August 20 2013 10:02AM
Name: Andrew MacWilliam
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Size: 6’2, 214 lbs.
2013 Teams: University of North Dakota, Toronto Marlies
Acquired: Draft- 7th Round, 2008
What can be said about the Andrew MacWilliam? He’s certainly a prospect in the Leafs organization. He’s a left-handed shot. He’s not one that garnered a lot of attention over the past five years he’s been kicking around the Leafs system (a rare Cliff Fletcher draftee), but he’s one prospect that I think we might be hearing a fair bit about in the next year.
MacWilliam is following the Matt Frattin road to the pros (minus the lawnmower throwing). He’s an Albertan kid who committed himself to the University of North Dakota (possibly after hearing how great the Grand Forks Olive Garden is). After a full stint at the school MacWilliam was good enough to have his name muttered in early Hobey Baker talk before that fizzled out and the reality that defensive defensemen don’t win MVP awards set in. MacWilliam served as team captain during his senior year in North Dakota, which I’m sure had the Leafs senior leadership team buckling at the knees.
The thing that has me concerned about MacWilliam is that his college career has been spent on WCHA powerhouse team. How much of his success is due to his supporting cast. Steve Dangle asked Joe Meloni of the College Hockey News who confirmed that “he (MacWilliam) was a very good player on a very good team.” That quells some of the fears that Derrek Forbort, Jordan Schmaltz, and Dillon Simpson might have sheltered MacWilliam.
Here’s what Leafs Director of Player Development, Jim Hughes had to say about Andrew MacWilliam when asked by Alec Brownscombe of MLHS earlier this month:
"He played at North Dakota, he played four years and was the Captain at North Dakota last year. This is a big, imposing physical player. He's a good first pass guy. He is mean and it's natural. He's very competitive. He's got the right mentality, he's got a pro mentality. He's got some force when he hits. His puck skills have really improved over the last four years; he can move the puck efficiently. He's got the mental makeup that is going to take him a long way in this sport. He'll be fun to watch and we'll see what he does at the AHL level, but this is a big, physical player. He might be a lot like Mark Fraser down the road; a big, physical, left-shot D, a #5 guy who brings a physical presence to the team. He'll be another one of those guys who comes in, plays solid minutes, gets some AHL experience, but he certainly has the mentality and the makeup."
So what we know about MacWilliam is this: He’s big, he likes to hit, he sees time on the penalty kill, he has no business wandering into the offensive zone, he’s basically Mark Fraser with less punching (I’m assuming less punching, but it’s hard to tell with players coming out of the NCAA).
This all leads me to believe that MacWilliam will be a blue collar favourite in the Leafs organization very soon. Given his age (23) and his experience playing against older competition I wouldn’t be surprised if MacWilliam is on a faster track to spot duty in the NHL but with much lower expectations than the rest of the prospect pool.
Despite MacWilliam being ranked 19th I am comfortable betting on MacWilliam getting a taste of the NHL by late this season. His defensive defenseman role and age will get him a look and since you’re not too worried about limiting his potential you don’t care if he’s parked in the press box for a week or if he plays eight minutes a night. MacWilliam likely tops out as a reserve defenseman and as a potential future captain of the Marlies. I’d conveniently dump him into the Jamie Sifers, Jay Harrison, Phil Oreskovic level of prospect where you’re happy that when you’re on your third defensive call-up you feel comfortable that you’re advancing towards your lottery pick with dignity. Basically he’s a couple of steps ahead of Andy Wozniewski.
Andrew MacWilliam is a short term, low risk prospect who buys the organization a bit of time while the blue chips develop and MacWilliam will meet all of my expectations if he keeps Korbinian Holzer out of the Leafs lineup. With the Marlies focusing on development, and the Leafs only having 14 defensemen on one way contracts (assuming Franson re-signs) there will be plenty of space for MacWilliam on the Marlies roster and it seems unlikely that he will need to spend time in Orlando.
Here’s a Spotlight on MacWilliam by the University of North Dakota