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Marlies Monday: Jeremy McKenna scores first two AHL goals as Toronto gets swept by Belleville

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The young winger shone despite team’s tough weekend in Ottawa.

MARCH 5, 2021 - TORONTO ONTARIO CANADA - The Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, take on the Stockton Heat (NHL Calgary Flames) at the Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo credit: Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com)

Without Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Robertson, Timothy Liljegren, or Martin Marincin, the Toronto Marlies didn’t have much firepower against the Belleville Senators, losing both games of their weekend bout to a combined score of 3-8. Jeremy McKenna scored his first two career AHL goals in the losses with Kenny Agostino scoring as well. Joseph Woll was in net for both starts and allowed all eight goals on 58 shots. He was competitive in the first game, but unfortunately less so in the second period of the Saturday game. The Marlies now stand at 7-8-1 and fourth out of five teams in the Canadian Division.

In Short...

Friday @ Belleville Senators (2-3 L)

The Marlies played a close game against the Senators in their Friday evening matchup. In the second, there was a bit of a parade to the penalty box as both Rosen and Hollowell were sent to the box. That allowed Alex Formenton to break the game open with his NHL skill. The Sens then tacked on another and kept the Marlies at arm’s reach from their goalie. Shots were rightfully close until score effects took over the third period. Jeremy McKenna scored his first pro goal early in the third to make it interesting, but the Marlies couldn’t beat rookie Kevin Mandolese in his first career start.

Saturday @ Belleville Senators (1-5 L)

The next afternoon, the Marlies couldn’t do much to beat waiver hopper Anton Forsberg in his first game of the season. McKenna did it once to open the scoring the first, and Joseph Woll was able to keep the game tied after one, but the floodgates opened early in the second and it didn’t stop until the mid-third when Woll was pulled after giving up five on 26 shots.

Transactions

To the Marlies: Kenny Agostino, Scott Sabourin, Calle Rosen, Joseph Woll

To the Taxi Squad/Leafs: Alex Galchenyuk, Alexander Barabanov, Nic Petan, Timothy Liljegren

On their way (maybe): Semyon Der-Arguchintsev*, Pavel Gogolev**

*SDA, who was loaned to the KHL this season, has finished his season and is in the process of completing his quarantine in Toronto. He’s expected to join the Marlies sometime this week. We currently only have baby pictures of him on the Marlies database so I hope he kept his manly beard.

**We learned something new about Gogolev’s situation with the Marlies. He’s having trouble getting a visa to come play here after signing an AHL deal with the Marlies. He’s currently playing in the Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second tier) so at least he’s not stuck in limbo.

The Lineup

Gaudet has really liked this offense thing and has moved up to be the first line centre. Rookie McKenna joins him in the top six in a well-earned climb up the forward roster. Sabourin was on the third line and got through the first 23 seconds of the weekend without blowing a fuse and lighting the place on fire. Clune and McMann swapped placed on the fourth line left wing, while Brazeau and Pooley did the same on the right side.

On defense, Rosen was without Liljegren, but got Hollowell instead. Hollowell’s regular partner, Teemu Kivihalme, didn’t dress in either game this weekend leading us to wonder if he’s injured. Rubins was moved to the right side of the second pair next to McCourt in his first season in the AHL. Hoefenmayer and Duszak made the third pair for both games.

In net, Joe Woll received another healthy dose of shots against (and unfortunately also goals). He was backed up by AHL signee Angus Redmond while Andrew D’Agostini remains on the shelf with an injury. Also on the roster are Ian Scott (injured), and Veini Vehvilainen (quarantine). I’ve finally learned how to spell his name right without looking it up or making mistakes!

Forwards

Adam Brooks - Tyler Gaudet - Joey Anderson
Kenny Agostino - Kalle Kossila - Jeremy McKenna
Hudson Elynuik - Rourke Chartier - Scott Sabourin
Rich Clune/Bobby McMann - Colt Conrad - Justin Brazeau/Scott Pooley

Defense

Calle Rosen - Mac Hollowell
Riley McCourt - Kristians Rubins
Noel Hoefenmayer - Joey Duszak

Goalies

Joseph Woll (both starts)
Angus Redmond

Performances

Forwards

McKenna is a shifty winger who is really good on his skates. His head is always up in the offensive zone and he doesn’t seem to be biased towards passing or shooting so far. I’ve been burned by prospects like these before, but one moment that alleviate that worry from me was when he was on the second power play unit and hustled back into the neutral zone to avoid an odd-man rush before it started. That commitment and diligence to his position makes me optimistic he’ll turn into a useful pro on both sides of the puck.

