Maple Leafs Favourites to Land Goalie Mantas Armalis
The Maple Leafs organization has done a bang up job of amassing prospects and draft picks. There are of course areas that will need to be improved upon if the Buds want to seriously be considered a contender. Goaltending depth is a big one, and with the departure of James Reimer, the club is thinner than ever.
Jonathan Bernier is only signed through next season. While he’s had good stretches, he’s also underwhelmed at key times. Garett Sparks was a Marlie until playing a handful of games this season. He’s looked good, but also has much to learn. Antonie Bibeau is plying his trade in the AHL and has had a great season for the first place Marlies, but he is also unproven at the NHL level.
The Leafs haven’t been shy to search all over the hockey world for a player that cold make their team better. The latest potential acquisition is Mantas Armalis, a Lithuanian born goaltender, currently playing for Djurgardens in the Swedish league.
The 23-year-old has put up some decent numbers this year and has gone 16-16 with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He also boasts two shutouts in 34 games this season. Not that it’s of any merit to his hockey career, but Armalis also doubles as a male runway model.
The Leafs are believed to be the frontrunners to sign the young netminder, with the Carolina Hurricanes also in the mix. It would be a good move for the Blue and White, as Armalis would fit the rebuilding age and would help shore up a goaltending position that has been shallow for a number of years. He’s also a free agent and is worth the risk on a one or two-year deal.
Plus, if he signs in Toronto, his nickname could be Blue Steel. I promise that will be the last Zoolander reference I make in this article.
NHL Draft Fast Approaching
It was reported on Saturday night by Sportsnet’s, Damien Cox, that the NHL Draft Lottery will take place on April 30th. The NHL has tweaked the lottery odds this year and there will be three separate draws for each of the first trio of picks. This basically means that if the Maple Leafs finish the season last, the worst case scenario will see them fall to fourth overall in the order.
The ideal situation for the Maple Leafs would be that they win the lottery and have the chance at picking first overall. The prize of course is Auston Matthews, the big American born centre that many teams are coveting. The Finnish duo of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are expected to go high as well, and don’t forget OHL products like Matthew Tkachuk and Alexander Nylander.
The Maple Leafs will be in a unique position come June. They will have their own first round pick which will range anywhere from first to fourth. It is also looking more likely by the day that they will have the first rounder of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This pick was acquired as part of the Phil Kessel deal.
the 2016 first round is pretty top heavy. If the Maple Leafs keep the Pens 1st rounder, they can use one of their 2nds to move up 5-6 spots
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) March 1, 2016
With the Penguins currently sitting in playoff position, getting the pick looks better and better. They are hot at the right time and have gone 8-2 over their last ten and have beaten teams like the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals.
Assuming the Buds get the Pens pick, they could potentially use a second round pick, of which they have two, and make a move up a few spots. The ideal target would be a solid defender like a Charlie McAvoy or Olli Juolevi. It all depends on if they are able to move up and if they are, how many places.
Mock drafts and standings watching is only going to intensify as the season wraps up. You can bet that the entire organization will be keeping a close eye on how everything shakes down.