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Sifting through the Leafs depth chart for gold

A survey of all the players under contract who aren’t on the Leafs.

NHL: DEC 11 Blackhawks at Maple Leafs Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With 46 SPCs on the books, the Maple Leafs have more players under contract than we usually talk about game-in, game-out. A quick check on all the players signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs that we don’t see each game is in order.

Note: There is a difference between signing a contract with the Leafs and with the Marlies. Josh Ho-Sang is not a member of the Maple Leafs.

Note 2: ELC length is based on age at time of signing. All ELCs are three-years unless otherwise specified here.

Note 3: You may see the number 48 floating around as the number of SPCs. That’s correct in one sense, but two of them don’t count against the 50-SPC limit because the players are in Canadian junior hockey. So for trade deadline purposes, they have four open slots.

Note 4: Ages are included so we don’t all forget that many of these players are not young prospects anymore. Several of these players are a month or two away from their birthdays as well.

Goalies

Ian Scott - 23

Signed in 2018, Scott is in the last year of his ELC. Plagued by serious injuries and long surgery recovery, he has played one period in a Newfoundland Growlers game as part of his rehabilitation so far this season. It was intended to only be 20 minutes. Since that game on January 23, he was briefly on the Taxi Squad where he was available for Leafs practices, and is now back in the minors.

Erik Källgren - 25

Signed last spring to a two-year contract (not an ELC), Källgren has become the de facto starter on the Marlies. He’s played 20 games and is 20th for AHL goalies with at least 10 games played in Save %.

Joe Woll - 23

Woll is on his second contract, a one-year deal signed last summer. He is still an RFA when it expires, and he will have arbitration rights. After appearing in four games for the Leafs, where he got backup-level results overall, he has been injured again. With only eight games played in the AHL where he has the same Save % as in the NHL of .911, he’s been better than last season’s horrible year, but not by a very encouraging amount.

Michael Hutchinson - 31

On the last year of a two-year contract, Hutchinson had been on the Taxi Squad a great deal and has played very little. He was caught up in the Marlies Covid outbreak earlier in the season as well. He has appeared in two NHL games and nine AHL games, and hasn’t met the standard he set last year in similar light usage. Variance is the name of the game for a goalie who barely plays.

Defenders

Chad Krys - 23

Signed in 2019 by Chicago to an ELC, Krys was acquired in trade for Kurtis Gabriel. He has played entirely in the AHL this season, where he’s had three assists in 12 games on the Marlies.

William Villeneuve - 19

See this post if you missed it:

Signed in 2021 to an ELC, Villeneuve is playing again, as the QMJHL has resumed. He will be in the Memorial Cup as a member of the host team.

Filip Král - 22

Signed in 2020 to an ELC, Král spent last season mostly in the Czech league. After a fairly terrible showing in the prospects tournament, Král has been impressing in the AHL with his points. After 34 games played, he has three goals and 14 assists.

Mac Hollowell - 23

Signed in 2019 to an ELC, Hollowell is due to be re-signed this summer. He is not arbitration eligible. Hollowell has been given a lot of attention by the Leafs publicly, but he’s not played much AHL hockey — 27 games last season and 22 so far this year — so it’s somewhat hard to judge him. He has identical points records in both seasons — three goals and 10 assists. No one mentions his defending very often.

Joe Duszak - 24

Signed as an undrafted free agent, Duszak is on his second deal which expires this summer. He is stylistically indistinguishable from Hollowell, and is getting more assists this season in a few more games, but if anything, reports on his defending are less generous than for Hollowell.

Kristiāns Rubīns - 24

Signed in 2020 to a two-year ELC after playing on an AHL deal, Rubīns is Mason Marchment 2.0, only as a defenceman. His three NHL games were interesting, but he’s not about to take an NHL job. Hopefully lessons were learned with Marchment that a big, strong, smart minor leaguer needs a serious tryout in the NHL before you trade him. On the Marlies, Rubīns plays a defence-first role, and his points won’t impress you.

Alex Biega - 33

Signed in the summer to a one-year deal, Biega has a lot of NHL experience and has managed to get into two Leafs games due to injuries. He’s played as a forward in the past, and has a lot of Justin Holl in his game. He’s been very good on the Marlies, but just the fact he can clear waivers tells you he’s the eighth defender on the team.

Carl Dahlström - 27

Signed last summer to a one-year deal, Dahlström is competing with Biega to take the eighth spot. He’s not a fast enough skater for the NHL, but he can play the point-man in the offensive zone very well. He has one NHL game, and that is likely going to be his only one.

Brennan Menell - 24

Acquired in a trade for his rights, last summer, Menell is on a one-year deal and has not managed to make any sort of impression in only 11 AHL games. Injury has kept him from playing enough for a fair reading on him so far. Anyone would be forgiven for high expectations after his 38 KHL points in 47 games last year, if they hadn’t actually already done the exact same thing with a markedly better player in Mikko Lehtonen. Jesse Blacker has 24 points in 42 games in the KHL, let’s sign him this summer.

