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Monday’s FTB: Four expiring draftees the Leafs/Marlies should sign

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Signing rights expire for some prospects today at 5pm.

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NHL: SEP 09 NHL Rookie Showdown
LAVAL, QC - SEPTEMBER 09: Look on Montreal Canadiens prospect Allan McShane (94) and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mac Hollowell (81) during the Montreal Canadiens versus the Toronto Maple Leafs Rookie Showdown game on September 9, 2018, at Place Bell in Laval, QC
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a normal year, the deadline to sign certain draft prospects with expiring rights is June 1st, at 5pm EST. This year is not normal in any sense of the word, so we could see this deadline extended. It is being reported that this deadline has been extended a month to July 1st.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have two players on this list, third-round pick Riley Stotts and goaltender Zachary Bouthillier. Defenseman Filip Kral was also on this list, but was given an NHL ELC and will join the Toronto Marlies when the 2020-21 season starts. Bouthillier has officially committed to college, so his rights under the Leafs are going to expire.

Stotts’ future is currently uncertain after being over a point-per-game as a 20-year-old in the WHL. There’s still a chance Stotts remains in the Leafs organization if he signs an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies, similar to what JJ Piccinich did in 2017 — he’s now succeeding with the Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL (St. Louis Blues/Vegas Golden Knights affiliate).

While Piccinich isn’t exactly the biggest success story, you never know when you find a diamond in the rough. The Leafs/Marlies have a strong history of finding undrafted or cast-aside prospects, and turning them into useful NHL players. Zach Hyman and Justin Holl being the biggest wins.

Below is this year’s list of cast-aside prospects that are now free agents. Some memorable names from draft seasons past. While most names don’t really garner any interest, there’s a few the Marlies could pick up on AHL contracts that would provide them a good infusion of depth and talent. Here’s four I think deserve a chance.

Allan McShane, C, Oshawa Generals

One of the presumed reasons why the Montreal Canadiens won’t sign McShane is that the organization is currently flushed with prospects and his lack of an eye-popping year in the OHL led to the team announcing he won’t be signed by them. The Marlies are markedly not flushed with AHL talent at the moment, especially at centre, so there is a natural succession.

McShane finished his final season with the Oshawa Generals with 23 goals and 67 points in 62 games. He succeeded on a top line on a bad-ish team, playing lots of minutes in offensive and defensive roles. I’ll be saying this about a lot of the players on this list, but he had numbers comparable to Leafs prospect Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, who played with one of the best prospects in the OHL, Leafs pick Nick Robertson.

McShane was the second-leading scorer on the Generals next to undrafted overager Brett Neumann. 2019 first round pick Philip Tomasino joined the team at the trade deadline, scoring 40 goals and 100 points between Niagara and Oshawa.

Eight goals and 23 points for McShane this season came on the power play where he was the net-front man. 42 of his points came at even strength. He matches up very similarly to SDA in terms of even-strength points per game. Where he falters is his 41% even-strength goals for rate, 15 points behind SDA on a similarly placed team. Last season, however, his numbers were much better. 62% goals for rate, putting him in the top-10 of his draft class.

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Mitchell Hoelscher, C, Ottawa 67’s

Oh, look! Another centre. Yes, there’s a bit of a theme here due to the fact that the Leafs are so starved at that position.

Hoelscher is best-known as a high-energy forward with a lot of skill who made the most of increased minutes on a stacked 67’s squad. He had 32 goals and 76 points in 62 games as the team’s sixth-leading scorer behind probable top-five pick Marco Rossi, Jack Quinn, two overagers, and Marlies prospect Noel Hoefenmayer.

On the second line, the vast majority of Hoelscher’s points came at even strength, putting him in the top-10 in even-strength points per game in his draft class this year. He also had a 70% even-strength goals for rate, which was second in his draft class behind only Liam Foudy. Caveat to those numbers is that he didn’t have to play top competition as those assignments were going to stop Marco Rossi from scoring 120 points in 56 games.

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The Hockey News has this to say about Hoelscher in late February, shortly before the hockey season ended. Speaking to his size, Hoelscher is listed at six feet tall, but quite light. For junior hockey, his size is fine, and it’ll likely be an area of development for whatever team wants to pick him up.

