It’s finally over. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ season may have ended in April, but their prospects have been playing for much longer. Unfortunately, the Toronto Marlies’ season came to an end yesterday as they were eliminated by the Hershey Bears in the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals in five games. On a much brighter note, Mitch Marner, J.J. Piccinich and the London Knights won the 2016 Memorial Cup.
So now that all of the Leafs prospects are done playing, it’s time to look at next season. Which prospects might be playing for the Maple Leafs in the 2015-16 season?
Starting with juniors, it’s all but certain that Mitch Marner will make the jump to the NHL. After his domination of the OHL, there is nothing left for him to do in junior hockey. He won the MVP award for the OHL and CHL regular seasons, the OHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup. The Leafs sending him back down to the Knights just seems like it would be a waste of his talent. He could play with the Leafs to start the season with the Leafs. Depending on how the season is going, they can still elect to let him play in the World Juniors and bring him back to the Leafs afterward.
No other of the Leafs junior prospects really have a chance to play with the Leafs but plenty could make the jump to the Marlies. Piccinich, Andrew Nielsen and Travis Dermott could be candidates.
In terms of Marlies graduating to the Leafs, it’s all about how many roster spots actually become available. We know William Nylander will make the team for sure. After getting called up at the trade deadline, he was never sent back to the AHL until the season ended. Other forwards that are good bets to make the team are Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov. Both players impressed during with their time with the Leafs and look to be Mike Babcock favorites.
Who Else Makes The Cut?
With defensemen, it gets a little interesting. You have Connor Carrick, Stuart Percy, Victor Loov and Scott Harrington all in the conversation for one, maybe two spots. Carrick probably has one of the spots locked up. He looked great while up with the Leafs and was one of the Marlies best defensemen in their playoff run. Percy and Harrington are intriguing because, starting next season, they will have to go through waivers in order to be sent down. Harrington made the team out of training camp last season but was eventually sent down. Unless Percy has a really good training camp, and even if he does, he could be dealt.
Unless the Leafs make a drastic change in goal, you can bet that one of Antoine Bibeau or Garrett Sparks will play backup next season. Past experience says that it will probably be Sparks that gets the spot but Bibeau could surprise all of us.
To finish it all off, we can all say for sure that Auston Matthews will also be with the team next season. He will probably be the only draft pick that makes the team, but you never know, maybe the Leafs will find a player with Pittsburgh’s pick or at 31. Remember, the Colorado Avalanche found Ryan O’Reilly at 33rd overall. That’s after drafting Matt Duchene with the third overall pick. The Leafs could use some of that kind of luck.