Teemu Kivihalme - 26

Signed in 2019 to a one-year ELC, Kivihalme is on an expiring deal now as a UFA. He impressed me in his first season as one of the most experienced players in the prospects tournament, but he’s never risen above solid AHL defender since. He has only three games played this year as injuries and covid has limited a lot of action for members of the Marlies.

Forwards

Kyle Clifford - 31

Acquired in trade from St. Louis for “Future Considerations”, aka nothing, Clifford expires as a UFA this summer. He’s played four unremarkable games on the fourth line, and will likely continue to do that occasionally. He’s supposed to deliver hard checks in the playoffs, and nothing much else. I believe the term of art is coach’s security blanket.

Rodion Amirov - 20

In the first year of his ELC with the Leafs, Amirov has had a lost season. Injuries, further injury potentially from an early return, and a massive Covid outbreak on his team have left him with 10 KHL games played just as the KHL has declared their season prematurely over. After the Olympic break, they will head directly to the playoffs, so it’s tough to imagine Amirov finding a role there when he hasn’t all season. He last played on January 3. There is a chance he could find some time in the VHL, but their season ends on February 17.

He is on an unprecedented deal between Salavat Yulaev and the Maple Leafs. On loan, when there is no transfer agreement, he is under contract to both teams. The deal is whatever those two teams say it is. So it’s impossible to predict if he could join the Marlies before his KHL contract ends on May 1.

Braeden Kressler - 19

Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021, Kressler is on the first year of a three-year ELC. He has 13 points in 23 games in the OHL, his second season on the Flint Firebirds.

Ty Voit - 18

Signed in December to an ELC, Voit is in his second OHL season in Sarnia. He’s lighting the place up with 45 points in 33 games. Check out the post linked above for more.

Pavel Gogolev - 21

Signed last summer to an ELC as an undrafted free agent, Gogolev has not been as exciting as he was in 13 games with the Marlies last year. The Marlies have had a slow start in general, so we might see some signs of greater life from all their players in the second half.

Alex Steeves - 22

Signed last spring to an ELC as an undrafted free agent, Steeves has taken all the buzz players like Gogolev got last year. With 23 points in 25 AHL games, and three NHL games where he was unremarkable (sometimes a good thing on the fourth line) he looks like the cream of this crop. Small samples of games can be misleading, however.

Pontus Holmberg - 22

Signed last summer to an ELC, Holmberg is playing in the Olympics for Sweden and otherwise having a great year. Last year wasn’t so bad either. As a member of the SHL champions, he was a point per game in the playoffs. So far this year, he’s upped his regular season points pace over last year, and is just generally having a great run. He is 23 in a few weeks, so he is entering his years of peak performance as a forward, so this is more him meeting high expectations than exceeding them dramatically.

Mikhail Abramov - 20

Signed to an ELC in 2020, Abramov has three years left, since the first year slid while he played junior hockey. In his first year pro on the Marlies, he’s doing well, but not blowing the doors off.

Nick Robertson - 20

Signed in 2019, Robertson’s ELC slid twice, so he also has three years to go. He’s been competing with Amirov this year to see who can play the least, and so far he’s winning. He just returned to the AHL after injury and Covid absences, and has four games played in total.

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev - 21

Signed in 2018, right out of the draft in a bit of a statement move by Kyle Dubas, Der-Arguchintsev has one more year on his ELC after this one. In his first full season on the Marlies, after seeing some serious KHL time last year, he’s been quietly good in a middle-six role. He’s a setup man, of course, and his points are going to depend on the sniper he’s paired with. The best goal-scorer on the Marlies is currently Joey Anderson.

Joey Anderson - 23

Acquired in trade for Andreas Johnson (yes that’s his name again), Anderson was re-signed to a three year deal in 2020. While he leads the Marlies in goals scored, which puts him 34th in the AHL as a whole, he struggled to make an impact in four NHL games played. He has much more NHL experience than the average player of his type, but bad team minutes don’t always mean much. An even better second half on the Marlies might get him another tour on the Leafs.

Brett Seney - 25

Signed in the summer as a UFA, Seney has two NHL games played, where he looked indistinguishable from Steeves and Anderson. He’s a point per game in the AHL, and seems very much in the Seth Griffith, Adam Brooks mode.


Expect the Leafs to sign even more undrafted free agents to keep the AHL looking young and full of hope. But that’s about all that should be expected to accomplish.

Chris Johnston recently reported that he thinks the Leafs would be willing to give up other prospects in the right trade, but not Matt Knies, and this trip through the players already signed bears that out. It’s not fair to downrate Robertson and Amirov when they have hardly played, but that’s the business.

If Knies makes a splash in the Olympics, that view will likely solidify just as other teams will be even more interested in him.

None of that seems like a solid foundation to make future decisions on, but that is also the business. Sometimes a GM just has to guess, and no one guesses right all the time.