Toronto Maple Leafs 2014 Rookie Tournament: Are Nylander, Abbott, and Bibeau Future Leafs or Marlies?


The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to host their annual rookie tournament. Most of the tournament invitees will never suit up for the Leafs in the NHL.

It’s a hard knock life for prospects.

However, a good deal of interest surrounds three players who will be in attendance at the tournament in London between September 13th – 16th.

William Nylander, Spencer Abbott, and Antoine Bibeau each present interesting possibilities for the Leafs.

Could any of these prospects crack the opening night lineup?

Is there a major role for these youngsters with the Marlies?

Could any of these three be sent packing to another team?

Let’s take a look at each Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful and evaluate their chances of making the Toronto Maple Leafs roster this season (or soon).

William Nylander

Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; William Nylander puts on a team sweater after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Teuvo Teravainen of the Chicago Blackhawks is a big name playing in the rookie tourney. But, Teravainen stands little chance of cracking a loaded Blackhawks lineup.

Toronto’s William Nylander is the biggest name playing in the tournament. And he has a chance to see the NHL this year.

We’ve written about William Nylander at Tip of the Tower in the past few weeks (a piece by Will Wilson and another by me). The hype surrounding the son of former-NHLer Michael Nylander is well-noted.

Wiiliam Nylander has huge upside. His skating, puck skills, creativity, and confidence have been on full display since his arrival in Toronto. Even the usually-reserved Brendan Shanahan and Dave Nonis have gushed about Nylander’s skill set.

"“He (was) the most talented player in the draft…An issue for him is size (five-foot-nine, 170 pounds), but he’s grown a lot. In terms of foot speed, puck skills, he’s got all that. For him, it’s going to be about hard work, getting stronger.”Dave Nonis, as reported by Kevin McGran @ The Toronto Star"

The blonde-haired dynamo from Sweden has taken Leafs Nation by storm.

But, should fans expect William Nylander on the opening night roster for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

The popular thinking seems to be that he’ll get a taste in the first few games of the season. Then, he’ll be sent to the Toronto Marlies (fingers crossed) or back to Sweden for the remainder of this year.

ETA with the Toronto Maple Leafs: brief NHL stay this season. Some time with the Marlies. A permanent NHL spot by next season.

Spencer Abbott

Abbott is an interesting piece for the Toronto Maple Leafs. At 5’9, 170 lbs, he’s fought the battle that William Nylander is just beginning to fight. He’s considered too small to handle regular duty in the NHL. But, Abbott’s stats have grown more and more impressive. He climbed to 7th in AHL scoring last season.

Oct 5, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing

Spencer Abbott

(56) skates with the puck against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 5-4 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Built like David Desharnais of the Montreal Canadiens, Spencer Abbott is a playmaker with great vision and solid passing skills. He’s also known to head into the dirty areas on the ice and is a powerplay specialist.

With little left to prove in the AHL, it’s time for the Leafs to give Abbott his full-time NHL shot.

However, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ off-season signings included many roster-cloggers like Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, David Booth, and Petri Kontiola. It seems that Abbott is destined to return to the Marlies…or move on to another club.

ETA with the Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 or less NHL games this season, then a dominant season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. With a new team by next season.

Antoine Bibeau

Bibeau is blessed with an amazing opportunity. Christopher Gibson and Garret Sparks split time as backups to 31 year-old Drew MacIntyre. Generally speaking, farm teams don’t ride veteran goalies if promising prospects are around.

That bodes poorly for Sparks and Gibson.

But, their misfortune is Antoine Bibeau’s chance.

During Val-d’Or’s Memorial Cup run last May, Damien Cox claimed that Bibeau was a star on the rise:

"“Bibeau has become the star of this Memorial Cup, and the hottest prospect in Brendan Shanahan’s cupboard after being a sixth-round selection in the NHL entry draft last June.”– Damien Cox reporting on Bibeau’s Memorial Cup play for the Toronto Star"

Apr 12, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs golaie James Reimer (34) makes a save on a breakaway shot from Ottawa Senators left wing Milan Michalek (9) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Maple Leafs 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Antoine Bibeau was named MVP of the QMJHL playoffs, as his Val-d’Or Foreurs won their league championship.

Then, Bibeau earned the outstanding goaltender honour at the Memorial Cup, posting a .932 save percentage.

With only Sparks and Gibson in his way, a strong showing at this year’s rookie tournament could launch Bibeau to the top of the Marlies goaltending depth chart.

From there, only James Reimer and his two-year contract block the young netminder’s path. Bibeau may project as an NHL backup in two years.

ETA with the Toronto Maple Leafs: Bibeau will start for the Marlies this year and next. He’ll be poised to take over as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ back goaltender by 2016-2017.

What do you think, Leafs fans? Could any of these three stick with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season?