Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
The ink hasn’t finished drying off on Auston Matthews’ entry-level contract, but that hasn’t stopped Lou Lamoriello and pals from getting the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed on another set of paper. The Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to terms with forward Josh Leivo this afternoon, signing him to a two-year deal.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) July 21, 2016
The 23-year-old Leivo is an interesting one, in the sense that he followed up a year where things seemed to be going pretty poorly for him with a near point-per-game season with the Toronto Marlies in 2015/16. In 51 games, Leivo scored 17 goals and added 31 assists for 48 points, which earned him a spot on the North Division team at the AHL All-Star game this season.
One thing that leaves me questioning the value of his production is the quality of his linemates. Nearly all of his appearances with the Marlies this season involved having one of Mark Arcobello or William Nylander as his centre, and his rotating cast of wingers often included the likes of Richard Panik, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, or Zach Hyman.
On the other hand, though, his numbers do appear to have a level of sustainability to them. His shooting percentage of 10.8% over 158 shots this year is below his AHL career average of 11.7%, and 24 of those 31 assists (77%) were primary helpers. The ratio becomes even more lopsided at even strength (86%), but the fact that nearly a third of his points came on the powerplay might be a bit concerning to people.
Leivo also played twelve games with the big club this year, giving him 28 over the course of his 3-year NHL career. In those dozen appearances, he scored five goals.
|2012-13||Sudbury / Kitchener||OHL||63||29||44||73||52||20||30.41|
|2013-14||Toronto Maple Leafs||9||1||0||1||4||-1||1.81||-6.82|
|2014-15||Toronto Maple Leafs||7||1||1||2||0||0||0.89||-0.18|
|2015-16||Toronto Maple Leafs||12||5||0||5||6||2||1.63||-6.55|
Leivo has drawn a lot of comparisons to Joffrey Lupul, and not just because he’s a slightly tan Canadian kid who shoots right, plays both wings, is about 6’2 and 200lbs, and has the initials JL. Leivo is unafraid of going into chippy areas to get the puck on his stick and is has both a heavy wrist shot and a slippery smooth pass. Like Lupul, he could serve to improve his defensive game and it would be nice to see him become more of an explosive skater.
He also comes significantly cheaper than the man he might one day replace. The native of Innisfil will make $575,000 this year, and $650,000 in 2017/18, for a cap hit of $612,500. It might be a little presumptuous to get too attached to him, though, given the long list of roster-ready wingers and the fact that he isn’t exempt from waivers. He also isn’t exempt from the 2017 Expansion Draft, meaning the Leafs will have to protect him if they don’t want to risk losing him to Las Vegas.