Fans in every city love their “oddball” players, who lack shyness and are abundant in borderline confusing personality traits. Various interviews and media scrums throughout the year put Viktor Loov on the map with the casual fanbase because of this; he was never shy to talk about anything from hockey, to food, to William Nylander wasting his bandwidth on Xbox One games.
But Loov has the potential to be more than just a character – he has the potential to be a legitimate two-way contributor on an NHL blueline.
Expectations weren’t immediately placed on Loov when he was drafted 209th overall in 2012, but after a successful pair of seasons in the top two leagues in Sweden, he looked more than ready to fly across the ocean to join the Leafs organization last autumn.
Hyped up as a big and strong defenceman with the ability to throw a massive open ice check on occasion, Loov immediately impressed in rookie camp with his skating ability and positional awareness; enough to make the Toronto Marlies’ opening day roster. While his first game went by with little fanfare, he closed off the opening weekend with a bang, scoring a game-tying goal against the Utica Comets minutes before scoring the first ever 3-on-3 overtime goal under the AHL’s new system.
While he didn’t exactly continue that 76-goal pace, Loov found himself involved in all sorts of different situations, playing with just about every defenceman on the team, playing on the penalty kill, and occasionally even jumping in on the powerplay. Loov’s 21 points put him in second place amongst Marlies defencemen, though if TJ Brennan was acquired a few weeks earlier, he would have easily passed him.
Loov’s season ended on a bit of a low note, thanks to a two-game suspension for a hit during the first round of the AHL playoffs.
The Year Ahead
Thanks to the depth in the Leafs organization at the moment, it’s unlike that we’ll see the 22-year-old Loov make a jump to the big club at any point this year. Even in the event of injuries and suspensions, he likely ranks in the 10-12th position in the immediate depth chart. However, since the Leafs are expected to be sellers again throughout this season, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him get a decent look in 2016/17.
For now, his job is simple; become the best defenceman on the Marlies. That’s not an easy task with the likes of Stuart Percy, Scott Harrington, and TJ Brennan (if he doesn’t make the Leafs and/or get claimed on waivers) vying for the same role, but the opportunity is definitely there.
Expect Loov to be playing significant minutes, including special teams. A realistic goal for him would be 30+ points while contributing to a mid-tier penalty killing unit. Oh, and more crazy interviews. Everybody Loovs those.
..I’ll play myself out.