“An energetic forward, Hoelscher has found new life with OHL Ottawa this season, scoring 30 goals and 66 points (he had just 22 goals and 70 points across his previous 137 games). Having a team chock full of talent helps, but Hoelscher himself has brought immense skill to the roster and is scoring at a better pace than ever before. The more responsibility he’s given, the better Hoelscher seems to play, and that’s valuable for a player set to turn pro next season. An energy guy with a renewed license to score makes him an attractive option for the Devils, but his lack of physicality could hurt his chances of making the NHL in a bottom-six role.” - Steven Ellis, The Hockey News

Hoelscher, like the other players on this list, have the chance to re-join the draft, so considering his upside, there’s a real chance he gets taken with a pick instead of signing an AHL deal outright. The Leafs have several picks in the latter rounds, so they are a contender.

Riley Stotts, C/LW, Calgary Hitmen

I really believe Stotts deserves a contract with the Leafs/Marlies will be a promising project to work on in the AHL. He already knows the organization well after spending two summers with the team at development and training camp.

Stotts didn’t impress a whole lot in his age-20 season. He ended up playing wing most of the year and finished tied with overager Mark Kastelic for the lead in team scoring, 24th in league scoring. He was fourth among his WHL draft class in even-strength points per game with a 58% goals for rate playing on the first line.

Stotts is a hard-working player who was almost afraid of doing too much and just focused on his defensive game. This season he took on more roles and was encouraged to try more things. His coach was happy with his play this season and I think there’s still some potential yet to be unlocked. The Marlies are a great place to refine skills and try creative things. They won’t smother him in the old-school was other organizations run. This article in The Athletic linked below is what I’m referencing.

The Marlies are practically empty at both left wing and centre right now, so bringing Stotts back won’t be a matter of space.

Curtis Douglas, C/LW, Windsor Spitfires

Speaking of space, Curtis Douglas is a very big dude. 6’8” tall, Douglas had a great season with the mid-pack Spitfires playing full-time centre. As a tall, lanky player, he’s obviously not going to look like the fastest player on the ice (a bias often given to Marlies prospects like Engvall, Korshkov, and Rubins), but moves quite well and is confident moving laterally. He doesn’t look like he struggles to change direction very much, and with his long reach, he’s very good at getting to pucks.

Lauren Kelly from Raw Charge gave her thoughts on Douglas after a game she attended in Mississauga.

“Douglas was an imposing net-front presence (how Mississauga’s Kai Edmonds managed to see any shots from behind him, I’ll never know) and also contributed several good rebound chances. However, I was actually blown away by how smooth and fluid his skating was, and how agile he looked skating up and down the ice. He was instrumental in puck rushes and he didn’t look slow at all.” - Lauren Kelly, Raw Charge

Derek Neumeier at Defending Big D wrote about the current Dallas Stars prospects in his last prospect report before the shutdown, showing Douglas has some promising upside yet to be unlocked at 20-years-old.

“Douglas’ play has been so good lately, in fact, that he has effectively become Windsor’s No. 1 center, taking the brunt of his squad’s face-offs, an especially impressive feat considering he wasn’t even consistently playing center early in the year. He is also closing in on the team lead in goals and shots on goal.” - Derek Neumeier, Defending Big D

And, again, the Marlies have some spots that could use filling at left wing and centre.

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Do any of these prospects stand out to you? Let me know what you think.

Poll

Who should the Leafs/Marlies sign?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Allan McShane
    (59 votes)
  • 13%
    Mitchell Hoelscher
    (48 votes)
  • 22%
    Riley Stotts
    (81 votes)
  • 47%
    Curtis Douglas
    (168 votes)
356 votes total Vote Now

Leafs Branches

  • We’ll have more on the anti-racism protests happening across North America later this morning, including statements and stories of solidarity from people in the hockey community. I’ll share two stories below. One, a letter from Masai Ujiri. Two, the story from Akim Aliu published 13 days ago.
  • Does anyone have any good Joey Crabb stories or memories? I know someone does.
  • Remember when Niagara IceDogs goaltender Tucker Tynan suffered a gruesome injury in a game back in December? Google it if you’re not queasy. Well, he just had his pads delivered to his home, looks like he’s ready to lace ‘em up again!
  • This is a funny story. Elite Prospects has an incredible vetting team. Nothing gets past them.