Monday Mailbag: Marlie Madness

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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.

  • Dirty30

    What kind of ceiling does Connor Brown have in the NHL? 2nd line center/winger? 3rd line center/winger with ability to play as needed in top 6? Is he comparable to somebody like Pasqal Dupuis – somebody who can be a good complementary player to a star like Nylander?

  • Dirty30

    Somebody who has not had an impact in his rookie season w/Marlies due to injuries is Matt Finn. I was very high on him when he was selected. Is he trending to make the NHL or is he going to be an AHLer? Are frequent injuries a factor? I always thought he could be a good 4-6th defenseman in NHL? Do you see that happening?

  • silentbob

    From what I’ve read Hanifin is the 3rd best prospect in this years draft, so if he available with the 4th pick it should be an easy decision. I know a lot of people are focused on and want a center, but the Leafs need franchise talent at any position. The Bruins won a cup with Bergeron as their #1 Center, the Devils won 2 with Gomez and 1 with Holik, and the Ducks won with MacDonald. All good centers but not on par with the top centers in the league. You can build a winner around defense and goaltending, and its more important that the Leafs find players they can build a winner around then a center.

    I hope they keep Nylander in the AHL for at least another year. There is no reason to rush a 19 year old kid to the NHL. I’d much rather wait another 1-2 even 3 years and wait until Nylander is ready to have the kind of impact a player like Nyquist had as a rookie then playing him before he is ready and taking that risk. What would the benefit of playing him in the NHL next year be?

    • silentbob

      Solid posting as usual Bob. I tend to agree that the leafs should actually implement the Burkie plan of building from the goalie out and thus Hanifin would give the leafs two young stud defencemen.

      • silentbob

        Thanks, though I wouldn’t want the leafs to “focus” or “zero in” on getting a dman anymore then a center, lots of teams have with a center being their best player as well.

        They should take the best player available, center, winger, dman or goalie. You take the prospects more likely to become franchise players, or the highest potential and most likely to develop when you’re picks com up and then build around the guys who reach that level of play.

  • FlareKnight

    I’m not saying it matters, but it would be kind of funny that with 3 Leaf fans in the top 5 of this draft (McDavid, Strome, Marner) we end up getting the Boston kid :). Just a bit of irony.

    Of course in the position I would fully agree with taking Hanifin. That guy has managed to hold onto that top 3 spot behind McEichel for the whole year despite some really amazing performances from guys behind him. Taking him gives you Hanifin and Rielly as the top end for our blueline and that’s a lot of talent. Maybe the best potential top pairing we’ve had in recent memory. It’s a good pick. He’s got good size, skating and can really read the play. The kind of guy you want on your blueline for a long time.

    On the other side I don’t mind taking Marner in that situation. It’s arguable this guy was slowed down by playing on the wing with Domi than playing center apart from him as shown by his playoff totals. This guy could be the insanely skilled center we need. Yeah he’s not huge, but effort level and skill are there.

    Really I don’t see the downside of taking any of Strome/Marner/Hanifin. 2 of those guys are available, pick one and be happy :).

    • silentbob

      I think Hanifin/Rielly would absolutely be the best 1-2 punch (ultimately you may split them up the way the Ducks did with Neidermayer/Pronger and the Devils did with Stevens/Niedermayer) the Leafs have ever had on the blue line. Or at least they would have the potential to be. If they both reach their potential, Hanifin would likely be the best D-man the Leafs have had since Salming (maybe the best period) while Rielly would be a “Letang” like top pairing playing. Not many teams would have a 1-2 punch like that. Assuming both can play 25 minutes a night, if you split them up that means one or the other would be on the ice for almost the entire game.

      If they are able to come away from the draft with Hanifin AND Draisaitl……

      • FlareKnight

        i saw hanifin compared to seabrook. if we were to choose him, we’d have a keith-seabrook type of defensive pairing. he’s the more all around, well-rounded, all situation type of player while rielly (like keith) is the dynamic, flashy player. that would be amazing but then i’ve seen marner compared to kane/giroux and strome to backstrom/thornton and i can’t decide who i want. it changes every day. the leafs should really trade a top 6 winger for nj’s 6th round pick (probably jvr- sadly) and they could have a chance at provorov, barzal, werenski, zacha or even marner if the hurricanes draft crouse. what an interesting draft. i can’t wait!

  • MatsSundin#13

    I am just curious as I have not been keeping up with all of the top prospects – is Lawson Crouse in the conversation for the Leafs pick or do Strome/Marner/Hanifin clearly have higher potential ceilings?

  • FlareKnight

    On the topic of Crouse I would agree with the thinking that he’s the ideal guy to pick up when you have a team that is very close to competing. That kind of guy can make a big difference in the right group and like some of those articles state, he’s a coaches dream. But not the kind of guy I think the Leafs should seriously be looking at this early in a rebuild at 4th overall.

    Anyways I agree it’d be an interesting change for the Leafs to put some focus on the defense and Hanifin would be a huge addition for that cause. A guy that you can rely on for a ton of minutes in your end, but also can be beneficial to the offense.

  • silentbob

    I’ve seen that too (the hockey writers right?), but I’ve also seen his offensive talent and upside highly praised, I think puts him more in the Keith category.

    I think Hanifin has a higher ceiling then Rielly. If the Leafs got both and they both reached their potential with out being pleasant surprises, I think they’d be a Pieterangelo/Shattenkirk (Hanifin/Rielly) like combo in both style and role on the team (hope that makes sense).

    Also, I’d bet if the devils move that pick I think it would have to be Kessel going to New Jersey for them to even listen.