Toronto Marlies announce opening roster, are once again obscenely stacked

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Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com

The Toronto Marlies are gearing up for their season opener tomorrow afternoon, and as such have released their opening night roster. Unlike the NHL, where there’s a 23-man cap on how many players can be placed on the roster, the American Hockey League is a bit more flexible. With that in mind, the Marlies will head into tomorrow with 29 skaters available to them.

The Forwards

Projected Depth Chart

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Andreas Johnsson (21) Byron Froese (25) Nikita Soshnikov (22)
Colin Greening (30) Colin Smith (23) Kasperi Kapanen (20)
Brendan Leipsic (22) Brooks Laich (33) Dmytro Timashov (20)
Kerby Rychel (22) Frederik Gauthier (21) Tobias Lindberg (21)
Rich Clune (29) Marc-Andre Cliché (29)  Daniel Maggio (25)
Trevor Moore (21)    
Mason Marchment (21)  

The Marlies might not have William Nylander anymore, but I don’t think there’s any question that they still have the most dangerous forward core in the American Hockey League by a significant margin. Toronto, as it stands, can run four lines of players that would have no issue playing minutes on at least a couple of NHL teams right now, and that’s incredible.

They’re still absurdly young too. Nearly every core player is under 24; Froese, Greening, and Laich, who were NHLers lost in the numbers game are exceptions, along with a more-than-useful ‘glue guy’ in Clune. Cliche and Maggio stand out as abundances, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Maggio get cut/sent down soon enough and Cliche’s minutes to be limited.

What’s amazing about this is that there may still be re-enforcements coming. Josh Leivo could very well find his way to the waiver wire after he’s taken off IR, and Connor Brown, as much as he deserves to be a full-time Leaf, may be an odd man out due to his waiver-exempt status and the addition of Seth Griffith earlier this week. That would bring the Marlies to 19 forwards, which is a little crazy.

Then again, in a league with so many back-to-back and three-in-three scenarios, maybe it’s a good thing to have such an abundance.

The Defence

Projected Depth Chart

Left Defence Right Defence
Andrew Campbell (27) Rinat Valiev* (21)
Andrew Nielsen (19) Justin Holl (24)
Travis Dermott (19) William Wrenn (25)
Viktor Loov (23) Nikolas Brouillard* (21)
Jon Jutzi** (25)

It’s worth noting, first off, that Valiev and Brouillard are playing on their wrong sides in this scenario, and that Jutzi is on IR at the moment. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him assigned to the Solar Bears once healthy, in order to get some pro games in; despite his age, Jutzi is a recent college graduate and has just six AHL games to his name.

Valiev plays on his off-side in this scenario because that’s where he spent his time last year. I don’t know if it’s the most opportune area for him from a play-driving perspective, but he’s made significant strides in the past few months, so playing with a mentor in Campbell is likely helping him a bit.

William Wrenn was a standout in training camp, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him be this year’s Justin Holl, in the sense that he’ll steal a regular roster spot. The Marlies are in need of right-handed shots and his numbers in the ECHL last year were very good, not to mention the fact that the eyes show a very calm and composed player who makes smart puck decisions. Toronto doesn’t quite have the same depth on the point as they have up front, but they do have a solid list of capable minute-eaters. The biggest question will come on the powerplay, as the team will have to find a way to make up for the loss of TJ Brennan’s offensive touch.

The Goaltenders

Projected Depth Chart

AHL Starter AHL Backup ECHL Starter Just Chllin’
Garret Sparks (23) Kasimir Kaskisuo (23) Antoine Bibeau (22) Jeff Glass (30)

Other than Jeff Glass, who seems to be along for the ride while he tries to find a team that will give him significant minutes, the Marlies are running the same three goalies as last year. To be honest with you, I have no idea which order they’ll run them, but here’s how I’d look at it.

  • Garret Sparks was the best goaltender you had last year. No question. Before his Leafs call-up, he was up there with Matt Murray as one of the best in the AHL, and even a slight derailment from injury left him with elite AHL numbers. If he’s healthy now, you go with him.
  • Kasimir Kaskisuo is the backup. Not because he’s higher on the depth chart than Bibeau, necessarily, but because he hasn’t played under a starter’s workload at the pro level before. NCAA seasons are shorter, and to adjust him, it might make sense to have him play 20-30 games instead of 40+ in the ECHL.
  • Conversely, Antoine Bibeau seems to be used to the frequency as this point, but still isn’t performing to a level meriting significant graduation. The Marlies took Sparks from an AHL role to an ECHL starter one back in 2014/15 and it did wonders for his technical game and confidence; there’s no reason they can’t do the same now for Bibeau, other than optics. But optics are silly, anyway.

Looking Ahead

It should also be noted that letters were announced today too. Andrew Campbell will wear the C once again, while Byron Froese, Rich Clune, Brendan Leipsic, and Colin Smith will rotate as alternates.

We’ll be talking about the players and the team’s expectations more over the coming games and into the season, as we always do, but from the looks of it, Toronto’s roster is once again full of talent that seems to be capable of graduation whenever the opportunity arises. That’s great, both in the sense that it should make them better than their opponents on paper and in the sense that it should lead to all sorts of internal competition, which lowers the odds of players getting complacent. When the first line centre has as much of a chance at the NHL as the fourth line winger, you get crazy levels of hunger. 

We’ll see if that converts into wins, but there’s no reason to believe that it won’t.

  • Simon Bud Wake

    I think, for the sake of development they play Gauthie higher up in the lineup. While his offensive production won’t be quite as good as the 3 you have above him, he’s the centre with the best shot of developing into a regular nhler. I say he gets the 2nd or at worst 3rd line duty this year.

    • The China Wall

      You make a good point, helping the Goat develop more of an offensive touch wouldn’t hurt but I think it will depend on what role the Leafs want to groom him for in the NHL.

      With who the Leafs have at centre right now, it doesn’t look like they will need any more offense from that position, but a good shut-down centre who can win the cruciial face-offs? They are always in demand and that’s where I think the Leafs see the Goat.

    • LeafsTakeFlight

      I agree as well. I hope to see Gauthier as our future 4th line center. Perfect size for a shutdown type player with a touch of offense once in awhile. We’re actually so deep with forwards that soon we’ll need to make decisions on our B-level prospects.

    • Brent Wisken

      That line of Rychel, Gauthier, and Lindberg is pretty big and skilled, and can do some damage. On a less deep AHL team, i can see them as an effective second line.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    No special mention of Andrew Nielsen or Travis Dermott. I think the Leafs are expecting one or both of them to join the main Leafs next year at the latest. I see a future 4th line of Martin, Gauthier, and Lindberg.There should be some top nine spots opening up next year as well.This year’s performance will be critical for some/all of these Marlies. Let’s not forget we have the next wave coming next year. They Leaf management will soon have to make some difficult decisions on what to do with our very promising prospects. We may have to take Hunter off the scouting team. He is putting too much pressure on Lamoriello’s ability to find jobs for all the kids.

    Example: At first glance Toronto claiming Seth Griffith off waivers, one says “Great move” “His high hockey IQ fits in with Marner, Nylander, and Matthews. (remember not everone is mentally up to playing with these guys)
    At second glance one says ” What are we going to do with Leivo and Brown”. Not to mention Lupul is due to come off the IR any day now. Like it or not Lupul will either be in the lineup or have to be waived.