The Toronto Maple Leafs training camp begins in only a few weeks; so who are the candidates to move up from the Marlies to the NHL for the 2017-18 season?
This is part three of a four part series on the Marlies.
In part one, I looked at the players who have left the Maple Leafs organization for other teams, and in part two, I looked at players who would be, or could be, new on the team for the 2017-18 season.
Now, let’s look at the players who might move up from last season’s Marlies.
Kasperi Kapanen (RW) - Drafted 1st round, 2014
He’s the biggest name, and the most obvious player to move up, but where would Kapanen go? A recurring issue facing him, and the other wingers on this list, is a roster logjam. There’s too many wingers, and not enough spots.
But, surely Kapanen will move up, right? Last season he had 43 points in 43 regular season games with the Marlies. When he was called up to the Leafs he had great success too, especially this memorable goal.
However, for him to go up, someone else has to go down, or, simply go. Let’s look at the depth chart, with Kapanen removed:
Depth at Wing
|James van Riemsdyk||William Nylander|
|Leo Komarov||Mitch Marner|
|Zach Hyman||Connor Brown|
|Matt Martin||Nikita Soshnikov|
|Josh Leivo||Eric Fehr|
|Kerby Rychel||Jeremy Bracco|
|Andreas Johnsson||Trevor Moore|
Seldo put together this depth chart. The original is actually for all positions, and I recommend you go bookmark it because it’s very handy (works best with a desktop, not mobile browser).
So, there’s obviously a traffic issue here. Kapanen has almost always played right wing for the Marlies, and when he was up with the Leafs Mike Babcock had him playing on the right wing opposite Matt Martin.
Even if Eric Fehr was sent down to the Marlies, you still have an extra body. Nikita Soshnikov did end last season below the threshold of games played to become eligible for waivers, so, perhaps he will be sent down too? Maybe only one will go and the other will get pressbox duty.
In either case, that doesn’t solve the same roster issue for a player who wants to make it on the left wing...
Kerby Rychel (LW) - Drafted 1st round, 2013
Rychel will turn 23 at the start of this season. He had 19 goals and 33 assists in 73 regular season Marlies games in 2016-17. He also picked up 118 PIM in that time.
Yes. You read that correctly. 118 PIM. A lot of those came from debacles like this where he picked up 17 PIM in one fight (though the idiot McCormick from the Senators is the one who should have been suspended here).
So, lots of points, lots of spirit. He’s ready to grind and ready to fight. He’s like a slightly more talented Matt Martin, but, that’s the problem. The Leafs already have a Matt Martin.
Oh, and Rychel is no longer exempt from waivers.
How he can ever crack the Leafs lineup is beyond me. A little space was created with the Vegas Golden Knights taking Brendan Leipsic in the expansion draft, but, even with a trade of a player like JvR, there’s still Josh Leivo already sitting there, waiting.
I suspect Rychel will be a victim of circumstance, and traded for picks.
Andreas Johnsson (RW/LW) - Drafted 7th round, 2014
This one is going to be nice and short.
Yes, I could go on about how he was great in his first full season with the Marlies, scoring 20 goals, second only to Froese who was traded, but he’s in the same situation as Kapanen and Rychel, perhaps even behind them waiting in line. Johnsson has played both wings with the Marlies, so, if he can actually do that regularly it may be an advantage to get a call up, but this again requires something like an injury or a trade to make space.
Travis Dermott (LD) - Drafted 2nd round, 2015
Dermott has to be the most hyped prospect playing for the Marlies last season, but is he really ready to move up, and is there anywhere for him to go?
Dermott started the 2016-17 season as expected, but suffered an injury from which he took some time to recover. After a returning, and as the Marlies entered the playoffs, Dermott made a name for himself and got high praise from Sheldon Keefe.
He has that Alex Ovechkin invisibility cloak at times, slowly moving to the perfect position, sitting out wide open and uncovered waiting for the puck to come while the other team apparently never notices he moved there.
Garret Sparks (G) - Drafted 7th round, 2014
Garret Sparks has certainly been a hot topic in the past year. The now 24 year-old goalie played in his first NHL game November 30, 2015 in which he picked up a shutout.
His NHL record after that was not impressive; however, that was now two seasons ago. The Maple Leafs goaltending situation has changed up dramatically, and Sparks has much more experience from the AHL.
At the same time that Sparks was re-signed, so was Curtis McElhinney, both for two years. Sparks is now effectively a backup-in-waiting. He’s someone else’s sprained groin away from getting a phone call to report to the Leafs, but that may not come for months, or maybe ever.
This season is critical for him to prove he can move up, or the only way for him to advance will be to move on to another team.
What do we think?
I asked the PPP Collective for opinions.
The hive mind was pretty much unanimous that Kapanen is starting with the Leafs, no matter what roster shuffling it requires.
Kevin and Arvind really like Dermott and think he’s making the team. Katya says “not so fast”.
Dermott will look like he should be on the Leafs in preseason action, and everyone will be shocked when he's cut the last day. Barring catastrophic injury or an early exit from playoff contention, he won't be called up.
I am actually with Katya on this one. I know Dermott has a lot of big name fans, specifically Sheldon Keefe, but that doesn’t mean Mike Babcock cares, or even knows Dermott at all. It’s going to take an injury for him to move up.
Kevin reminded everyone that recent free agent signings Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen are still unknowns and a great training camp could mean they get a shot over Dermott.
Fulemin summed up our thoughts on Rychel and Johnsson.
I would just say Rychel and Johnsson are so utterly logjammed the leafs contract list has to change a fair bit before they get anywhere
What do you think?
Which skater will play the most games with the Maple Leafs in the 2017-18 season?
This poll is closed
Which skater is most likely to play no games with the Maple Leafs in the 2017-18 season?
This poll is closed
Coming up next in part four, I will take a look at the Marlies roster and who will have new or bigger roles to play in this coming season. Plus, there will be speculation about who will be the new team captain!