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Yea, Nay or Maybe: PPP weighs in on the NHL potential of the Marlies

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Is the entire team being promoted?

Toronto Marlies mascot Duke
This guy is a lock for the Leafs. Everyone else? Not sure.
Christian Bonin

Andreas Johnsson

Does anyone think Johnsson is not going to be on the NHL roster next year?

Travis Dermott

Does anyone think Dermott is not going to be on the NHL roster next year?

Ben Smith

Trevor Moore

Arvind: Maybe a cup of coffee, and will stick around for a while in training camp, but I think he’ll start the season in a big role for the Marlies, and depending on his play, will get a call-up in the middle of the year (pending injuries).

Hardev: I am an early subscriber to the Trevor Moore Hype Train, and I think he’s earned the time in the spotlight that would otherwise be given to players with a higher pedigree (draft position). But the train can only go so far before it falls off the rails. On the wing, I think he’s ahead of players like Grundstrom, Timashov, and Engvall into this and next fall’s camp, but that still leaves him behind Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and whoever the Leafs will inevitably sign in order to increase competition in camp. William Nylander playing at centre would significantly increase his chance of making the 12th or 13th forward spot.

seldo: I can see him being the new Josh Leivo or Dominic Moore. Hanging around practices, being a good guy and getting paid tob be a Maple Leafs fan watching games in a suit.

Brigstew: maybe as an injury call up, but I can't see the Leafs using him as a full timer next year over other options given their depth on the wing already. There would be 8 winger spots that get playing time, and even now the Leafs have: Hyman, Nylander, Marleau, Marner, Brown, Kapanen, Johnsson, Martin, and Leivo. That’s 9 wingers. Moore would have to beat out Martin (sure, I buy that) AND Leivo (when Leivo can’t be sent down) to crack a spot in the lineup. Maybe if they trade some wingers for defense or centers, and don’t actually bring on anyone else. All that said, out of pretty much every Marlie forward NOT named Johnsson, I think Moore is the first in line for a call up.

Kevin: I think Moore can be a capable fourth line winger in the NHL right now. He’s a workhorse, responsible defensively, and slowly developed into a strong zone entry threat at the AHL level. He’s not going to drive a line, and he will probably end up in a role similar to Connor Brown, but he’s ready to step up if a need arises. However, the Leafs have a ton of cap room to spend, and I expect that a forward acquisition or two will keep him down at the AHL level. He will be an early injury call-up if a need arises, but it will be tough for him to earn a spot if Josh Leivo and Matt Martin are in the press box. I think he will start on a top line at the AHL level, and his future is largely dependent on who the Leafs bring in.

Species: At the end of the 2016-17 Marlies season everyone was gushing over Travis Dermott. Sheldon Keefe made a point to mention at every opportunity what a great defence prospect he was, how far his development had come, and what a bright future he had. Then came Leafs training camp in the fall and Dermott didn’t make the team. Now a part of that was because of the arrival of new defenceman, but I still categorize Moore the same way and wouldn’t write him in to the Leafs lineup for the start of the season. He needs to show a repeat performance for at least a few months before we start to think about him moving up.

Katya: I am leaning to Kevin’s assessment, particularly the cap issues. Moore was a top line player in the NCAA, it pays to remember, he didn’t arrive from nowhere, but the Leafs have a glut of cheap players on ELCs or show-me post-ELC deals, and where that really matters is with the depth players who can’t find a roster spot open. Their low salary is not a feature — the Leafs already have a tonne of guys who are low paid.

Carl Grundstrom

Katya: Nay at the beginning of the season, and Maybe later on, but only for a 9-game trial.

Arvind: Think he’ll get another year of seasoning.

Hardev: He carries all the tools to inspire optimism in his hopeful jump to the NHL, which is probably why there is so much clamouring for his callup. But Grundstrom is still very rough around the edges. Defensively, he depended on his linemates a fair bit. Offensively, he is a pure finisher whose playoff production was almost completely a byproduct of Mr. Scoring Chance Andreas Johnsson. I would like to see him spend a year in the AHL learning how to penalty kill and get comfortable in all areas of the ice in North America before he gets a sniff at the NHL.

seldo: As Katya said, not at the start. Maybe at the end of the year.

Brigstew: not likely to start the year in the NHL unless he gets traded to some other NHL team with trash forwards... Say to Buffalo as part of a Ryan O'Reilly package! I can see him being like Kapanen two years ago, and Johnsson this past year — get more time with the Marlies than just a playoff run, develop his game, and maybe crack the lineup near the end of the year if he’s ready. He’ll probably have to develop his game on the PK, and maybe on the PPin the JVR spot in front of the net. He’ll be competing with Moore, Marchment and Engvall though.

