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Marlies Catch Up: First impressions of the new prospects

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Looking at how the kids did in three games against Belleville and Laval.

Toronto Marlies defenseman Filip Kral (#3) defends the puck from two Belleville Senators forwards.
Photo credit: Thomas Skrlj

Back from their two-week long break following a COVID-19 outbreak, the Toronto Marlies got set to play three games against two good teams in the Belleville Senators and Laval Rocket. After getting swept at home over the weekend to the B-Sens, the Marlies went to Laval and won a wild affair in overtime thanks to a Nic Petan winner.

In net, Joseph Woll and Veini Vehviläinen (who made his team debut) shared the losses to the Senators, giving up four on 32 shots and four on 28 shots, respectively. But on Tuesday, Woll faced 60, yes 60, shots from the Laval Rocket and stopped all but three en-route to one of his most impressive wins in the AHL. The game was mostly normal apart from the second period when the Rocket tripled their shot count and Woll had to literally be made of brick. He did it, and kept the Marlies in the game until the big scorers (Hoefenmayer, Marincin, and Petan)* could win the game.

* Definition for big may vary

Not to be overshadowed by the results, this game also saw the debuts of several intriguing Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies prospects. On defense, draft picks Mikko Kokkonen and Filip Král, along with free agent signing Brennan Kapcheck made their AHL debuts. At forward, the long-awaited arrival Pavel Gogolev finally came and it was promising. Antti Suomela, whom the Leafs acquired from the San Jose Sharks, also joined the team and looked good in a top-six role.

As Senator Palpatine says, we’ll watch their careers with great interest. May the Fifth be with you.

In Short...

Saturday vs. Belleville (3-5 L)

Considering it was their first game in over two weeks, the Marlies looked pretty good coming out of the gate. The top three lines were all getting good shifts in the offensive zone, and Joey Duszak was major catalyst for that. The period wasn’t perfect, with the Sens getting several good chances of their own, but the game was scoreless after one. In the second, the Sens scored twice, putting up 15 shots to the Marlies four.

After the Sens broke the ice, the Marlies found their way back to a tie game thanks to Agostino (who was the team’s best player) and Duszak (a must-see goal). The Sens responded with three straight and that was pretty much it. Petan scored at the end with five seconds left, but it didn’t change anything.

Sunday vs. Belleville (1-4 L)

The Marlies seemed pretty overwhelmed in the first period of their second game. They got hemmed in almost every shift to start game — either missing passes or having them get swallowed up by the Sens forecheckers. The score wasn’t too pretty on them either as they gave up all four goals (including two shorthanded) in that period. Duszak scored his second goal in as many games on the power play, but was the primary culprit on one of the shorthanded goals by the Sens. Overall, the Marlies were clearly the second-best team.

The Sens out-shot the Marlies again in the second period, despite holding a three-goal lead.

Tuesday @ Laval (4-3 OTW)

This game started out tame, with a scoreless first period and only 12 shots on each side. The second was when things got weird. First, the Rocket put up 27 shots to the Marlies eight. The only goal, however, came from Jeremy McKenna shorthanded at the very beginning of the period. The Rocket were desperate for a tying goal, and the Marlies skaters seemed to let them have their chances, but the Woll was holding strong.

In the third, that’s when everything came crashing down. The Rocket got themselves to a 2-1 lead, only to have Hoefenmayer’s long-distance shot beat them seconds later. They scored again with obscene gesture Yannick Veilleux putting the Marlies behind again. But with three minutes left, our Lord and Saviour Martin Marincin threw a floater at the net and tied the game like only he knows how. Nic Petan proceeded to steal the game in overtime with a great passing play between himself and Antti Suomela.

One final note on the three games. The Marlies were shorthanded nine times and they only ever used the same eight players to kill all of those penalties. On defense: Marincin, Rosén, and Hollowell, with Marincin doing double-duty. At forward: Kossila, Robertson, Gaudet, Chartier, and McKenna. I think this more than anything else shows you who Greg Moore trusts, with the name McKenna jumping out as an outlier. It also shows how much the Leafs want to invest in Robertson’s growth and help him develop a comfortable 200-ft game, something he needs to show in the AHL next year.

The Lines

Saturday vs. Belleville (3-5 L)

Filip Král and Pavel Gogolev made their AHL debuts on Saturday, skating on the second pair and third line, respectively. Král was paired with a babysitter in Calle Rosén to guide him through the game. Gogolev had another babysitter in Tyler Gaudet next to him, with fellow rookie Gordie Green on the other side.

Jeremy McKenna continued his climb up the right side, getting a big opportunity next to Kossila and Robertson. SDA was between the dynamic duo of Agostino and Petan.

Forwards

Kenny Agostino (A, #18) - Semyon Der Arguchintsev (#43) - Nic Petan (#61)
Nick Robertson (#89) - Kalle Kossila (#11) - Jeremy McKenna (#41)
Pavel Gogolev (#71) - Tyler Gaudet (A, #58) - Gordie Green (#19)
Rich Clune (C, #17) - Rourke Chartier (#15) - Bobby McMann (#9)

Defense

Martin Marincin (#52) - Joey Duszak (#21)
Filip Král (#3) - Calle Rosén (#48)
Noel Hoefenmayer (#2) - Mac Hollowell (#81)

Goalies

Joseph Woll (#35) - Starter
Veini Vehviläinen (#32)

Sunday vs. Belleville (1-4 L)

Draft pick Mikko Kokkonen and free agent signing Brennan Kapcheck made their AHL debuts next to best babysitters MarMar and Rosén. Král moved down to the sheltered third line with Duszak (back in that spot) where the pair got lots of time in the offensive zone.

