It’s decision time on Riley Stotts

While there isn’t a whole lot that is going on in the world of hockey, and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future, there are still decisions to be made at the bottom of the depth chart that will be coming up in the near future with three of Toronto’s draftees.

Riley Stotts, Filip Kral, and Zach Bouthillier are all without contract, and if they aren’t signed by June 1st (that date could be moving), they will re-enter the NHL draft.

Normally this would be the last chance opportunity to showcase what they’ve achieved over the past two seasons, but with the Canadian Hockey League announcing the end of their regular season, and any hope for an off-season being a pipe dream at best, these three players have run out of time to make their cases for contracts with the Leafs.

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Given that we’ve got plenty of time to kill in the coming weeks and months, we’ll look at these players one by one, and start with Riley Stotts.

The appeal for Stotts is largely in the position listed next to his name, and that is center. The Leafs certainly lack in centers, and the case and point for that is probably that Tanner McMaster has spent a good number of games as the Marlies top line center this year, and when it wasn’t him, it was Adam Brooks. Stotts is similar to Brooks in a lot of ways, but he never had the benefit of playing on an absolute powerhouse line and team that gave him the numbers that Brooks had.

Stotts was a third round pick in Dubas first year of flying solo as GM. The first round pick, Sandin, has graduated to the Leafs. The second round pick, Durzi, was dealt to bring in Jake Muzzin. Stotts, along with Semyon Der-Arguchintsev make up the third round selections, and the hope that the Leafs can rebuild their center pipeline. SDA as the offensive first playmaker, and Stotts the jack of all trades with good hockey sense, that would find his role along the way. With that in mind, Stotts might have always been viewed as a project that the organization needed to get into their system before they know what they have with him, but the question is do they believe in him enough to still open that door?

2016-17  Swift Current Broncos 52 9 7 16 12
2017-18 SC/Calgary 69 19 25 44 46
2018-19  Calgary Hitmen “A” 62 19 38 57 54
2019-20  Calgary Hitmen “A” 64 25 43 68 34

Stotts has had a steady upward trajectory in his production, but lacks the ridiculous numbers you’d expect in post draft seasons. This may speak to him not having the talent to dominate offensively against much younger competition, but it also speaks to the state of the Hitmen organization over Stotts’ time there. I don’t think anyone is making the case for Stotts as a top six player at either the AHL or the NHL level, but the lack of dominance might speak to him not being able to keep up at the next level.

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Given the Leafs are chasing 4th line upside at this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them pass on Stotts, but equally, they could use some center help with the Marlies, and given the likely shortened off-season, maybe locking up organizational depth now is a plus. If Stotts is brought in, he’ll potentially be a project. If he’s not brought in, it’s a good reminder that not every 3rd rounder is a gem.