Kevin: I would have him just behind Trevor Moore on my depth chart, but I think there’s an outside chance that he makes the team if he plays his best in the preseason. He probably starts on the top line of the Marlies, then could force his way into a role by midseason. Like Moore, his fate is largely tied to who the Leafs acquire, as well as each player’s injury status.

Miro Aaltonen

Arvind: Will compete for the 4C spot in camp, assuming he re-signs with the Leafs.

seldo: Nah, I don’t think so. Even if he re-signs, it’s not a guarantee.

Hardev: I’m a little higher on Aaltonen than most. He plays PK in the AHL as well as is relied upon heavily late in games when the Marlies have the lead. Both of those things are plusses in Mike Babcock’s mind, and it could give him a leg up on the competition in camp.

Brigstew: He'll be competing with Lindholm and whoever else the Leafs bring in for the two available center spots. Is he better than Lindholm? We'll have to see at training camp.

Kevin: This could go either way, but my guess is that he doesn’t make the team out of camp. Par Lindholm will give him a run for his money in training camp, and another free agent acquisition would take them both out of a NHL job. The Leafs have plenty of cap space heading into this offseason, and I expect them to spend on a centre.

Dmytro Timashov

Arvind: Nope

seldo: No, he won’t be called up until he’s 110% ready.

Hardev: Timashov had some inspiring moments in the playoffs, but even his linemate Chris Mueller noted that he needs to find that consistency. For the most part, that second line was driven by Mueller and Smith, even when Timashov was having one of his better games.

Brigstew: almost no way. He needs to improve more and he's behind way too many other, better choices. I think I was one of the highest on him in the last T25U25 and I’m still a believer, but he still has to improve in some key areas. At this point he’s noticeably behind at least four MARLIES forwards: Moore, Marchment, Engvall, and Grundstrom. Either he needs to develop a defensive game, or his offense needs to become consistently great to the point he is clearly better than the AHL — just like Kapanen and Johnsson have done.

Kevin: He’s not going to compete for a NHL job in camp, but he continues to get better. He was one of the most skilled forwards on the Marlies, and hopefully he can develop into a top scorer next season.

Katya: I ranked him behind Moore last T25, and I’d say given his age, he turns 22 at the start of the season, he needs a great AHL year or that might be it. Nay for this year for sure.

Calle Rosen

Katya: Good question (Babcock voice). He really heated up through the season. But can he defend at NHL speed even though he clearly can in the AHL? Maybe.

Arvind: Will compete for a bottom pair/7D role in training camp, and will likely fall short since he doesn’t PK, and the Leafs have no real need for his PP skills.

seldo: Don’t think he will, but could be an injury call up.

Hardev: Rosen showed a lot of great things this year. His play in the defensive zone is great when he and his teammates can hold the opponents cycle at bay, but when he’s stuck in his own zone, he doesn’t quite inspire confidence. If he can show consistancy as a top-4 defenseman who doesn’t rely on good zone starts, he can definitely be a #7 or injury replacement. I like Rosen, he’s just not quite there.

Brigstew: agree with the above. As an injury replacement, maybe. He's a LD behind a whole lot of other LD, unless some of those (or Rosen himself) shift over to RD. He’s also a smooth skating offensive defenseman when the Leafs have those in spades. Maybe if Gardiner or Rielly are hurt for a significant amount of time, but that’s it. He’s not stealing a job from Rielly, Gardiner, Dermott, Zaitsev, or Hainsey. He plays the same type of game as Carrick, but Carrick is a RD on a team that needs RD. I just don’t see it.

Kevin: He was amazing in the Calder Cup Final. He will need an injury to occur if he wants to play on a team with Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, or Travis Dermott. If one of these players shifts over to the right side, his path to playing time becomes much clearer. Still, he would have to beat out Andreas Borgman for a role, and this would be a close competition.

Mason Marchment

Arvind: Fills an interesting role that no one else on the Marlies/Leafs really replicates from what I can see, but I’m doubtful he gets more than a game or two.

seldo: As, an injury replacement.

Hardev: He needs some more time, I would be very surprised if the Leafs call him up at any point next season. Putting the idea of a call-up could end up being a distraction for a young player like Marchment, and I don’t think Dubas will make that mistake again (the first times being Stuart Percy and Kapanen). Marchment’s improved every year, and there’s no harm in giving a prospect more time. Ignore his age.

