Back to School: Which Communications Major Could Improve the Leafs?

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The trade deadline has passed. The draft is still over three
months away. Tanking is depressing and I’m not ready to adopt new teams for the
playoffs. It’s time to fill that void with NCAA free agent speculation since
their season will be wrapping up shortly and we are about a month away from the
Frozen Four finals in Boston, it seems like as good a time as any to preview names that aren’t Jack Eichel or Noah Hanifin.

Over at SBN
College Hockey
they’ve been counting down the top 100 prospects in College
Hockey. The Leafs
Dominic Toninato was #20
and he was the only entry on the list of the five
Toronto NCAA players. While Toninato appearing on the list is encouraging, I’m more interested in finding the next Scrivens or Bozak (for these purposes being
Tyler Bozak is a good thing) and avoiding the next Brayden Irwin, Tyler
Brenner, Simon Gysber, Christian Hanson, …anyway, the Leafs have one player contract left to use, and here are a few interesting ways of using it.

Casey Bailey: Junior,
Forward (Penn State)

Getting past Penn State grossness, Bailey is the best available
goal scorer among the free agents. He’s a 6’3 Alaskan who didn’t do too much in
his first couple of seasons, so you could make the case that he’s blooming a
little too late.

Interesting thoughts from SBN College Hockey who they ranked
as the 40th best prospect
:

“Bailey’s heavy shot and a willingness to unleash it from
anywhere makes him a dangerous offensive threat. He’s also a physical force on
the defensive end of the ice.”

 Interesting numbers
from College Hockey Inc.:

21 goals and 37 points in 32 games (1.16 ppg)
Of the 37 points, 28 of them are at even strength.
He also averages 5.81 shots per game.

Verdict:

If the Leafs are interested in adding an offensive prospect
Bailey is probably the best bet. At the very least he’d help the Marlies put up
points next season which may continue to be a challenge for them.

Dylan Margonari:
Junior, Center (Minnesota State)

I will always be disappointed that Minnesota State uses the
name Mavericks instead of Screaming Eagles, but that’s not the point here.
Margonari hasn’t been a huge point producer over any of his three years in
college, but the fact that he can be counted on as a two center is encouraging.

Interesting thoughts from SBN College Hockey who they ranked
as the 80th best prospect
:

“He’s not as strong with the puck on his stick so he won’t
create much offense on his own, but he contributes offensively by being great
at retrieving loose pucks, helping maintain possession, and using his speed to
score goals.”

Interesting numbers from College Hockey Inc.:

 11 goals, 15 points
in 28 games
2 of those goals were powerplay goals
Only 2 multi point games

Verdict:
Margonari would slot behind Sam Carrick, Dominic Toninato, and Fredrick
Gauthier when it comes to bottom six center prospects. That probably makes him
unnecessary.

Austin Czarnik: Senior, Forward (Miami)

Anytime you can get someone from the same school as Tyler
Biggs you have to make that move, right? A strong faceoff guy and powerplay
quarterback, Czarnik could be an interesting playmaker to work with some of the
Marlies young wingers next season.

Interesting thoughts from SBN College Hockey who they ranked
as the 50th best prospect
:

“Czarnik’s lack of size continues to be the biggest knock on
his pro potential, and likely the reason he’s still in college as a senior. But
he has so many other assets that make him an effective player, like his quick
feet, great anticipation, strong stick, and great passing ability.”

Interesting Numbers from College Hockey Inc.:

30 assists, 32 points in 32 games
12 assists, 0 goals on the powerplay
53.6% on faceoffs

Verdict:
At 5’9, 150 lbs I’m sure most NHL teams have already crossed Czarnik’s name off
their lists, but a 22 year center who seems to be very good at completing a
pass should be worth considering for the Marlies who might want a second line
center next season.

Nick Saracino: Junior Forward (Providence)

Nick Saracino might be one of the more versatile options
that could fill a top six role in the AHL or may ultimately be a decent bottom
six option in the NHL. His numbers are solid and have been for a couple of
seasons, but may also be pesty enough to serve a purpose if his scoring doesn’t translate over to professional hockey.

Interesting thoughts from SBN College Hockey who they ranked
as the 78th best prospect
:

“The St. Louis, Mo. native leads the Friars in scoring and
has used his speed to his advantage. He does a good job of creating open space
for himself by his separation ability and is gritty.”

