As we near the end of August, training camp season is on the horizon (not before the Women’s World Championships takes centre stage for the next couple weeks). And with training camp comes the always interesting PTO evaluations. PTO stands for Professional Try-Out, and that’s exactly what it is. A chance to come to training camp and earn a contract. Or is it an opportunity for older players to see if they still have it? Or is it for younger players to fill out preseason games?

The answer to those three questions are all yes, to varying degrees. I broke down the previous three seasons of PTOs (excluding 2020-21 because due to the COVID shortened year it was a clear outlier where the majority of PTO signees got signed). So 2021, 2019, and 2018 are my dataset, a sample of 101 players that were given PTOs.

Let’s see what trends come of it:

A Real Chance for Young Players?

Sorting by age, the youngest 26 players in the set, going from ages 19 up to 26, did not receive contracts following their PTOs — that’s 25% of the whole set. This group includes Josh Ho-Sang as the only player Leafs fans will recognize, who signed an AHL contract last season before signing in the KHL for this upcoming year.

Per the CBA, AHL-contracted players cannot attend NHL training camp unless they are on a PTO. This means many players already on AHL contracts with affiliate teams will be getting PTOs to work with the group before moving to AHL training camp with the prospects/players who get sent down.

So unless there’s a player on the younger side with significant NHL experience, don’t expect much from a PTO. The Leafs sole PTO signee for this year, goalie Dylan Ferguson, will be filling some of the seven (7!) preseason game slots for the Leafs and looking for a job with the Marlies or Growlers.

Old Guys Giving it a Go

Going to the other side of the spectrum, using an arbitrary cutoff of 32 years old and up giving us a sample of 28 players, 35% got a contract. This list includes Brian Boyle, Jack Johnson, Stephen Gionta, and Jason Garrison.

Some players not signed were Joel Ward at 37, Bobby Ryan at 34, and Matt Read with the Leafs at 33, who ended up getting an AHL contract with the Marlies. Looking at 35+, only Boyle got a contract — last season!

Some of the current oldies that are still UFA who played last season include Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton, and Tyler Bozak (yes, I’m calling Bozie an oldie, how do you feel). 34-year-old Phil Kessel is also on that list and is probably looking to continue his iron-man streak until he can’t anymore. And not even his partner having a kid stopped him.

Among the current list of UFAs, I would have to expect Kessel, PK Subban, and Paul Stastny will get a PTO or a contract. I don’t expect Leafs fans to have a penchant for the older player trying to style it out while the team is trying to win games anymore. There are plenty of other teams that won’t be fussed with playing Kessel every game.

The Players Who Do Sign

In the three seasons of my data set, of 101 players, 26 players earned a contract from a PTO. 25%, or approximately eight per year. This list includes a lot of fun names we would recognize like Tyler Ennis, Frederik Gauthier, Alex Galchenyuk, Jimmy Vesey, Tuukka Rask, James Neal, Colton Sceviour, Alex Chiasson, and Tobias Rieder. This list also comes in a surprisingly even ratio of 14 forwards, 7 defense, and 2 goalies per 23 players, so there’s no noticeable skew between forwards signing to any other position. If there is, it’s a tiny one.

What does this mean for this year’s group of unwanted toys? Taking a quick shortlist from our article on free agent news, I’ve identified some names that probably should get contracts or PTOs (sorted by regular season games played):

  • Phil Kessel
  • Evan Rodrigues
  • Sam Gagner
  • PK Subban
  • Paul Stastny
  • Zach Aston-Reese
  • Sonny Milano
  • Tyler Motte
  • Tyler Ennis
  • Tyler Bozak
  • Victor Rask (not a Tyler, sorry)
  • Brett Ritchie
  • Colton Sceviour
  • Derek Stepan*
  • Eric Staal*/

*Already on a PTO

Of this list of 15 players, the numbers say only half will be in the NHL next year. That’s very surprising if you ask me. Obviously, I think some will just outright get contracts before needing a PTO (I feel like Milano and Rodrigues have earned that).

I can also see a few players who would fit the bill for the Leafs (ZAR, Motte, Rask, Milano), so perhaps we see them come to Toronto for September and hope this trade we’ve all been waiting for finally happens and there’s a spot up front for them to sign into. That is if Nick Robertson, Denis Malgin, or someone else doesn’t take the full-time job from them.

I’m excited to see what happens. Just not seven preseason games excited. Please let’s all not get carried away with PTOs once again, this is your necessary reminder that 75% of PTOs don’t get an NHL contract.

Various Leafs and Branches

The Women’s World Championships are taking place starting this week on Thursday, with Canada playing Finland at 1pm. Canada’s first matchup with the USA will be next Tuesday to close out the group stage at 2pm. The tournament this year is taking place in Denmark! We will have coverage of the tournament for Canada. The Ice Garden, our sister SBN site, will have lots on Team USA.

Canada played host Denmark in a pre-tournament game yesterday. It went about as you would expect, with Canada scoring 14 goals. Denmark did get one! Josephine Asperpup scoring on Kristen Campbell in one of the five shots she faces. Emerance Maschmeyer played 25 minutes and only faced one shot, as well. Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Fillier (la petite MPP, as I want to call her now) scored four goals each. You can see the score summary here.

The T25U25 continues today, I have the post on #19 on our list. It’ll be out in a couple hours after this.