Brigstew: he's like Moore to me. Might be good in the AHL now but that's not good enough to crack the NHL on a team that has a good roster already. His NHL appeal will have to be what he can do on a fourth line, or as some kind of PP or PK specialist. Not sure any part of his game in that sense is ready.

Kevin: He’s not on my radar for a NHL role right now. He would need to take another big step forward next season to get into the conversation, but he’s a solid AHL contributor.

Katya: My cynical side comes out with Marchment, who I think is a hell of a guy and a lesson to all on working hard, making your own way in life, charging through the open door at full speed. And that’s why I’m cynical. I think he’s an advertisement for what everyone wants the ECHL to be, when it isn’t that yet.

Pierre Engvall

Arvind: At least one more season in the AHL.

seldo: A full time Marlie next season.

Hardev: The hype of seeing Engvall for the first time was a lot of fun to see because no one expected the raw talent Engvall had out of that specific seventh rounder in 2014, but there’s a lot of refining he needs to do before he can confidently move on from the AHL. I will keep a keen eye on him in the AHL next year.

Brigstew: same as Grundstrom (as far as needing to get a full season in the AHL and develop his game more, KEVIN! GET OFF MY BACK, KEVIN! I’LL MOW THE LAWN WHEN I REACH A SAVE POINT, KEVIN!), but behind Grundstrom on the depth chart.

Kevin: Not the same as Grundstrom. He’s not on my radar for a NHL role right now, while Grundstrom is. He’s not a great carrier, he doesn’t play an overly heavy style, and he’s clearly behind Moore and Grundstrom on my depth chart. He could enter the conversation with a breakout season next year.

Katya: I was very, very low on Engvall before he broke his collarbone this year, and then, due to necessity and his own play, he got promoted up the lineup. But he is a streaky scorer, sorry if you’ve heard that 1,000 times, but he is, and he scored in a streak on the Marlies, got hyped, and then stopped. I think he plays an AHL role well, but he has not shown that he’s more than Frederik Gauthier in winger form, just at double the skating speed.

Frederik Gauthier

Katya: The best games of his hockey career were this playoffs, so Nay.

Arvind: Oh God, I hope not.

seldo: No, he’s a Marlie and if he doesn’t make himself the 1C there, he’s gone.

Hardev: He’s found a great role with the Marlies and I think we should leave it there.

Kevin: He should be in the AHL.

Brigstew: I want to say “lolnope” but I just know he’ll be their go-to injury replacement for when one of their centers inevitably gets hurt.

Martin Marincin

Arvind: Oh God, I hope so.

seldo: Polak won’t be back, so we’ll need a new 7D I guess.

Hardev: Part of me feels like he won’t be on the roster next year. He’d make a great KHL defenseman is all I’m saying. However, if he does re-sign with the club, he would make a fine injury replacement and mentor for Liljegren, who was his partner for stretches of the season. Dubas and Keefe truly believe having a top of the league team is good for development and MarMar would really make that a reality.

Kevin: He could be a fine injury replacement if the Leafs need a left-shooting defenceman who can kill penalties. I think Borgman, Holl, and Rosen probably have a better chance though.

Katya: Slovan Bratislava currently only has 4 defenders under contract. And he’ll need to take a pay cut to stay on the Leafs. Nay.

Brigstew: If he stays in North America, maybe? He fills the role the Leafs need on defense. Depends on what other roster moves the Leafs make about NHL defensemen.

Adam Brooks

Arvind: Need to see him play higher up in the AHL before we consider his NHL readiness.

seldo: Not a chance. He’s got another season or two to prepare.

Hardev: Sheldon Keefe was very impressed with the improvement of Marchment, Brooks, and Moore over the course of the season, and even put them together for the playoffs. Improvement does not mean NHL ready. Brooks is a kid who has been a late bloomer everywhere he has been. He’s improving, give him some time.

Kevin: He started to play better towards the end of the season. The problem is that he’s not particularly fast, and he does not play a heavy style. Let’s hope that he can slowly develop into a top-six centre at the AHL level next season. He’s not in the conversation to be a NHL call-up just yet.

