The Leafs are out of hockey games to lose. They didn’t end up with the promised child, Connor McDavid. Unsurprisingly, the topics here have changed a little bit. The focus has shifted to the organizational players that are still playing, and typically that involves the surging Toronto Marlies. Here’s four questions you had about the team, plus a raging outlier.
@Zeppelin_89 asked: How has William Nylander responded to the physical component of the AHL? Being eighteen, looking sixteen, having that hair, being sol talented.. it must lead to attention and intimidation, no?
The hair in particular. You can see that flow from orbit, really.
Seriously, though; he’s responded well, for the most part. He’ll never be the guy to lay an open ice hit. Admittedly, he’s a little shy in terms of getting to the corners, but that’s improved over the past few months. If the puck is on the line, though, tunnel vision kicks in and nothing stops the kid. There’s a reason that his first few goals were bangers in front of the net; he loves to score more than he loves himself.
@shutupisaac_ asked: Who will be starting in goal for the Marlies in the playoffs?
All signs point to Christopher Gibson. The Marlies gave Antoine Bibeau the Friday and Sunday games, which in theory sounds like a leaning towards the rookie, but in practice, was probably to let their starter rest. Gord Dineen will have no issues switching the two around if need be, but as long as Gibber stays consistent, they’ll pick the 0.921 with more starts over the 0.913 with fewer any day of the week.
@Billy_chilly asked: If Arizona takes Dylan Strome, who should the Leafs pick?
As much as I enjoy what Mitch Marner brings to a team, I think that you have to lean towards Noah Hanafin in this situation. All signs point to him becoming a pretty special player, and possibly the best out of the “almost as big three”. Sure, he’s not the first line centre everybody is hoping for, but could you imagine him with Morgan Rielly in a few years?! That would be scary as hell.
@abcSpectacular asked: Is the Marlies’ current winning streak sustainable?
Do you mean the seven game one they’re on now? Probably not. They won’t close the year 22-0 and sweep their way to a Calder Cup. At least, I don’t think they will.
Now, if we’re talking in general, this wasn’t exactly a late season surge, but rather it took this long to climb out of the ashes of their original struggles Toronto’s recovery began at Game 20 and took until Game 76; a 57 game inching towards post-season freedom. They seem to be riding a talented core moreso than freaky numbers, so as it stands, they should theoretically be good to play some strong hockey in the post season.
Their only issue? The Grand Rapids Griffins are stupidly good, and might be one of the only teams properly equipped to shut down the momentum at the moment.
@DontBeSaad20 asked: Would you keep William Nylander in the AHL next year?
Honestly, this depends on a lot of things. Ideally, I’d like to see him grow as a centre next year, and the AHL would be the ideal path for that for now (he’s been on LW this year). But what if the Leafs draft Dylan Strome? Do they assume that he and Nazem Kadri will be the 1/2 punch and fully convert Nylander to the wing?
If so, then your next question; who moves to make room for him? You’d want him in the top six, so a winger or two would have to be moved. If that happens, does he have a strong enough camp to make the team? Does that even matter?
Basically, you have to take this one a day at a time.