The Top 25 Under 25 often consists of prospects in the Leafs system who are building their skills, moving up through the leagues, and trying to be the first pair LD on the Marlies. Joey Anderson, for pretty much his entire time with Toronto, is not that. In reality he’s been a top notch AHLer who gets between 1-20 games with his NHL club each year as an injury replacement, give or take. That’s what he’s been since he was 20, and this year is his best chance to get as many games as possible and to find a fit somewhere along the waiver wire.

In the final year of a cheap contract, Anderson is a prime target for teams looking to fill their rosters with fourth liners who might be able to crack the upper echelons of the lineup. You can either end up as Alexander Barabanov or Adam Brooks. In fact, I think it’s almost certain Anderson will never play for the Marlies ever again.

Anderson has one chance at training camp to win a job on the Leafs — which is very hard because the Leafs are a calibre of team that goes into the season without open spots, either in the lineup or as a healthy scratch at forward.

The list of established players clearly in the fight with Anderson but also clearly below the third line are as follows: Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, Adam Gaudette, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Nick Abruzzese, Alex Steeves. And then I’ll also throw in Denis Malgin who’s a complete wild card at the moment.

Six guys, Anderson needs to beat four of them; and not just head-to-head, but also their salaries. NAK makes a full million, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. And then there’s the Wayne Simmonds question. Do the Leafs play him? Do they waive him but scare other teams from claiming him? Are the Marlies even an option?

The Player

Anderson broke into the NHL at the age of 20 with the New Jersey Devils after getting drafted in the third round in 2016. After 52 games with them (yes, he’s only played six for Toronto), he was traded over the summer for Andreas Johnsson in a salary cap move. In the COVID season of 2020-21, Anderson played one game for the Leafs (no points) and 20 games for the Marlies (seven goals, 11 points).

Last season, Anderson played five games for the Leafs between December, January, and right at the end of the season when the Leafs were resting guys. Again, no points, but got 10 shots on goal. Since Anderson only played five games, I thought I would go through each of them.

Dec 1st vs COL: 13 minutes with Engvall and Kämpf, four shots, +0. An 8-3 barn-burner of a win.
Dec 4th vs MIN: four minutes with Spezza and Ritchie, no shots, +0. Anderson was benched early in the second, Ritchie was benched not long after, Spezza was given spot shifts higher. Leafs ended up losing that game in a shootout.
Jan 12th vs ARI: six minutes with Spezza and Ritchie, three shots, -1. The infamous Arizona 2-1 loss. Most of you went to bed instead of watching this game and were completely right in doing so. Meanwhile I had to recap this depression of a game.
Jan 22nd vs NYI: eight minutes with Spezza and Simmonds, one shot, +0. You might remember this as the time of the year when all the defenders were hurt and the pairs were Rielly-Brodie, Sandin-Liljegren, Dermott-Dahlström.
Apr 29th vs BOS: 13 minutes with Abruzzese and rotation of other players, two shots, +1 (Abruzzese’s goal).

So from looking at these games, the Leafs played Anderson when they were not worried about the score whatsoever. Which was par for the course for Keefe’s fourth line last season. None of the fourth liners played except Spezza until he fell off. This year I expect much of the same, with the Leafs aiming for role players that can kill penalties and take regular shifts on the third line if needed. I think Anderson can check that box, and they might need him at some point in the season, but it’s likely they’ll have lost him well before through waivers.

Anderson didn’t get an assist on this, but this was the only goal the Leafs have scored with him on the ice!

This is completely off topic, but I think we forget how often no one bothers to cover the front of the net in the AHL. It’s not as bad as the OHL, but it can be pretty awful at times. Here’s a compilation of that:

The Votes

When it came to the voting, I have in the past weighted likelihood of time with the Leafs hard. And for some players I still do, but this time I had to give Anderson the credit he deserves for being a realistic player for the Leafs right now. He’s 50/50 on staying in the organization or not, but even then he’s achieved more than 15 guys on this list will ever get. NHL games are NHL games. Anderson is at 58 career games right now, he’s very likely to hit 100 at some point, including possibly this year.

Joey Anderson Votes

Josh - Smaht Scouting12
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak16
Weighted Average12.33
Highest Rank8
Lowest Rank19
Spread in Votes11

dhammm: Reasons for the Adam Gaudette signing that I have come up with to make it make sense to me: the Leafs love small sample size weirdos with a story, and Gaudette’s illness backstory fits that description. He is also waiver fodder in the Adam Brooks/Michael Amadio model. He is also a mannequin wearing a posterboard saying: “Any Marlie forward must outplay me at camp to secure an NHL roster spot.” Anderson is one of those Marlies, perhaps the premier one, and this is probably his make-or-break year for the Leafs.

Anderson’s nonlinear development path has made him difficult to forecast. He played some NHL games on a non-playoff team before being traded to the Leafs, who have stashed him on the Marlies for extra seasoning since. If you flipped the NHL sample so it was recent and his development path was linear, he’d look a lot like any number of competent contributor wingers (e.g. Pat Maroon). He has been close to but firmly under a point per game in the AHL in his D+6 year, which isn’t exciting, but is also where Mason Marchment was around the time the Leafs dealt him.

I rank proximity to the NHL highly, which means I also rank repeated AHL success fairly highly. Many blue-chip prospects of yesteryear (think Matt Finn) bricked off at the AHL level and never became what we dreamed they’d be, and one of my biases is I look at success at the AHL level as a strong predictor of aptitude at the NHL level. I am confident that Anderson could play a depth forward role in the NHL at this point (I mean, he already has), but he’s running out of time to demonstrate that he is at least that and possibly more. I rank him and Mete around the top of the mushy middle; everyone above them warrants some degree of excitement beyond that of a future 13th forward or 7th defenseman or long-shot lottery ticket.

Brigstew: He’s basically the same as Steeves for me. AHL star, not quite good enough to stick in the NHL outside of temporary injury depth. Doesn’t really have the skills that are more suited to a sustained role in the bottom six.

TomK421: Yep, Anderson and Steeves feel pretty interchangeable to me. I hope one of them can earn a job but it doesn’t excite me. I think we know what they are at this point.

How many NHL games does Joey Anderson get this season?


Where does Joey Anderson play most of his games this season?

The Leafs78
Another NHL Team319
The Marlies/AHL130