Brigstew: I highly doubt he even gets the Kapanen/Johnsson treatment late in the year, but I’m still very high on him. Last year Brooks was coming off of: 1) a season ending and SERIOUS concussion he suffered late in the playoffs the year before, 2) then got mono right around summer that held him out of some of training camp, AND 3) he had to adjust to a professional hockey. I think that’s at least partly to blame for his slow start to the year, but he notably received high praise from teammates and his coach and really seemed to improve near the end of the season. It reminds me of Johnsson’s first full season with the Marlies, when he came over for the AHL playoffs and suffered a concussion thanks to a brutal headshot. He didn’t look like anything special for most of the next season until he seemed to turn it on late, which seemed to carry over this year. I think Brooks can follow in his footsteps next season, which would put him on pace for getting his first taste of the NHL in 2019/20.

Justin Holl

Arvind: Might be a 3RD or injury replacement — will certainly compete for that role in camp.

seldo: Loved by some, but he’ll be Marlies captain next year.

Hardev: Colin Greening has something to say about that captaincy. When Dubas was promoted, a lot of people started putting pieces together after his press conference that Holl was one of the internally developed players he was looking to bring to the Maple Leafs. One of those people turned out to be the generally reserved Holl himself. Holl tried to hide any feelings of being a player Dubas valued and spent time and money nurturing, but it’s clear from the below quote that he understood what Dubas running the Leafs could mean for his career.

“I think [Kyle Dubas] has a very good eye for talent. He’s picked up a lot of guys who were overlooked, maybe I’m one of them. I’m very appreciative that he noticed me, and he gave me a chance here. One thing that he has said before, and one that I believe as well, is that he doesn’t give up on guys easily, which I think is a really good trait. There’s a lot of guys who come into the league and aren’t quite hitting the ground running right away. He allows them to develop, and gives them a really good chance to become the player they eventually hopefully can be.”

Kevin: He played a ton of minutes for the Marlies in the playoffs, and he will definitely be in the conversation as an injury call-up. The issue is that the Leafs also have Connor Carrick, and a whole offseason to make an addition on the backend.

Katya: I do not see what you all see in the player or any hope of an open roster spot. Nay.

Brigstew: I’ll give him a 1% shot ONLY because he got into two games last year because they’re so desperate for RD.

Species: As metntioned above, there’s no spot for him right now. Perhaps what he really needs is a trade. He’s 26 years old now, turning 27 in the middle of the next season. Pulling off a P.A. Parenteau style late career breakout is quite difficult in a league always searching for the next great young player.

Timothy Liljegren

Arvind: Too green. He’s no Fedor Gordeev.

seldo: Nope. Another season in the AHL. Bottom pair isn’t his place, so he won’t come up until he’s past that point.

Hardev: I don’t think the Leafs will be considering the words “call-up” until the calendar turns to 2020. He needs a season of consistant top competition, or close to it, and then another few months where he demonstrates that he can dominate the AHL consistantly. We won’t be able to see that sustainable improvement without lots of reps, which is what he’ll get in the AHL next year. Remember, the Marlies gave him a reduced schedule of games for the first four months of the season similar to Jeremy Bracco.

Kevin: He played behind Justin Holl and Vincent LoVerde in the AHL playoffs, so he’s not going to magically work his way into a NHL role by October. Leafs fans will need to be patient, and they deserve to see him light it up at the World Juniors. The best case scenario is that he’s up for the final stretch of next season.

Katya: We sound like we all agree on this. So does Kyle Dubas. He said in his recent scrum that how Liljegren was played was all to their plan. They aren’t rushing the kid into the NHL with no experience playing top pair minutes. He played 85 hockey games last year, dramatically more than he ever has before. One step at a time, please.

Brigstew: Nope, maybe late in the season IF he really takes a big step forward.

Jeremy Bracco

Hardev: Speaking of Bracco, he’ll start to get reps in a top-6 role next year. He has the talent, he just needs his body to fill out a little bit, like Johnsson, who is quietly a 23-year-old.

Arvind: Similar situation as Brooks.

seldo: He’ll get minutes, but he’s more of a trade package player.

Species: I heard a rumour the Leafs would package Bracco with their first round pick and Bozak’s rights to get Wayne Simmonds.

Kevin: What Hardev said.

Katya: Call me in two years when he’s played some serious hockey. Right now, he looks like a kid, not a guy several months older than Grundstrom.

Brigstew: He’s in the Timashov situation. Didn’t vault himself ahead of several other forwards, but got even less playing time than Timashov down the stretch. He’s gotta take a big step forward next year and even then his window will start to open in 2019/20.

Andrew Nielsen

Katya: He dropped off the bottom of the Marlies depth chart. Nay.

seldo: No. A longer lasting Matt Finn in the organization.