I like McKenna, he makes the smart play and he made sure to hit a guy at the end of a forecheck, I think that covers the entire spectrum of hockey, don’t you? Over time, he should be able to hold onto the puck less and react to pressure a little faster. He’s got the skill to avoid checkers sometimes, but like most juniors he’s holding onto the puck a little too long and getting boxed out. He seems to have the skills to move faster so I’m not worried, he just needs to work at it. I was able to see more of McKenna this weekend because he was thrust into the top six while Robertson, Galchenyuk, Petan, and Barabanov were all out of the lineup on the Taxi Squad. He was on the second power play unit as well. McKenna could’ve easily disappeared among the other junior tryouts early this season, but he made a name for himself and put himself on the third line and in line for the top-six opportunity.

Conversely, Justin Brazeau has fallen down the lineup and was on the fourth line in Game 1 and scratched for Scott Pooley for Game 2. Honestly, in the games early in the season when he was in the middle six, he didn’t stand out as much as I would’ve liked. He played a reasonable support role on the line as the big guy in the corners and holding up pucks in the cycle, but he wasn’t driving play like we’ve seen him in the ECHL. He had a chance trying to turn on the goalie right in front of the net on the second power play unit in the first game, but it was a little scruffy. It’s hard to meet the standard set by James van Riemsdyk and Mason Marchment in this city. At 23, the same age as Colt Conrad, I don’t know how much better he’s going to be and if what he can develop will be enough to make him a meaningful contributor in the AHL. Maybe I’m being premature, it takes time for players to get used to the AHL and the road is not always straight. I’m keeping my mind open for a resurgence from Brazeau, but right now McKenna is the talk of the town.

It should be noted that the Marlies were 0/17 on the power play in this series. They really missed the likes of Galchenyuk, Petan, and Liljegren there. The movement was fine, but no one was breaking down the Sens defense and creating open spaces. Agostino’s goal was a good example of that happening at 5v5.

Defense

I cannot stop gushing over how much I love watching Rubins play. Whenever I see him jump up onto the puck I feel the kind of rush you get when a giant is about to tap dance. Yes, I have experience in this, I watched Pierre Engvall play for years. And the best part is, he makes those moves stick most of the time and it terrifies the other team. With his range and footwork, he’s able to get the puck into free shooting lanes and has the vision to make last-second passes, which works with this team because the forwards are always moving into gaps.

Without the puck, he closes gaps well with his skating and his reach allows him to poke pucks away from dangerous areas and cover sticks in the defensive zone. He has the same qualities as Engvall in that regard, but more enhanced as he’s a defenseman. To me, he’s a smart defenseman that can read the play well and be positionally sound at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. During these games he was on the first unit with Rosen. Surely being Martin Marincin with hands makes one worthy of an NHL chance?

McCourt seems to have been deemed trustworthy, at least over the likes of Duszak and Hoefenmayer as the latter gets his feet wet in the AHL. He was put in the top four next to Rubins and seemed to play not too bad there. In terms of their usage, I have to believe they were given some more responsibility than the third pair, but I don’t have the data to know for sure. I didn’t notice him much in this series, which is honestly more than I expected. He didn’t look out of place but also didn’t show any stand-out skills. It’s kind of a given for a defenseman on the Marlies to be able to move the puck, which he does well. I’m interested to see more and develop a more specific understanding of his game.

Hollowell did a good job riding shotgun with Rosen. He’s feisty, which I think distinguishes him from defenseman of his ilk that fill the “small, skilled, fast” stereotypes. He’s done well on the second power play unit as a puck-moving defensive rover for them. Part of me wonders if he’s trade-bait, but I’d like to keep him if possible. I think he can round into a good offensive third pair right defenseman. Right now the Leafs don’t use that spot that way but depending on how the roster shapes out in the coming years, maybe aan offensive third pair role comes up.

Goalies

Woll got both games this weekend but didn’t finish both in the net. He was pulled after five goals on 26 shots on Saturday with Redmond coming in for the final eight minutes. With the two results, his season save percentage after three games is .880, the same as his save percentage last year in 32 games. Like I said with in the Vehvilainen article, Woll is a fine goalie and should probably bounce back from his play last year. He’s positionally sound but not quite dynamic enough to make above-average saves. It didn’t help that after watching Frederik Andersen’s game against Calgary I witnessed Woll give up some pretty long range point shots. He’ll get the job done for the Marlies this season, presumably in a tandem with Vehvilainen.

Game Highlights

Friday @ Senators (2-3 L)

Kenny Agostino (3) from Joey Anderson (3) and Adam Brooks (8)

Jeremy McKenna (1) from Kenny Agostino (6) and Kalle Kossila (5)

Saturday @ Belleville Senators (1-5 L)

Jeremy McKenna (2) from Kenny Agostino (7) and Kalle Kossila (6)

Belleville’s goals: