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Is T.J. Brennan the best defenceman in the AHL?

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The Marlies beat the Moose 4-1, and AHL All-Star T.J. Brennan is now tied with William Nylander in points. Just how good is he?

T.J. Brennan seeing some gloveless action with the Leafs in 2015.
T.J. Brennan seeing some gloveless action with the Leafs in 2015.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Is T.J. Brennan the best defenceman in the AHL?

To have a defenceman in sniffing distance of the top of the points race in a league is very unusual. As of this morning there's two guys at 36 points, and then there's Brennan and Nylander at 34. He could end up leading more than just his own team.

I took a look at the top defencemen in the league in even-strength points per game to weed out power play specialists and to be fair to the guys who haven't played as many games. I imposed a minimum of 12 games played to keep out the one-game wonders, and I also included goals and primary assists to see how each guy is getting his points.

A couple of things stand out: Brennan has a lot more goals than most guys, and he does have a high shooting percentage, but to get those goals, he has to be doing more than shooting from the point to get things started. Also, the guy in second place has played in the NHL this year and in the past, as have many others on the list.

If you put the forwards back in the mix, Brennan is 54th in the league right now. Which means he's scoring at a rate better than most of the top six forwards.

So what if he is the best defenceman in the AHL? Without any shots against data, it's really hard to say. He's had a few goes at NHL time, none of it significant enough to mean anything, so it's hard to guess how he'd fare with regular NHL minutes. But with so many bodies ahead of him on the depth chart, perhaps all he's managed is to vault over Scott Harrington. And bring Andrew Campbell with him.

Much love to the people behind prospect-stats.com

Marlies: 4 Moose: 1

Saturday January 9, 2016

The Marlies, coming off their win the previous night over the Moose started the game as they meant to go on. They outshot the Moose 13-7 in the first, and Ray Emery, getting another start for the Marlies was solid in net.  Antoine Bibeau and a reportedly healthy Garret Sparks have been sent back down from the Leafs, so he might have to wait for another chance.

The teams kept on at that pace in the second period, trading goals and finishing tied. Toronto's goal was scored by T.J. Brennan with an assist by Jeremy Morin, playing again on the top line, giving him a second point in his second game with the team.

In the third, it was as if the Marlies had solved the puzzle of good rookie Moose goaltender Eric Comrie, and the goals piled up like they often do when the Marlies have their full roster, which they definitely didn't.

All-Star Josh Leivo got a power play goal as the game-winner from Brennan and Brett Findlay, Morin got his first as a Marlie, also on the power play, from Findlay and Nikita Soshnikov, and Soshnikov capped off a very good night with a goal from James Martin.

Leivo—star of the night to my eye, barely edging out Brennan—led the team with 7 shots on goal, while Casey Bailey, held off the score sheet had 6.

Emery had some work to do in the later stages, made some good saves, and may have had his best outing this year. Shots on goal were 45-22 when it was all done, so it wasn't exactly hard work.

Brennan's goal and an assist moved him into a tie for third place in AHL points with William Nylander. They each hove 14 goals and 20 assists, but Brennan managed it in 37 games to Nylander's 27.

With Nylander expected to be out for some time as he recovers from what is believed to be a concussion, Brennan will have some time to take over the team lead. He'll have some competition from Mark Arcobello, who was sent back to the farm on Monday.