In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’m going to deconstruct general manager’s Kyle Dubas’ responses last week to the media interviews. At those interviews, among other things he was asked if any Toronto Marlies’ players might be able to step up to the big team’s roster. He said yes.
In this post, I’ll take a look at some of the players Dubas named and one player that he didn’t name. I’ll comment on what these players might mean to the organization in the near future.
Item One: Kyle Dubas and His Name Calling
When Maple Leafs’ general manager met the media last week, he was asked if there were players with the team’s AHL affiliate the Marlies that he looked forward to potentially moving up to the Maple Leafs’ roster. Not surprisingly, Dubas said there were.
In fact, Dubas didn’t hesitate and responded: “Yes, I do. And I expect that we will.” Interestingly, he then called out the names of several players.
Item Two: Nick Robertson Will Likely Move Up to the Big Team
Some of these players weren’t surprises for fans. For example, Nick Robertson was listed among those ready to step into a Maple Leafs’ roster position. Robertson will likely make the Maple Leafs’ roster out of training camp. The question is where he’ll fit. Who knows which of this season’s current players he’ll replace?
Although the 20-year-old Robertson dealt with another unfortunate injury in his still nascent career, he looked to have taken a big forward in his play this season. He certainly has had some things to learn, but he’s likely to become a part of the Maple Leafs’ team moving forward.
Item Three: Bobby McMann and Curtis Douglas Are Future Possibilities
Some of the other players Dubas named probably have some time left to hone their craft with the Marlies. Two of those players who might need more understudy time were Bobby McMann and Curtis Douglas.
McMann came from almost nowhere to set the record for the most single-season goals by a rookie in a in Marlies’ history with 24. He’s known for his unrelenting worth ethic. He’s a raw talent, but more of a talent than people might have initially thought.
Douglas is a player with great size, which makes him an interesting project. If Douglas were ever to play an NHL game, he’d be the largest forward ever to play in the NHL. Both Douglas and McMann seemed to be tapped on the shoulder for bottom-six roles one day with the team.
Specifically, Marlies’ general manager Ryan Hardy spoke about Douglas as a prospect suggesting that “he is 22 years old with a 6-foot-8 body… If we can have patience, when he gets to be 24 or 25 years old, he can be a tremendous asset to this organization.”
Item Four: Young Center Pontus Holmberg Is an Up-and-Comer
Dubas also named Pontus Holmberg as a player who had a good start with the Marlies. Specifically, Dubas noted that Holmberg “was a sixth-round pick in 2018 and he played exceptionally well for them and we feel he’ll challenge for the (Leafs) roster here next year. He played on the Olympic team, he’s won a championship in Sweden.”
What’s interesting about Holmberg is that he’s a center who seems to have a tremendous upside. Looking forward to the future and the possible move of second-line center John Tavares to a role as a second-line winger, who will the Maple Leafs replace him with. Moving Tavares to the wing soon seems like a no-brainer. However, that puts the organization short on centers.
Might Dubas be thinking about Holmberg in that position? In the Swedish Hockey League, which is a quality league, Holmberg scored 41 points in 46 games with Växjö Lakers HC. Holmberg also registered two assists playing for Team Sweden in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing this season.
Holmberg won two awards in Sweden last year. First, he was presented with the Stefan Liv Memorial Trophy as SHL Playoff MVP after his Växjö Lakers HC won the SHL Championship. Second, he also won the SHL award for the Swedish Forward of the Year.
Holmberg was drafted in the sixth round (156th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Maple Leafs. He’s obviously on Dubas’ radar. Immediately when he landed with the Marlies, he became the center of the team’s top line. Although his AHL stint was short, his explosive start has earned him a look during training camp.
Item Three: So, Where’s Josh Ho-Sang on Dubas’ List?
One player I’ve been tracking this season is Josh Ho-Sang. However, he wasn’t mentioned in Dubas’ list. Is he in the Maple Leafs plans?
In a recent exit interview, Marlies GM Hardy was asked about Ho-Sang. As Maple Leafs‘ fans might recall, Ho-Sang came to the organization desperate for another chance to play hockey after his reputation of questionable behavior had made him persona non grata with many organizations. In fact, Ho-Sang noted he would “tape sticks” to be part of the Maple Leafs’ organization.
Hardy spoke at some length about Ho-Sang. He noted that “Josh and I spent an incredible amount of time together talking about hockey and talking about life. He is a young person that has a very unique perspective on a lot of things. He thinks about a lot of things in a different way than hockey players traditionally do.”
Hardy added two more thoughts. First, he noted that Ho-Sang’s last game “against Belleville was his best game. He was competitive and consistent in his effort throughout the game and the flashes of dynamic traits that he has started to shine through.”
Hardy added that he had met with Ho-Sang earlier the day of the interview and that he felt the young hockey player had “set a foundation going forward for him that can continue to build on and grow.” Hardy also noted that “he (Ho-Sang) is a quality young person. I enjoyed (past tense, my note) working with him.”
Reading between the lines, I’m looking for Ho-Sang to show up with another organization. I’m guessing his time with the Maple Leafs is over.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Obviously, as the Maple Leafs move forward into next season, there will be trades to make, players to re-sign or allowed to leave, and tons of discussions among the Maple Leafs’ brain trust about what the roster will be next season.
One thing Maple Leafs’ fans can take from last week is that there will be players from the Marlies who will move onto the Maple Leafs’ roster. Who exactly those young players will be isn’t known yet.
Already, before the 2022 Stanley Cup has been hoisted, training camp is on the horizon for a lot of young players within the Maple Leafs’ organization.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf