Three games into the season, I thought I would provide an early prospect report on the Toronto Marlies, focusing mostly on the weekend road trip to Winnipeg to play the Manitoba Moose. The Marlies won the first game 3-2 in regulation, and then trampled over their opponents in the second game that ended 4-0.

There were some massive performances over those two, but there were also some very quiet players who definitely looked a step behind the rest. When it comes to these Toronto Marlies, every game truly is a tryout (say that three times and Dallas Eakins will show up in your mirror). Every line has someone who is hunting for an NHL job. Some deserve it more than others and the ones who perform will rise to the top.

So let’s see how they did.

Three Stars

Pierre Engvall

Gosh, I have a serious man-crush with this particular giraffe. I was screaming of his talents all of last year, and it seems like he’s finally getting the quality of teammates and puck luck to actually prove the detractors wrong. He’s fully become a centre on this team, Engvall leads the Marlies in points (5) and his teammate Pontus Aberg is first in goals (3).

Engvall has a really diverse skill set; he’s shown in these two games that he can skate really well, has 100% commitment to the offensive and defensive sides of the puck, and he has both an incredible and eye for finding loose pucks all over the blue paint. He supports his wingers really well in all three zones, allowing everyone to create space for each other. If only we had access to faceoff numbers, we’d be able to see if he’s truly ready for the NHL. Also the Goat. Damn, Frederik Gauthier, you’re too hot right now.

Egor Korshkov

Korshkov could be in the NHL in a top-nine role if there was space for him right now. Seriously. This kid has the speed, confidence, intelligence, and tenacity to create scoring chances out of nothing but pure power and energy. When Korshkov came to the AHL last spring, there were hints of all these, but it just felt like he was out of sync. Almost as if he was playing in another league for a whole season or five (yes, he spent five years in the KHL). Korshkov has been given great top-six linemates, power play time in front of the net, and penalty kill responsibilities with Adam Brooks. That’s not something an average rookie gets put on him right out of the gate. I’m super excited about this prospect.

Just check out this goal that I talked about in detail in the Manitoba Moose weekend recap:

On the kill, Liljegren forced the Moose puck handler to make a pass into an open area at the corner of the offensive zone. Korshkov anticipated the pass and took full advantage with the breakaway, scoring a beauty. Korshkov is a really smart and proactive player when it comes to attacking in all three zones. Most players would sit back and protect the area of ice behind him, but Korshkov has the confidence in himself to take a risk and try and make something of it. That quality is definitely going to help him in the NHL when every play is high risk and those who collapse into themselves make a lot of money but don’t actually help their teams win.

Joseph Woll

My history of covering goalies in the AHL has been guys in their mid-20s. Ian Scott and now Joseph Woll have made me have to think really differently about how to evaluate goalies. I can’t expect this rookie to have it all figured out so early in his Marlies tenure, it’s not fair. I’m not here to say that Woll looks like an established veteran, he still very much looks like a rookie who is trying to adjust to the professional hockey pace against men. but after one game, he seems to be doing pretty well.

His shot stopping is good, he seems to be able to make those simple shots. He has the athleticism that allows him to make those saves while moving. What I’d like to see from him in the medium to long term is an improvement on his rebound control and initial positioning. He has arguably a top-five defense in the AHL in front of him, so it’ll be easy to hide behind them when it comes to rebounds, that’s what Garret Sparks did. As for positioning, I’d like him to be more aggressive, he seemed to unconsciously collapse into his net against rushes. both seem fixable, especially with some tenure.

Needs Improvement

Jeremy Bracco

Man, oh man. Jeremy Bracco looked like he was playing junior hockey out there while everyone else was playing professional hockey. Sloppy with the puck, lazy without it. I don’t really know what to say. I was really hoping that Bracco would prove me wrong over the summer and come back with a smidgen of attention towards his play without the puck. The offense is undeniable, that’s not an issue. He won’t get to the NHL without understanding how to back check. He just won’t. And I’m positive I’m not the only one to have yelled this in his ear over the last 12 months.

Ben Harpur

Katya found this little quirk in Harpur’s game where he throws the puck to his defense partner (Schmaltz) within a second of getting it on his stick. Serious hot potato stuff. Go watch him, it happens all the time. Schmaltz definitely drives his pairing on offense and defense. I don’t see how Harpur could fall down the lineup, he’s not doing anything super detrimental to the team, but he’s not helping them or is a prospect who is developing, so I could see him fall down the depth chart.

Timothy Liljegren

I have high expectations for Liljegren this season. He’s going to be playing more than anyone else, in more situations than anyone else on the team as a 20-year-old. He’s the youngest player on the team, let’s not forget. A few nitpicks I have from his game is his play on the penalty kill. I think he’s good in terms of positioning, but struggles a few times to clear the puck, he hit opposing legs too many times to not brush it off.

On offense, I still think he needs to take a step in terms of creating chances. He has a good shot when he’s in the zone and set up, he can also create for others as a quarterback. That transition game just needs to evolve a little more. He might end up being a very good defensive defenseman who can provide everything you want except for the smooth-skating transition game. That said, if he’s playing with Rasmus Sandin, he doesn’t need to worry about it very much.