Like plenty other AHL teams from the past and present, the Toronto Marlies are in the midst of some major mid-season turnover.
With Carl Grundstrom being included in the package that landed Jake Muzzin and a broken collarbone sidelining Mason Marchment for the next two to three months, the Marlies are inadvertently undergoing a face-lift. But this kind of change is a by-product of the AHL. Whether its one of you’re best players getting recalled, being plagued by an injury or even dealt by the big club–theres a lot of roster turnover in the league.
“Every year, there’s a lot of this type of thing happening. This is my fourth year here, there’s a lot of players that come through the doors [of an AHL team],” Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe told The Leafs Nation after last Mondays practice. “You’re constantly adjusting your lineup and trying different things.”
Without a doubt, it stings for the Marlies to lose guys like Grundstrom and Marchment. They were probably the Leafs second and third call-up options for the Leafs and they were huge offensive contributors at the AHL level. Nevertheless, the Leafs organization prepared their AHL affiliate for this sort of thing to happen. The Marlies have several players waiting in the wings that have high upside.
Whether it’s the prospects that started the year lower in the lineup or the new additions that have been acquired over the last few weeks–the Marlies have plenty of options at their disposal.
“There is a lot of guys that can get in and play some quality minutes,” pointed out veteran forward Chris Mueller. “The opportunities [here] to play big minutes on this team, help our team win and [eventually] go up with the Maple Leafs.”
So who’s it going to be? Lets take a look at whose in the running:
Timashov is in the midst of a make-or-break year.
As the 22-year-old forward plays out the home stretch of his entry-level contract, he’s running out of time to elevate his game at the AHL level. At times, Timashov’s game–one that revolves around speed, possession and offensive creativity—can be dynamic at the minor league level.
“The way that he carries the puck and brings it up the ice, kinda sets the line up in the offensive zone,” said Keefe.
But other times, he’s either invisible out there or visible for all the wrong reasons. He can become pedestrian on the forecheck and sometimes struggles, immensely, in one-on-one puck battles. Furthermore, Timashov can oftentimes get caught taking an ill-advised penalty and he was even scratched for three games in mid-December because of that.
You never know which Dmytro Timashov you’re going to get.
But the upside in his game is so valuable– with NHL teams implementing more players of Timashov’s ilk onto their fourth lines–that the Marlies have continued to give Timashov an ample amount of opportunities.
And although he’s put up a respectable 0.67 points per game this season, theres reason to believe that Timashov could be producing a lot more if he was able to capitalize on his chances, more often.
The time is nye for Timashov to kick his game up a notch.
Save for Jeremy Bracco, no Marlies forward has progressed as much as Adam Brooks has in his sophomore season.
“He was a very significant contributor for us in the playoffs, last year. He was one guy that I thought was going to take a real big step this year,” Keefe said.
With each passing game, it’s apparent how much Brooks’ game has matured over the last several months. He’s poised with the puck, responsible and never cheats in the defensive zone. He’s focused on the little things in his game, which will pay dividends for the natural centre, down the road.
“You’re not going to jump in [at the NHL level] and be a point producer right away,” Brooks told The Leafs Nation.
And as of late, the offence has started to come along, too. After recording 19 points in 57 games in his rookie season, Brooks has 20 points in 36 games this season.
By nature, Brooks’ a late bloomer. It took him a couple years to adjust to the Junior ranks before ending off his WHL career with two back-to-back 120+ point seasons. As Brooks’ offensive game progresses at the AHL level, and his game being way more complete than it was at the start of his rookie season, there’s reason to believe he can be a huge point producer for the Marlies.
The Leafs’ AHL affiliate is going to be relying on Brooks more and more– at even-strength and on both special teams units–which is going to be huge for the Winnipeg natives development.
The quicker Brooks can develop, the better. The Leafs don’t have many high-end centre prospects in their system and someone of Brooks’ skillset could make for a very intriguing fourth line centre, in the coming days.
Michael Carcone returned to the lineup during Fridays 7-6 (OT) loss to the Belleville Senators after being sidelined for three weeks with a concussion. Carcone showed little signs of rust in his first game back, potting a goal and registering seven shots on goal.
“He gets to the inside, probably as much as anyone that we have,” Keefe said of Carcone. “[His performance] was a welcome addition to the group, for sure.”
— Jake Stoller (@JLStoller) February 6, 2019
Carcone’s injury on January 12th, and the aftermath of such, left a sour taste in the Marlies’ mouth. After sustaining a concussion on the boards, Carcone went after a Rochester Americans player, attacked him, and then was given a game misconduct. The Americans would go on to capitalize on the ensuing power play chances and the Marlies lost the game because of it. After the game, Keefe referred to the penalty as “egregious.”
But now, thats all in the rear-view mirror.
“A good chunk of time has passed here. Our team has moved on from that,” Keefe said at practice ahead of Carcone’s return. “We, of course, have spoken to him about that particular incident and just about his play in general and how we think he can fit in around here. I’ve had some good conversations with him. I like a lot of things about his game. A lot of things [that] will really help our team.
Carcone’s biggest asset is his ability to get involved in the offensive zone and produce. Carcone, who has 26 points in 35 games split between Utica and Toronto, has a dynamic shot and is able to squeak past defenders with a wide array of one-on-one moves.
With more ice-time coming is way at even-strength and on the power play, don’t be surprised if Carcone morphs back into a nearly point-per-game player like he was in Utica before arriving in Toronto in early December.
One year removed from a rookie campaign that saw him score 20 goals and being an AHL all-star, forward Gabriel Gagne finds himself in the midst of a funk.
Before being acquired by the Leafs organization in exchange for Morgan Klimchuk, Gagne’s confidence was at an all-time low with the Belleville Senators. He wasn’t fitting in with head coach Troy Mann’s system and the Senators coach was hard on him. It lead to Gagne overthinking things and he struggled immensely.
“I had no confidence back in Belleville [this year], it was pretty hard,” Gagne told The Leafs Nation.
Since he walked in the Marlies’ door, though, Keefe has done everything he can to restore the confidence in the 6’5 sniper. He’s even given him some playing time with some of the teams top contributors, like Adam Brooks and Trevor Moore.
“[I] just wanted him to play with two good players and two guys that will spend time in the offensive end and hopefully give him an opportunity to shoot the puck and do what he does well,” Keefe said.
On Saturday afternoon, Gagne did exactly what he does well–and thats putting the puck in the net. A power play goal from Gagne during Saturdays game marked his first goal in a Marlies uniform.
— Jake Stoller (@JLStoller) February 9, 2019
But for Keefe and his staff, success on the power play is just half the battle when it comes to Gagne’s development.
“I think he’s a guy, after scoring 20 goals last year, [who] feels like he can make an offensive contribution. We believe that also,” Keefe said. “We also though, need him to be a consistent contributor at even-strength and be a reliable player.”
Step one for Gagne though is to get some confidence. Getting the monkey off his back over the weekend will surely help with that.