When the Toronto Maple Leafs opened the 2015-16 NHL season, they did it with almost none of the AHL’s Marlies on the roster. The lineup featured many of the players the Blue and White signed to one and two year contracts, many veterans who needed a fresh start and second chance.
Fast forward to the latest game. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not only playing with numerous Marlies on their roster, those same players are leading the charge and are carrying the team. Gone are names like Dion Phaneuf, Shawn Matthias and Roman Polak. In their place, the Leafs roster boasts Stuart Percy, Brendan Leipsic, Victor Loov and Josh Leivo.
The list will only continue to rise as the trade deadline takes a toll on the team. With names such as P.A. Parenteau, Brad Boyes, Michael Grabner and James Reimer all in play, who knows exactly what this team will look like next week? Let’s take a closer look at some of the production from the recent Marlies.
Josh Leivo, Forward
The forward has arguably been the best Leaf on the ice for the last few games. People always knew that he had an NHL shot to go along with the on ice smarts. The knack was always in his skating and stride. Many saw this call-up as Leivo’s last chance to show the organization what he was worth.
#Leafs Josh Leivo has a goal in 4 straight games. He had just 2 goals in his first 20 career NHL games.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 26, 2016
If that was the case, the native of Innisfil, ONT has made quite the case for himself. He has goals in four straight games for the Buds and I’m not talking about rebounds or crashing the net. I’m talking beautiful shots that showcase his power, timing and release.
Brendan Leipsic, Forward
Another Marlie who is getting a chance on the big club due to injuries to some of the regulars, Leipsic, has not looked out of place, thus far. Leipsic was acquired by the Maple Leafs in the trade that sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to Nashville. The former third rounder was having a great season with the Marlies where he had posted 37 points in 49 games.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 14, 2016
He was then called up to the Maple Leafs and has made his way into three games so far. He skates well, is hard on the puck and is willing to go into the dirty areas in order to score or set up a chance. He scored a beauty of a first goal against the Vancouver Canucks by batting the puck out of midair.
As more of the Maple Leafs continue to be shipped out, one can only wonder which Toronto Marlies are on their way up next. Will we be seeing dynamic Russian, Nikita Soshnikov? How about college standout, Zach Hyman, who has excelled in every role he has been given as a member of the Marlies this year? Maybe Tobias Lindberg, who was recently acquired in the Phaneuf trade?
Then there are the big boys. Connor Brown may see some time with the big club. And who could forget William Nylander, the prized pick and future of the franchise? While it may be a good idea to get these young players a taste of NHL action, it is also wise to consider that they are members of the Marlies, who sit 41-9-4 and are first in the AHL, and will need these players for their run.
Leafs management is smart and has a concrete plan of how to win. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they continue to give the Marlies looks in the NHL, then return them to the American Hockey League in time for the playoff run. The Marlies are ready to make a deep run and possess legitimate Calder Cup aspirations. Any experience that their players get in the NHL can only benefit the team in the short term and the Maple Leafs in the long run.