The first two articles in the Toronto Marlies series were on the depth of the forwards and defense from that team down. Both of those lists had over 20 names in them each, but for the goalies, the list is shorter, so I thought, “why not throw Freddy and the Leafs backup debate right at the top.” So I did. Enjoy the goalie breakdown.
First, we’re going to evaluate all the goalies in the organization, then look at lining them up in all three leagues at the end.
Frederik Andersen - 29, Leftie (requires waivers)
Contract: 2 years, $5 million
Freddy is the starter. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
The Maple Leafs don’t have a backup goalie committed to any money or term, which appears to be just the way they like it. Garret Sparks was supposed to headline this list, but instead he’s in Vegas fighting with Malcolm Subban.
Garret Sparks and Malcolm Subban running into each other at Golden Knights training camp pic.twitter.com/Ss44Z2giRZ— Summer Lad ️ (@HardevLad) July 24, 2019
Michael Hutchinson - 29, Rightie (requires waivers)
Contract: 1 year, $700,000
Hutch was the saviour that came to the Leafs at the end of December when the goalie situation was looking most dire. Andersen and Sparks were within phases of injured, and Kasimir Kaskisuo and Eamon McAdam were struggling mightily in the AHL. In came Hutchinson, and he was able to stop the bleeding in the NHL long enough to stabilize the team in time for the second half of the season.
With his red pads in hand, he moved down to the AHL and became the Marlies’ starter. He put up good numbers with the team after some awful years in Florida. He told reporters during that transition that he felt like he gelled with the way the Marlies ran their defensive systems much better than in Florida. It was just a better fit for everyone. If it wasn’t for Kaskisuo finding a hot streak in the playoffs, Hutchinson likely would’ve started the postseason for the Marlies.
Kasimir Kaskisuo - 25/26, Leftie (requires waivers)
Contract: 1 year, $675,000
Speaking of Kaskisuo, he had an awful first half of the season. His second half was salvaged somewhat when he was able to be play as the #2 behind Hutchinson in the second half. In the playoffs, Kaskisuo was given the chance to be the starter and went on an unbelievable hot streak for the first half dozen games.
As the Marlies got into the second round of the postseason, the magic for Kaskisuo started to wear off, and he began to play like a sub-par AHLer once again. He was saved by the Cleveland Monsters losing all reason to live after getting stomped at home in Game 3. There were signs that Kaskisuo wasn’t going to fare well against the (eventual champions) Charlotte Checkers, but he was nonetheless the starter in all conference final games.
My theory for why the Marlies did this with Kaskisuo — despite it being clear that Hutchinson was the better goalie — was because they wanted to know what they had in Kaskisuo; whether he could be trusted as the team’s starter and #1 in front of a rookie #2 like the ones we’re going to talk about below. I’m not sure what decision they came to, but with Hutchinson under contract, Sparks gone, Neuvirth presumably in, and Woll/Scott in the fold, I don’t see any space for him anymore.
Michal Neuvirth - 31, Leftie (will require waivers if signed)
Contract: Pro Try-Out
Neuvirth is a very interesting subject. Technically, the Maple Leafs don’t own him, but unless things go really wrong, or Hutchinson pulls off an amazing training camp, he’s poised to become the Maple Leafs’ 4th backup goalie in the four-year Mike Babcock era. People (including me) forget Jhonas Enroth.
Neuvirth is a Dave Hakstol guy, with both coming over from Goalie Mecca Philadelphia this summer. He is everyone Babcock likes in a backup; older, consistent (for the most part), and boring as heck. In his past five stints with teams where he played more than 20 games in a season, Neuvirth posted a .915 or better four of the five times. There was one blip in 2016-17, but it was on a Flyers team that stunk.
If there’s one thing Mark Hunter did right, it was draft these two goalies. They’ve both progressed further and better than what we could’ve expected. Now, both are ready to move into the pro leagues so the question moves to who plays where and why.
Joseph Woll - 21, Leftie (waivers exempt)
Contract: 2 years, $800,000
Woll put up a very impressive final season for Boston College, who had an awful season in front of him. He then graduated, and moved to Toronto to work with the Maple Leafs staff in their facilities for the entirety of the spring. I’ll rank him in the AHL next season purely because of the age factor. We really won’t know what exactly is in store for these two until after AHL camps.
Ian Scott - 20, Leftie (waiver exempt)
Contract: 3 years, $805,833
It was a Great season for Scott in the WHL. He won several awards throughout the season, and carried his Prince Albert Raiders team to the WHL title. He credits his spring with the Marlies in 2018 for a lot of his confidence and development off the ice. I’m not below flattery.
Whether he’s the AHL backup or the ECHL starter, he’s going to get a lot of playing time in the pro leagues. And for anyone asking, Prince Albert do not expect him back for an overage season.
Zachary Bouthillier - 19, Leftie (no contract)
Bouthillier was drafted in the 7th round in 2018, but as they say in racing, he doesn’t have a drive for next season. He was given an ECHL contract for the back end of last season with the Growlers that turned into an ATO with the Marlies, but none of that turned into anything for this upcoming season. With the way the depth chart is shaping out, Bouthillier might find himself out of the Leafs organization by June 1st 2020 (when his rights expire).
Maksim Zhukov - 20, Leftie (one-year AHL/ECHL contract)
Zhukov was initially a Vegas Golden Knights draft pick, but fell into the same position as Bouthillier. Now 20-years-old, he has an ECHL spot lined up behind one of the Leafs two top prospects.
The Marlies or Growlers currently do not have any old guys under contract. I expect that to change closer to September.
Well, I do have one story on a former player that would’ve fit in this section.
The Growlers had college free agent Michael Garteig as their starter last season and he won them the Kelly Cup. Garteig has now moved on to the Finnish Liiga, playing for Tappara. In an interview he gave with his local newspaper, Garteig revealed that he was offered the “veteran backup” job on the Growlers behind one of the Maple Leafs’ top prospects. As that indicated to him that he would be the #6 in the organization, he took his talents to one of the best leagues in Europe. All the best to him there, by the way.
Goalie Depth Chart
NHL Starter - Frederik Andersen
NHL Backup - Michal Neuvirth
AHL Starter - Michael Hutchinson
AHL Backup - Joseph Woll
ECHL Starter - Ian Scott
ECHL Backup - Maksim Zhukov
So, after all that noodling and the Garret Sparks trade, this is what I have for the Maple Leafs organization moving forward. The team has a bona-fide top-10 NHL starter in net. A good backup who can play between 20-30 games. A #3 who likely isn’t as good, but is more than capable of putting up strong numbers in the AHL and slip in for emergency NHL duty. Following them, two rookie prospects who should get between 30-40 starts each in the pros. After that, a #6 goalie. I wouldn’t have minded an older guy there, but it is what it is. Not going to complain about the ECHL backup.
Now, you may be asking where Kaskisuo is. Well, I couldn’t shove him into a spot anywhere in this depth chart — he’s not good enough to be your AHL starter, he’s not a prospect so why would you play him more than your top prospects, and I don’t think he’ll accept the ECHL backup job — so I’ve mentally had him traded to another team that needs an AHL guy after theirs got snatched up on waivers. It seems harsh, and it is, but there’s only six jobs and you have to fill a role or there’s an army of goalies behind you who will steal your place. Teach your kids to shoot right.