Hardev: A much better end to the year and post-season. The Marlies defense core was so full of pretty-much-NHLers that Nielsen sitting in the pressbox for the playoffs shouldn’t be considered a knock on him. Most other teams would have played him every single night. That said, his skating is a step too slow and he still carries a temper that won’t do him any favours in the NHL. He’s a curious project who has serious boom or bust potential, but a lot needs to fall his way in order for that to happen. Extreme nay for the Leafs next year.

Katya: No really. it is a knock on him. Or to put it better, an accurate reflection of his relative value. Just because Laval Rocket are so merde, they play Rinat Valiev top pair, doesn’t mean Neilsen, who isn’t as good as Valiev, is anything but a depth AHLer.

Species: My work is complete. MWUAHAHAHAHAHA! Seriously though, he should have followed Valiev’s lead and asked for a trade at the deadline. I’m sure one of the messed up NHL teams in western Canada would welcome in a local boy, especially a young defenceman. He’s not going to move up in this organisation next season. He could have made his NHL debut by now out there.

Andreas Borgman

Arvind: I expect to see him in the mix for a third pair role with the Leafs. He’ll have a leg up on some of his competition, due to his solid play for much of the season.

seldo: I think he’ll be up. I’m also still interested in the crazy idea I had once as fourth liner Borgman.

Hardev: People think Borgman died when he got sent down mid-season. While they might have a point considering he was injured for the majority of the two-month playoffs, Borgman showed very well early in the season last year. In my eyes, one of those seven defense spots is for him to lose in training camp, I love me some Borg.

Species: He’ll be back with the Leafs after some time regenerating in his alcove.

Kevin: There’s three left-shooting defencemen ahead of him, and Rosen played outstanding in the playoffs. As a result, I think he likely comes up short of a third pairing role to start the season.

Katya: I assume the third pair is Dermott - Borgman until proven otherwise. Of all the very carefully used third pairing guys — Polak, Dermott, Carrick, Borgman, Rosen — only Borgman got some less careful usage. If the Leafs want to stop having to be so careful, he’s in, barring Igor Ozhiganov blowing all our minds.

Brigstew: He’s bigger, more physical, and has played RD even last year. If there’s someone that will take Roman Polak’s spot in Babcock’s heart, it will be Borgman.

Calvin Pickard

Katya: He could be an NHL backup right now, no question.

Arvind: Whether he’s on the Leafs or another team, I expect him to be a NHL backup.

seldo: If McElhinney gets traded this summer he makes a serious push for backup.

Hardev: Extreme yay as the NHL backup to Freddy. Pickard is an amazing teammate on and off the ice, which is exactly what you need in a backup goalie. Not to mention he was near the top of the league in AHL save percentage this year in split time with Garret Sparks.

Kevin: He might get an NHL opportunity if he goes elsewhere.

Brigstew: I wouldn’t mind him as a backup, but the Leafs still have McElhinney under contract AND Sparks has a 1-way NHL contract starting next year where he’d have to clear waivers to get sent down. Unless they clear them both out for some reason, I don’t see it.

Garett Sparks

Katya: He needs a very serious trial in pre-season because his previous NHL performance was extremely bad. I’d play him every game to see if he’s really improved. He’s a Maybe.

Arvind: Same as Pickard.

seldo: Battles for the backup spot, but if he doesn’t get it, he’ll be traded.

Hardev: I think a team comes calling for him before the Leafs need to make a decision before the end of camp. Sparks is in a position where the AHL would just be cruel to him, and sitting for 60+ nights just doesn’t feel like the best place for him. He would be served better as a 1b getting 30-ish starts in the NHL next year, and the Leafs just won’t do that when they have a team MVP in net. (Yeah, I said it).

Kevin: I would make him the backup. If a team like Carolina makes a big offer for him then the Leafs can deal from this surplus, but I don’t expect that to happen.

Brigstew: He has a 1 way contract and would have to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL. After being the AHL’s best goalie and still pretty young, I think there are plenty of teams desperate for goalie depth that someone would take that shot on him. If he has a good camp, he might be a better option for the Leafs to take more games away from Freddie next season to give him a rest than McElhinney.

Species: They need to have a Reality TV competition for the Leafs backup goalie position next seaon. I suppose that’s what pre-season is for, but it’s not long enough, and they will of course want to give all of them a try, plus give Freddie a chance to warm up. This is the most obvious part of the lineup to put out feelers for a trade.