SDA and Clune made way for new guy Antti Suomela and Hudson Elynuik. Because of the moves, McKenna found himself as high as he could possibly go on an AHL contract: the Marlies first line.

Forwards

Kenny Agostino (A, #18) - Nic Petan (#61) - Jeremy McKenna (#41)
Nick Robertson (#89) - Kalle Kossila (#11) - Antti Suomela (#40)
Pavel Gogolev (#71) - Rourke Chartier (#15) - Tyler Gaudet (A, #58)
Bobby McMann (#9) - Hudson Elynuik (#39) - Gordie Green (#19)

Defense

Mikko Kokkonen (#10) - Martin Marincin (#52)
Calle Rosén (A, #48) - Brennan Kapcheck (#5)
Filip Král (#3) - Joey Duszak (#21)

Goalies

Veini Vehviläinen (#32) - Starter
Joseph Woll (#35)

Tuesday @ Laval (4-3 OTW)

The Marlies went with seven defensemen in this game, easing Kivihalme into his first bit of action in a long while. Out came Elynuik from the fourth line to make it work, that was the only change at forward. Kokkonen was again on the first pair with Marincin, with Kral hanging with Rosén. Duszak was back in his sheltered, offensive role with Hoefenmayer with him this time.

Forwards

Kenny Agostino (A, #18) - Nic Petan (#61) - Jeremy McKenna (#41)
Nick Robertson (#89) - Kalle Kossila (#11) - Antti Suomela (#40)
Pavel Gogolev (#71) - Rourke Chartier (#15) - Tyler Gaudet (A, #58)
Rich Clune (C, #17) - Gordie Green (#19)

Defense

Mikko Kokkonen (#10) - Martin Marincin (#52)
Filip Král (#3) - Calle Rosén (#48)
Noel Hoefenmayer (#2) - Joey Duszak (#21)
Teemu Kivihalme (#6)

Goalies

Joseph Woll (#35) - Starter
Veini Vehviläinen (#32)

The Fresh Faces

Filip Král (#3) and Mikko Kokkonen (#10)

Král looked like he was feeling comfortable by the third period on Saturday, making a couple nice defensive plays. All throughout his three games you could see the potential he has as a transition defender, he earned second power play unit time by the third game. I liked his instincts to push the play up the moment there’s a turnover, he’ll get more involved as he gets more confident. He’s pretty shifty when moving up the ice with the puck: in the first game he made a juke on a Belleville forward and drew a penalty. Surrounded by Marincin, Rosßn, and the Leafs defensive philosophy, Král has the means to really round out his game.

We saw Kokkonen on Sunday and Tuesday, playing next to Marincin on the first pair, and he looked thoroughly overwhelmed in his first period in the AHL. Forwards were coming at him much faster than he was used to (an acknowledgement all players make when coming to the AHL) and it got the better of him. Luckily Marincin was there to bail him out quite often. Kokkonen has the tools to play at the tempo of the NHL, he moves quick and makes a good pass, it’s all about getting comfortable with the pace of decision-making.

Pavel Gogolev (#71) and Antti Suomela (#40)

I think Gogolev is in a group above the likes of Justin Brazeau after the early showings. He has the potential to be like Jeremy McKenna and earn his way up the roster from the third line. The Marlies have really used that line as a litmus test to see if a player will sink or swim. I like Gogolev as a slightly bigger guy who still has the speed and skill to play at a high pace. He’s not going to crash and bang in front of the net, but he’ll be in the area looking for loose pucks and fighting for rebounds. He’s got a decent shots and knows how to play with more highly skilled players (see his time on the Petes with Robertson and SDA).

This isn’t a player comparison by any means, but Gogolev reminds me of Andreas Johnsson, but with a bit of Carl Grundstrom stirred in. He’s crafty and works very hard in all three zones, but he’s very much a wingman that excels in rush hockey and catching teams off with odd-man rushes. Grundstrom basically made his living being the wingman to Johnsson and Miro Aaltonen, but didn’t really do much beyond that. Gogolev can do more things.

Suomela is another capable AHL forward. He can play centre, he knows what he’s doing in the defensive zone, and he’s good offensively. The Marlies used him on both the penalty kill and first power play unit. I don’t have much to say about Suomela beyond that, he’s a good top-six winger or centre for the Marlies and another depth option if things get really bad for the Leafs.

Veini Vehviläinen (#32)

VV is a very active goalie. He moves around a lot and he definitely likes to play the puck. The Marlies learned pretty quickly to run to the corners when the puck was coming near him out of fear of any miscommunications. I mentioned this in my profile on him after he was acquired, VV often reacts to pucks instinctively, but then has to re-adjust on his way because he’s either moved too far or opened himself up too much. Both of these qualities remind me of Garret Sparks, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you want to look at it.

If the Leafs were able to develop fusion technology, I’m just saying I would put VV and Woll in there and see what happens.

“While I have him in the same tier as Woll, I would say their strengths and weaknesses are quite different. Woll is a very technical goaltender who works very hard at knowing where his body is and using his feet to get him where he needs to be. His downfall is reading the puck and following the play. For Vehvilainen, he seems to have a good idea of where the puck is and where it could go, but he struggles to get there in time and is often scrambling to get in position.” - Pension Plan Puppets