Interesting Numbers from College Hockey Inc.:

12 goals, 31 points in 34 games
6 goals, 12 points on the powerplay
20 of his points were scored in the 1st period

Verdict:
While he may not be the first choice of the forwards available in free agency,
Saracino seems to have enough of a well rounded game to add some value
somewhere. The fact that he is his team’s leading scorer is encouraging that he
is the one likely driving the offence for his club.

http://www.sbncollegehockey.com/2015/2/18/8066355/the-top-100-nhl-prospects-in-the-ncaa

Troy Stecher: Sophomore, Defenseman (North Dakota)

At 20, Troy is the
youngest player on the list, which probably should make him one of the more
enticing ones too. He’s playing on a very good team, which has the habit of
making defensemen look a little better, but the strength of UND’s program is
also something that makes Stecher a more attractive candidate as the team has
been churning out NHL ready players for some time.

Interesting thoughts from SBN College Hockey who they ranked
as the 31st best prospect
:

“His smooth, strong skating allows him to be a force on both
ends of the ice.”

Interesting numbers
from College Hockey Inc.:

10 points, 2
shorthanded points in 25 games
1.72 shots per game
53 blocked shots, 9 penalties

Verdict:

This is a simple one. If you can add a 20 year old, who is considered to be one of the top players in his league, you probably try to do that.

Kenney Morrison: Junior, Defense (Western Michigan)

Morrison is a bit on the older side at 23 but has a
consistent college career since he was a junior. Hovering around 20 points in
his first two seasons, Kenney is likely to finish around the same number in his
3rd year. At 6’2, 198 lbs, he’s got the size that NHL teams seem to
require.

Interesting thoughts from SBN College Hockey who they ranked
as the 59th best prospect
:

“He could still improve on the defensive end a bit,
especially in terms of using his size more effectively, but his puck-moving
abilities and offensive upside make him an intriguing prospect.”

Interesting numbers from College Hockey Inc.:

5 goals, 14 points in 32 games
2.16 shots per game
8 points on the powerplay

Verdict:
Depending on if the Leafs see any value in bringing back players like Kevin Marshall,
Andrew MacWilliam, or Eric Knodel, there may be interest in bringing in another
defenseman for the Marlies next season and roll the dice on some upside
existing with Morrison. With potential call-ups to the Leafs this season he
might add value over call-ups from the Solar Bears for the Marlies.

Matt O’Connor: Junior Goaltender (Boston University)

One of the players who wasn’t on the SBNation list was Matt O’Connor, the goaltender for BU. While he didn’t crack that list, Darren Dreger has reported that as many as 14 NHL teams will be inquiring about the goaltender (from his radio spot on TSN Edmonton on March 5th, 2015). The number of scouts viewing Jack Eichel has likely been beneficial for O’Connor who seems bound for a bidding war. The 6’5 23 year old currently owns the best winning percentage out of all goaltenders in the NCAA, which doesn’t particularly mean too much, but he also has a career high save percentage which is substantially more meaningful.

Interesting numbers from College Hockey Inc.:

.927 Save Percentage and 2.21 GAA
Has faced the 21st most shots in the NCAA (803)
Has only had 6 games with a Sv% below .9, (lowest .887)

Verdict:

If the Leafs are in fact trading one of Bernier or Reimer this summer there is a need to find an additional goaltender. Whether that goaltender should be NHL or AHL level is debateable, but at first pass I wouldn’t prioritize goaltending over a position player in the NCAA free agency hunt.

Conclusion

Of the players on this list Czarnik, and Bailey are the two
who made the cut for the Hobey Baker long list (Toninato is also on that list).
They’d be the two favourites along with Stecher for a spot in the Leafs
organization. The Broll/Ashton trade gave the Leafs a couple of SPCs to use,
and of the players on this list there aren’t any that seem better than Tim
Erixon, so the decision to use a SPC on him looks pretty smart as well.

Heading into a full rebuild the Leafs are in a position to
offer a better chance at a roster spot to the best available players on this
list, and I’m sure the Leafs front office knows how to leverage that. It would
however be nice if the organization doesn’t do something stupid like refer to
the incoming player as a first round pick or use them as a first line center.

  • CMpuck

    Go for Matt O’Conner, it opens up a bunch of trade options whether he’s ready for the NHL or not. Plus he’s from Toronto,

    and O.C. is an unbelievably awesome nickname.

  • Poluza

    Considering that the Leafs are probably going to be terrible next year too, they should bolster their Marlies lineup. The best thing for the organization now is a competitive AHL team.

    With that said, I think they should go after Bailey. Hit shot output is crazy, which is definitely something the Marlies could use. Sparks/Bibeau/Gibson are all above average AHL goalies, so they’re set in net.

  • Poluza

    Heh Jon what was with the cheap shot at Christian Hanson, son of one of the infamous Hanson brothers. Why I recall Burkie bringing him in at the end of a leaf non playoff season, okay, okay is there any other kind of leaf season, and the kid played his heart out.

    He was a good American kid with size. What more could you ask for.

  • Andre Bradshaw

    What’s with the hate for Penn State?? Anyways Bailey’s a big kid and has a great shot. I’m not a scout but he looks a step above others at the college level.