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Future Star Friday: Kerby Rychel

Just as you asked for some content to get you ready for the weekend, we’ve got another edition of Future Star Fridays!

We began this series to showcase players who were not Calder eligible and therefore no longer also eligible for our yearly summer prospect rankings, which you can read all over the site.

After kicking things off with Josh Leivo last week, which you can read below, we’re moving on to another fellow that loves to be discussed in Leaf circles.

Future Star Friday: Josh Leivo

Ah yes, the majestic Kerby Rychel.

Let’s say it again. Kerby Rychel.  What a name. Son of Warren, Windsor Spitfires General Manager and also former professional hockey player. No relation to Kirby, beloved Nintendo character (that we know of).

Before we get into the nitty gritty, in case you’ve missed it, he’s got a really nice cat.

What’s New, Leafs? A Pussycat. Whoa Whoa Whoaaaa.

Okay, back to hockey. Here we go, everyone!

Rychel is a former first-round draft pick that was an acquisition at the conclusion of the 2016 draft in a deal for Scott Harrington, Rychel is about in the same boat as everyone else in the Future Star Friday series: they’ve dipped their toes in the water of the NHL, but have yet to stick for a full season. As such, he’s still “kind of a prospect”, and as he hasn’t, you know, played for the Leafs yet, it’s our due diligence to check in on him every once in a while.

We wrote this a little while back on him, when we were SO SURE that he or Josh Leivo was going to be a Golden Knight:

The Leafs will probably lose Josh Leivo or Kerby Rychel in the Vegas draft

Well, that obviously didn’t happen. But here’s the most important stuff on Rychel from Ryan Fancey from that piece:

Rychel’s obviously a different story because he didn’t get a sniff in the NHL this season. However, he was the Marlies top scorer as a 22-year-old, with 52 points in 73 games. His only stint in the NHL to this point was 32 games played with the Jackets last season, where he notched 9 points. That’s not much to write home about, but then again, it’s the same as Matt Martin’s total over nearly three times as many games-played this past season. And if the toughness angle is your thing, Rychel actually likes to punch faces as well.

Rychel’s been around the block a little bit, playing for a host of teams at every level. While born in the USA, he’s represented Canada internationally, as he grew up in Ontario. Most notably, he’s a Calder Cup Champion, winning the 2016 trophy as a member of the Lake Erie (now Cleveland) Monsters.

He’s been busy, that’s for sure. The leading scorer on the Marlies this past season, Rychel doesn’t have blow-you-away numbers but he doesn’t exactly scare you off either. 81 goals over his two years leading up to the draft is more than respectable, and he’s produced well at every level, even if it’s not outstanding.

Here’s him playing hockey 4-5 years ago. Time flies!

And then him more recently: last season with the Marlies.

For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s James Mirtle didn’t include Rychel on the list of Marlies who could graduate to be full time Leafs this upcoming season.

From friend of the blog @Ziggy_14 is a great data viz showing off Rychel’s 2016-17 season.

What’s up next?

With Kasperi Kapanen ahead of him for sure and a few other players in similar roles competing for exposure in terms of the Leafs’ management’s eyes, finding the right fit in a Leafs organization full of good forwards might be tough. There’s a lot of confirmed roster spots and not a ton of wiggle room.

With just a single year left on his entry-level deal, the Leafs have to make their mind up sooner rather than later on the soon-to-be 23-year old. He’s definitely good enough to play in the NHL and not look totally out of place, but will that be with the Leafs or elsewhere? Or is he stuck with the unfortunate future of being an AHL lifer? There’s a fine line right now that Rychel is walking and he’s only got so much time left to step it up and become a regular. Of course, there are always late bloomers but… that’s the exception, not the rule.

There’s also the one big question fans love to ask:

Should the Leafs trade him? I mean, if they can and feel like they benefit, sure, why not? But the “big thing” with Kerby Rychel is that he’s no longer waiver-exempt, and would have to pass through them in order to be called up and down.

Rychel’s value isn’t as high as it used to be, seeing that he’s now cooked in the minors for a few years and while he’s been good, he hasn’t exactly lit the AHL on fire.

If he makes the Leafs’ roster out of camp, it won’t be without competition. But if he stays in Toronto, expect Rychel to be kept in the AHL to start the 2017-18 season.