As it stands, unless there is a significant change in personnel, it’s not likely any candidate suddenly make the Leafs and steal a roster spot. That’s not what this is about. This isn’t about a player like Keith Aucoin who even Brian Burke mentioned during the broadcast he would see some time with the Leafs.
Perhaps these players peak in the American Hockey League, but with a little work and some refinement, these are the good replacement level forwards, with an outside chance to make the jump from Ricoh Coliseum to the Air Canada Centre.
Ended the season with a 15 game NHL debut, scoreless yet enthusiastic debut. He scored 20 goals at the time of the late season recall, scoring 11 in the first 13 games, and then 9 in the remaining 46. Injured in first round of the Calder Cup playoffs versus Rochester, he returned to face his old team Norfolk in the the Calder Cup Finals, scoring the Marlies series opening goal and adding another assist during 4-game sweep.
He still somewhat unbalanced at times, particularly in directional shifts and in transition, but was quicker off the mark leading to a good straightaway speed. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 he let up initiating contact on many occassions and could use of his body more effectively, such as when he applies himself along the boards. The opening weekend highlight may be the tussle with Mitchell Heard, which may appeal to management’s truculence but hides some of the core issues in his play away from the puck. This is an improvement area for an outside chance of sticking with the parent club.
Grew the legend in a red-hot first round versus Rochester, scoring five times and adding three more in the next two rounds before being blanked in the Finals. Went off to the room less than five minutes in to the game Sunday versus the Lake Erie Monsters before returning late in the period. With a signature hunched over skating stride, he played a smart defensive game. He was getting in lanes and using his stick to to take space away.
Enthusiastic about using his stocky 5-foot-11 213 pound frame and initiates contact at will. His defensive game is the only true path to the parent club, so expectations this season should be build on the forechecking presence with a good release (had a scoring chance with a quick shot from the hash marks between the circles) and touch of scoring that made him effective during the playoff run. The outside chance he sticks is slim, but not impossible.
Agitating chatterbox, uses his unnerving behaviour traits to get into the opposition heads. Aggressive and gritty, he’s shown enough examples of the pest qualities missing in the Leafs lineup since Darcy Tucker. He was beat on the Monsters second goal, misplaying the Tyson Barrie who pulled a spinorama at the point and walked in to score.
He’s a good straight away skater, lacks some natural lateral movement. He’s not very explosive but gets up to a good top speed. He heads to the goal without the puck. Somewhat undersized he could be pushed off the puck easily if he’s not planted. The overall skillset doesn’t suggest a full time NHL to me, and I’m not sure he’s a surefire replacement level player at this point. If the Leafs are looking for the pest, and nasty gritty winger, he’ll get his chance.