Toronto Maple Leafs: Rookies Fail to Make the Cut


With another round of roster cuts the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to send their promising prospects to the Toronto Marlies even after a strong showing at training camp

Sep 22, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman William Nylander (62) celebrates his goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Zachary Fucale (30) with teammates during the second period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL season approaching it was expected that the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to cut a lot of players after their final preseason game. On Sunday the Leafs cut 16 players with one or two more possible cuts to come. But it was not how many the team cut, but who they cut. Of the 16 cuts were rookies Antoine Bibeau, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, Viktor Loov, William Nylander, Stuart Percy, Nikita Soshnikov, Garret Sparks and Rinat Valiev.

With the Leafs committing to a rebuild it makes sense that the team would send their top prospects to the Toronto Marlies. However, according to head coach Mike Babcock, the young players were making the roster decision hard on the team.

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Even with Babcock saying that he “loves the kids” the plan since Brendan Shanahan took over and Babcock came in was that this was going to be done right. As good as the rookies may have been in preseason there is no point in throwing them into the fire, especially early in the season if the team gets off to a rough start. Let them get accustomed to playing together with Marlies and if they show that the AHL is too easy for them then that is the time to bring them up.

GM Lamoriello talked about sending the young players down to the Marlies on Sunday

Lamoriello does the right thing in saying that what the young players did in camp would not go overlooked as it should not. Nylander, Hyman and Brown would have been in serious contention for a roster spot but the Leafs purposely brought in veteran players on one year deals and PTOs to avoid that. Obviously if a player plays well enough to make the team they should make the team but if that team is going through a tough transition like the Leafs, is it worth it? Not only do the Leafs possibly burn a year off their entry-level deals but if the team goes through something similar to last season, it is not a proper environment to introduce rookies into.

Sep 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown (61) carries the puck against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Ottawa 4-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With Babcock in the fold it will be different than what it was in the past because of the organizations plan to focus on properly drafting and developing players. With Sheldon Keefe joining the Marlies as the new head coach he should get a chance to work with these young players before sending them to the NHL. What this does if anything is show that the Leafs rebuild will not take as long because they have quality prospects in the system already and if they can continue to stockpile more talent while they continue to see improvements on the actual roster. This is something that Lamoriello hinted at when he talked about when the Leafs could see these players again.

Oct 3, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman

Scott Harrington

(36) controls the puck against Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha (39) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Defenceman Scott Harrington, who was brought in with Kapanen in the Phil Kessel trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins. and Martin Marincin, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, survived the cuts to young players and are strong possibilities for the starting lineup.  Lamoriello had this to say about both of them still being on the roster

"“They’ve gotten better and better during camp, in my opinion,” Lamoriello said. “They’ve deserved the opportunity that they’re getting. We just have to see where the final decision is.”"

Marincin struggled in the final preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings so it would not be a major surprise if he does not make it into the opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens. Harrington has a chance to land on the second pairing but is probably going to be on the third pairing depending on where Matt Hunwick, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner get placed.

This lineup will not feature a lot of talent, but what Babcock hopes is that they will have a strong work ethic and set an example for the future players who will not have to wait their turn to make the NHL lineup.