Today the Toronto Marlies announced that they have signed 2015 Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick (68th overall) Martins Dzierkals to a one year AHL contract.

Dzierkals was hoping he would play in the AHL, rather than go back to juniors and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL. It’s no slight against the Huskies - Dzierkals won the QMJHL championship with them in 2016, and came within one goal of winning the Memorial Cup over the eventual champion London Knights - but the AHL was his goal this year, as a chance to play a higher level of hockey.

From Lace Hornby’s recap of Leafs development cap:

When Leaf great Dave Keon was honoured at his old junior rink before a league match, Dzierkals gave him a Huskies sweater during the pre-game ceremony.

“I had the chance to talk to him, it was fantastic,” Dzierkals recalled.

He could play another year in the QMJHL as an over-ager, but prefers not.

“Right now, I’m doing everything I can to be with the Marlies. It would be better for me to make the jump. I don’t want to play junior as a 20-year-old.

“There are a couple of guys (in Latvia) cheering for the Leafs because they know I was drafted there. But, for every guy drafted from my country, it’s huge. From childhood, every kid wants to play in the NHL.”

2015-16Rouyn-Noranda HuskiesQMJHL5924436742Playoffs207101712
Latvia U20WJC-20 D1A51344
Latvia U20 (all)International-Jr72686
2016-17Rouyn-Noranda HuskiesQMJHL4721284944Playoffs602210
Latvia U20WJC-20612312
Latvia (all)International41010

Last year was a difficult year for him, he posted 49 points (21G, 28A) in 47 games for the Huskies but the season was plagued with injuries. Despite this, Dzierkals was a PPG performer, as he was his post-draft year.  The depth of wingers for the Marlies will create plenty of competition for ice time, but the baby buds have plenty of 3 in 3 weekends this season, and that helps spread the ice time around.

Dzierkals was 24th last year in top 25 voting, didn’t make the cut this year - for me it was either him or Dakota Joshua for #25 on my list. Now we’ll get to see him play in the AHL for the Marlies, just down the street from the Air Canada Centre ice where he scored for Latvia on in the World Juniors.

Dzierkals the engine in Rouyn-Noranda's machine
Look at all those wingers: Depth Chart and Pipeline List updates