It’s been a busy week for the Toronto Marlies with multiple roster changes from both the Maple Leafs and Newfoundland Growlers levels in addition to playing two weekday games against the Binghamton Devils who are chasing the Marlies in the AHL North Division standings.
The Marlies lost 5-2 on Monday, and lost 5-3 on Wednesday. Both games were played with a roster much different than the start of this season, reflecting the Maple Leafs organisation continuing to move its prospects up through the ranks.
Both Monday and Wednesday’s games featured an on-ice roster from which no players were present from the Marlies Calder Cup Championship game in June of 2018. Here was the team on the ice on Wednesday.
Kenny Agostino - Tanner MacMaster - Pontus Aberg
Garrett Wilson - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Darren Archibald - Hudson Elynuik - Scott Pooley
Riley Woods - Colt Conrad - Giorgio Estephan
Teemu Kivihalme - Joseph Duszak
Kevin Gravel - Jordan Schmaltz
Kristians Rubins - Mac Hollowell
There are still some holdouts from that championship game, but they were not playing. Jeremy Bracco and Adam Brooks were scratched; Bracco continues to be out for undisclosed personal reasons, and Brooks is still out because of a serious injury from the Marlies game on Saturday last week. Rich Clune is also still with the team, but he has not played in a game since mid-January.
Mason Marchment was the one other player still around from that championship roster but he was traded away on Wednesday morning to the Florida Panthers, with the Leafs getting Denis Malgin in return who has stayed up on the Leafs roster for now.
The Marchment trade is a tough one as he’s a popular player on the team, and is one of the rare players to beat the odds and make it all the way up to play in some NHL games after spending time in the early days of his professional career playing in the ECHL for the Orlando Solar Bears. “I was actually a little emotional,” said Coach Greg Moore. “I know the guys in the room love him. It will be felt that he’s gone.”
Beyond the members of that championship team there have been other players on the move too. A swap of AHL and ECHL players led to Darren Archibald leaving the Marlies in exchange for Max Verroneau from the Belleville Senators.
Egor Korshkov also made it up to the Maple Leafs to make his NHL debut earlier this month, leaving another hole on the Marlies, most notably on the special teams. While Korshkov has now been returned from the Leafs, the remaining holes have been filled with reinforcements form the Newfoundland Growlers like Riley Woods, who made his AHL debut on Monday, Colt Conrad, Michael Kapla, and Giorgio Estephan, who scored his first goal with the Marlies on Wednesday.
Yes it was a school-day game in the morning, and yes the screams were that loud as you hear on the video.
Some other ex-Growlers have now been up with the Marlies for some time, including Scott Pooley, who has acclimated well to AHL-level hockey and quickly developed into a key piece of the Marlies offence.
Consistency of the player roster is one thing this team hasn’t had while struggling to find consistency on the ice. That’s been a challenge for Moore, but he felt there was a trend in the right direction after Wednesday’s loss. “Our transition from defence to offence was faster than their transition from offence to defence,” he noted as one important change from Monday’s game when he described his team as playing too late and too slow.
The goal for Saturday’s game is to continue to build up the pace; come out hot against the Rocket with intensity and consistency which has at times only appeared too late in a game when the Marlies are already trailing. “I just wish we didn’t have to find it, [and] to come out with that intensity in the first period,” said Moore, adding “It happens a lot to us. We’ve got a find a way to manufacture that and play a full 60 minutes in that sense.”
The Marlies have only one game this weekend in Laval against the Rocket - today at 3:00 p.m ET. The standings have the Marlies in the final playoff slot in the division, but the Devils chasing right behind them.
While a threat earlier this season, the Rocket have fallen behind recently, winning only two of their past ten games. Today’s game is an opportunity for the Marlies to once again get back on the ball and build the momentum for a win streak.