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Projecting the Marlies roster next season

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The Marlies of 2020-2021 are just a rough sketch of a team so far. But we can still get an idea of the shape of things, and the scale of the job to improve the picture.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Buffalo Sabres
One of many questions about the Marlies is who will graduate off the team.
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Previously in this series, I did the easy article where I looked at the drafted prospects unlikely to play on the Leafs in 2020. Some of them are going to hit the Marlies however. That list is here:

Then I tackled the NHL depth chart itself:

And now it’s time for the hard part — drawing the line between the AHL and the NHL and adding in the AHL-contracted players to sketch in the shape of the Marlies.

To begin, I just lopped off the top of the NHL depth chart all the players who absolutely, without doubt, will spend the season in the NHL. That’s not the same as the players you think or I think should be in the NHL or might be, or the ones who will play nine games or 40. It’s just the sure things gone, and this is what’s left over:

NHL-Contracted Players not NHL Locks

C LW RW D - L D - R G
C LW RW D - L D - R G
Frederik Gauthier Pierre Engvall Denis Malgin Rasmus Sandin Timothy Liljegren Joseph Woll
Nic Petan Kenny Agostino Jeremy Bracco Calle Rosen Jesper Lindgren Ian Scott
Kalle Kossila Pontus Aberg Egor Korshkov Martin Marincin Joe Duszak -
Adam Brooks - Max Veronneau Teemu Kivihalme Mac Hollowell -
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev - - Kristians Rubins - -
- - - Filip Kral - -

I moved Nic Petan over to centre where he plays in the AHL, but otherwise I didn’t fuss too much about forward position.

It’s very clear if you look at the full NHL depth chart that some of those guys left on here at the top will play in the NHL for the whole season. I don’t really think Rasmus Sandin is an AHLer anymore, and Frederik Gauthier seems to be earning an NHL contract one faceoff at a time. So if you mentally chop off the players you think are unlikely to be in the AHL, that’s a different picture.

Then, just for a moment, imagine players like Egor Korshkov or Pontus Aberg, who played a little NHL hockey and who might play more next year gone off this list. And then for fun, imagine some of these players gone in a trade, and... well, let me stick to the AHL-probable NHLers and add in the AHL-contracted players to see if this team looks a little less like they’d be competing for last place.

2020 Marlies on NHL and AHL Contracts

C LW RW D - L D - R G
C LW RW D - L D - R G
Nic Petan Kenny Agostino Jeremy Bracco Calle Rosen Timothy Liljegren Joseph Woll
Kalle Kossila Pontus Aberg Egor Korshkov Teemu Kivihalme Jesper Lindgren Ian Scott
Adam Brooks - Max Veronneau Kristians Rubins Joe Duszak -
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev - - Filip Kral Mac Hollowell -
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Bobby McMann - Justin Brazeau Noel Hoefenmayer - -
Colt Conrad - Scott Pooley - - -
- - Gordie Green - - -
- - Jeremy McKenna - - -
Players under contract to 2020-2021 or expiring NHL RFAs only.

The ~~~ marks the dividing line between NHL and AHL contracts.

It’s more people! And can I interest you in a discount bulk pack of right-wingers? One caveat on this list: I genuinely cannot imagine how I’d guess who is better between Colt Conrad and Bobby McMann or Filip Kral and Noel Hoefenmayer. The order here is less meaningful the lower down you go. The second caveat is that Timothy Liljegren and Calle Rosen are only speculatively added here. One or both might be in the NHL.

The other big problem with this list is that there’s another fuzzy border at the bottom of it, like the fuzzy one at the top between this and the NHL roster. Some of these players might be on the Growlers; some of them you hope will be because they got pushed down by better options. Will Justin Brazeau crack the mass of right wingers to make the Marlies? He impressed in the ECHL, but so did Scott Pooley, and he got the AHL callup first. Obviously some of those right wings will need to play left, but even so, this is a very incomplete roster.

There’s a very good reason for the sketchy nature of this list: most of the AHL-contracted players that were on the Marlies or Growlers in 2019-2020 are on expiring deals, so they aren’t here. Some of them are going to be re-signed, maybe a lot of them, but for the Marlies, that’s not necessarily a sign of hope for massive improvement.

The missing names from 2019-2020 who played significant games and made significant contributions on the team are:

  • Tyler Gaudet - NHL UFA
  • Tanner MacMaster - AHL FA
  • Hudson Elynuik - AHL FA
  • Garrett Wilson - NHL UFA
  • Matt Read - AHL FA (first year not on NHL deal)

Most of the rest of the Marlies who played more than a dozen or so games were traded away either in NHL or AHL deals. Most of the AHL-contracted players were full time Growlers.

The Marlies need to get really, really busy and find some players. I think we can expect a considerable number of NHL-contracted free agents of the sort that don’t excite anyone but the AHL fans. I think we can also expect a considerable number of AHL contracts to be handed out to familiar and new faces. I expect Elynuik and MacMaster to be back, and if Wilson wants to play in Toronto, they’d be foolish not to add the only guy other than Scott Pooley who played that nasty road trip in January like he thought he was paid to play hard.

But that’s not putting any scoring punch on the top six. And about that goalie situation — Ian Scott hasn’t played all year, and Joeseph Woll had a very rough first pro season. This team needs a starter, and the known commodities, other than UFA Kasimir Kaskisuo, are Parker Gahagen and Maksim Zhukov, who both played on the Growlers on AHL deals. Another outside chance is Zach Bouthillier. None of those choices, including Kaskisuo, are high-end AHL starters of a class with Garret Sparks. But maybe this isn’t going to be a season where the Marlies go looking for that level of netminding. They need someone, though, and maybe that someone will be a new face.

It’s really hard to look at that sketch of a roster and feel a lot of joy at the prospect of the Marlies next year, but Kyle Dubas and Laurence Gilman found ways to get the team to at least quasi-playoff level in this season after their top lines had been stripped bare. It’s easy to see how Nick Robertson would fit in there, though.

Can he claim to be a European import? Can we find a loophole to allow him on the team? No, unfortunately, we can’t. But there’s some European pros on the pipeline list who could crack this roster no problem. Maybe some help will come from that direction.

One day we’ll look back on this prospective roster and laugh. But for now, it’s obvious that the job of filling up the Marlies has barely begun. And like everything else in this weird not-offseason we’re stuck in, doing it now is difficult, but maybe necessary to beat the competition.