As Toronto Maple Leafs fans gear up for training camp (less than two months away!), a number of former Toronto Marlies are preparing to strengthen their position with the club, or make the jump to the NHL. Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, Matt Frattin, Peter Holland, and Trevor Smith are all in contention to start for the Leafs this season. With these minor league grads ready to move up, where does that leave the Marlies?
Here are five things you need to know about the baby Leafs as we look forward to next season:
1. Goaltending Help is Not on Its Way
Since James Reimer in 2006, the Leafs have drafted only three other goalies – Grant Rollheiser, Garret Sparks, and Antoine Bibeau. Yikes! Sparks and Bibeau, along with Christopher Gibson, are the Marlies’ options next year in net. As per hockeyfutures.com, Bibeau has a prospect score of 6.5, Gibson at 6.5, and Sparks at 6. Fortunately, Jonathan Bernier is young enough that solutions are not necessary… not right away, anyway.
2. Depth Forwards are Aplenty… High Upside Scorers are Not
Aside from William Nylander and Connor Brown, the Leafs’ prospects are all about depth, energy, defense, and the bottom two forward lines. Frederik Gauthier, Josh Leivo, David Broll, and Greg McKegg are likely to play prominent roles with the Marlies next season and none of the players in this group project to be major point producers in the NHL.
3. Gord Dineen is Keeping the Seat Warm
Rather than fire Randy Carlyle, Brendan Shanahan replaced his assistants with Steve Spott and Peter Horachek from the Marlies. This vacuum left Gord Dineen and Derek King as the potential replacement head coaches on the farm. Though Dineen has been around the game for a long time, it wouldn’t be shocking for the Leafs brass to bring in another highly regarded pair of coaches for the Marlies staff. Dineen may simply be holding down the fort.
4. The Marlies are a Young Group
Over the past few seasons, the average AHL player has been about 24-years old. As constructed, these Marlies are just over 22-years old on average. Youth bodes well for a Leafs team looking to develop more of its own talent by allowing younger players to get experience at the AHL level.
5. Attendance is Average… at Best
In the AHL, average attendances are about 5,400 people per game. Hershey, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, and Providence all draw over 8,000 per game. With an average of 6,000 spectators per game – just above average – the Marlies rank 9th in league attendance. Considering their locale (Toronto has been repeatedly mentioned as a potential destination for another NHL team), it is surprising that the Marlies don’t draw better. Perhaps the lack of big-time scoring prospects hurts the Marlies’ curb appeal.
This season, the Leafs are a team in transition. With Marlies coaches and players stepping in to fill voids left with the parent club, this season could be a messy one down on the farm.