Leafs signed him to a deal in the offseason. While not likely, he is a candidate to be called up.
Once very high on the Leafs’ depth chart for prospects, he has fallen down considerably with the Leafs rebuilding. Playing in his fourth pro year, three of which have taken place with the Marlies, time is running out if Loov ever wants to crack the Leafs’ lineup permanently. In last season’s destruction of the lineup, he appeared in his first four NHL games and even got two assists. However, it would be surprising if he ever goes on to be a full-time member of the Leafs’ roster.
Selected 31 picks after Dermott in 2015, Nielsen breaks into the Marlies lineup at the same time. Last season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League, he recorded 70 points in 71 games, which was a 46-point jump over his totals from the season prior. He got into five games with the Marlies at the end of the regular season but did not play in the playoffs. Now eight games into his first full season, he is currently third in Marlies scoring, behind only Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen. That’s pretty good for the fourth guy picked by the Leafs in 2015, behind Mitch Marner, Dermott and Jeremy Bracco.
Drafted 68th overall in 2014, Valiev rose up the depth charts very quickly. After being drafted, he played one more season with the Kootenay Ice of the WHL in 2014-15 before joining the Marlies for the final two games of the season and playoffs. Last season, his first full professional one, he actually played 10 games for the Leafs at the tail end of the season and didn’t look bad. He stands the best chance of being called up if there is an injury or two.