The last entry in this series took a look at two Marlies players that, this season, have served more as just Marlies than Leafs depth. Those were Sergey Kalinin and Seth Griffith.
Today it’s time to go to the Marlies once again, but this time with someone with a bit of a brighter future among the Leafs organization. We’re going to take a look at Brendan Leipsic.
Leipsic has been one of the Leafs B-level prospects for 2.5 years now, ever since being acquired from the Nashville Predators in the Franson/Santorelli trade before the trade deadline in 2015. This offseason, Leipsic landed #12 among Leafs prospects in TheLeafsNation’s rankings (a ranking which also included the ~10 rookies that spent time on the Leafs this season).
The small-statured but big-hearted left winger is really starting to knock on the door of the NHL. However, he’s only gotten one 6 game stint with the big club in 2015-16 throughout time with the Maple Leafs. One could assume that more will come next season, but for how long? Does he make the team out of camp, or is he the first call after a winger injury? There’s going to be a large number of forwards coming to Leafs camp gunning for very few jobs, and Leipsic won’t be the only one knocking on the door. Speaking of injuries, one could also assume that his concussion limited his opportunities to get called up during this past season.
One important note: Leipsic becomes waiver eligible next season so whatever the Leafs do, they are either putting him on the NHL roster or risking losing him to another team.
I hate resorting to AHL goal-based metrics as “stats”, but with Leipsic we don’t have much else to go on. So, here we go.
From prospect-stats.com, Leipsic landed 22nd in the AHL among forwards with 20 games played in all situations primary points per game. However, when you go to 5v5, he’s doesn’t crack the top 100. That’s certainly not ideal.
Leipsic also landed above 1 points-per-game, with 51 points in 49 games. That’s a good mark to hit to establish yourself as a key contributor at the AHL level.
Again from prospect-stats.com, Leipsic has another disappointing outlook in GF%rel. He’s a -2.04 there. However, his actual GF% is 53.33%, which is still a positive set of results. This indicates he was usually playing on a worse-but-still-good line for the Marlies, who finished with an immensely positive +38 goal differential.
We don’t come away from this really excited about Leipsic do we? I don’t, and I really like Leipsic. He’s still got potential but these numbers don’t paint a picture of him being a top line NHL forward, that’s for sure. They’re good enough to earn a shot, but that’s about it.
However, it’s important to remember that these numbers hold only a very small repeatability and predictivity. It’s entirely possible that Leipsic can be impactful in ways that aren’t represented in the numbers above.
So where do the Leafs aim for with regards to contract?
I don’t think it will be very hard at all to press Leipsic under the $1M mark as a primarily-AHL player. The question becomes where do they go with term? It depends on how confident they are that they want him filling a role in the NHL. Here are my guesses at it.
Optimistic: $925k x 2 years
Realistic: $800k x 1 year
Pessimistic: Part of a trade package
I don’t like the idea of moving future value assets for current needs with a young team. There’s still a whole lot that is in flux with this Maple Leafs team. But, it’s an option. There are rumours of packages going out for defensemen like Josh Manson or Chris Tanev, and Leipsic could certainly be considered part of that negotiation.
It would be much better to hold on to Leipsic and see if he can come and fill the roles that some veterans who may not be part of the long term plans currently hold. Can he be as offensively gifted as James Van Riemsdyk? Can he be a penalty killing specialist, pest, and defensive stalwart like Leo Komarov? Can he play the puck retrieval role on his line? Signing Leipsic allows you to try to answer those questions.
If anyone noticed, apologies for being a day late! Starting today we should be back on schedule to finish off on Thursday. Tomorrow we’ll look at Justin Holl, and then Thursday we’ll finish off with Zach Hyman.