Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Badini, O’Brien & Samsonov vs. Campbell

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I will share that the Toronto Marlies have signed four forwards to one-year AHL contracts. I’ll also share some information about those four players.

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Second, I’ll compare the recently departed Jack Campbell to the incoming Ilya Samsonov. Looking at their numbers prior to coming to the Maple Leafs, I’ll suggest that Samsonov might have the ability to help the team this season just as much as Campbell did last season. Finally, still considering the goalie situation, I’ll share a hope I have for the coming regular season.

Item One: Marlies Sign Four Forwards

Yesterday, the Toronto Marlies announced that the team had signed four forwards to AHL contracts. These forwards are Jack Badini, Brett Budgell, Zach O’Brien and Zach Solow. Each player signed a one-year contract.

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Jack Badini is a 24-year-old, who played with the San Diego Gulls last season. He scored two goals and added five assists in 46 games. From 2017-20, he played 97 games in three seasons with the Harvard University Crimson. Over those seasons he registered 24 goals and 27 assists (for 51 points). In 2017, he was a member of the Chicago Steel (USHL) who won the Clark Cup. Badini had been drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round (91st overall).

Brett Budgell is a 21-year-old, who was last season’s captain of the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders. In the 67 games he played there, he registered 40 goals and 39 assists (for 79 points). He also scored 20 points (on 12 goals and 8 assists) in 15 playoff games. Over his 270 career games with Charlottetown, he scored 107 goals and added 134 assists (for 241 points). Budgell played in the 2021 Traverse City Prospect Tournament representing the Maple Leafs.

Zach O’Brien is a 30-year-old, who played 53 games with the Newfoundland Growlers (ECHL) last season. In those games, he scored 28 goals and added 50 assists (for 78 points). That point total tied him for second place overall in points in the ECHL’s regular season. As well, in 13 playoff games last season, he scored 4 goals and added 14 assists (for 18 points). In 2019, his team won the Kelly Cup and he was named the Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP. O’Brien has already appeared with the Marlies, skating in 13 career games.

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Zach Solow is a 23-year-old native of Florida (of all places). He was a teammates of Adam Gaudette on the Northeastern University team in 2017-18. He’s played a couple of seasons in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves and the Milwaukee Admirals. Last season he also played with the Florida Everblades. 

Item Two: Samsonov vs. Campbell

When thinking about the Maple Leafs goalie situation in 2022-23, an interesting comparison can be made between Ilya Samsonov and Jack Campbell when they both came to the Maple Leafs. When Campbell came to the Maple Leafs in February 2020 from the Los Angeles Kings, he was basically seen as a backup goalie to play behind incumbent Frederik Andersen. Samsonov arrives with a stronger playoff pedigree, having at least share the starting role with the Washington Capitals.

Jack Campbell Los Angeles Kings
When Jack Campbell came from the Los Angeles Kings, he was a backup goalie.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Before he landed in Toronto, Campbell’s best NHL season was in 2018-19, when he put up a strong .928 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 2.30 in 31 games (but he only registered a record of 10-14-1 for a Los Angeles Kings’ team that went 32-41-9 on the season).

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Samsonov’s best NHL season was in 2019-20, when he played 26 games with the Capitals. In those games, his numbers were worse than Campbell’s. His save percentage was .913 and his goals-against-average was 2.55.

However, their playoff performances show that Samsonov performed better than Campbell. Playing in five playoff games last season with the Capitals, Samsonov had a save percentage of .912 and a goals-against-average of 2.97 against the Florida Panthers. On the other hand, as Maple Leafs’ fans know, Campbell’s save percentage was .897 and his goals-against-average was 3.15 in seven playoff games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ilya Samsonov Washington Capitals
Ilya Samsonov, when he was with the Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Campbell’s last season with the Maple Leafs paid him $1.65 million. Samsonov will play one season with the team for $1.8 million. Should he perform well, he’ll be a value-added roster member on a team that has the highest betting odds (after the Colorado Avalanche) for winning the Stanley Cup. 

One can only hope that Samsonov performs well and puts himself into a position where he deserves a more lucrative contract next season. Obviously, that’s a double-edged sword, but it’s a problem for next season – not for the present.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

In my last post, I offered hope for the season that John Tavares would have a point-a-game season. Some readers balked, suggesting that Tavares is past the point where he’s capable of scoring that many points. We’ll see.

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In this post, speaking of goalies, I’ll offer hope that one of the two goalies on the Maple Leafs’ roster has a huge bounce-back season. Obviously, the Maple Leafs are taking a risk with the two goalies they brought to the team. I’m hoping at least one of them will have the kind of season where they carry the team.

Last season, the team set a franchise record with 115 points. In that season, even with the high level of regular-season success, the team’s goalie play was suspect. Imagine how well they would be able to play with elite play from one – how about both – of their goalies.