There’s something to be said for looking at players outside the NHL without factoring in how ready they are to play in the NHL. We’ve looked at some really exciting prospects on this list, and Korshkov, Abramov, Woll, etc. all have potentially bright futures for the Leafs. On the other hand, there is Pontus Aberg who absolutely capable of playing in the NHL now, and that gives him the edge over some of the question marks. Factor in that Aberg is a decent player when he’s up with the Leafs, and he slots in fairly high here.
One of the other catches with this list is that we’re doing this before free agency and when the AHL season has been cancelled. As an arbitration eligible restricted free agent, there is a good chance Pontus Aberg won’t be qualified and his time with the organization is essentially already over. That’s not to say the Leafs should walk away from Aberg. Pontus was second on the Marlies in goals and points. He’s played five games for the Leafs in injury relief. He’s a veteran presence on the Marlies, which was particularly helpful when they had a number of young Swedish stars they were looking to develop as well. Aberg was a good fit for the Leafs, and could still be as offence may still be something the Marlies struggle with next year.
As for Aberg, the Marlies might be the best fit too. As a single father, he would be playing for an AHL team that is in the same city as the parent team. Not having to uproot has to be a selling point for him, as well as the fact that facilities the Marlies have access to are a cut above the rest of the AHL as well. Unless Aberg is wanting to make the move back to Europe, Toronto might check most of the boxes for a bubble player.
When it comes to Aberg’s game, what he brings pretty much begins and ends with offense. He’s one of the better finishers on the Marlies, and if the Leafs are looking to add depth scoring at points in the season he’d probably be a player Dubas would consider calling up. No one on the Marlies took more shots this season, and that remains a need for a lackluster powerplay.
Aberg doesn’t come across as a lock to return to Toronto next season. For him it will come down to whether he thinks he has a better path to the NHL somewhere else (given the current wing depth on the Leafs, it’s not likely he’ll see much time with the Leafs in 2020-21.) He might also want to return back to Europe. If he’s looking for stability the Leafs/Marlies offer some appeal.
For the Leafs, the appeal probably comes from knowing what they have in Aberg and knowing he wants to be an AHLer first and an injury callup second. The majority of Aberg’s six years in North America have been playing for AHL teams, so there is no reason to believe he isn’t comfortable with this situation. As long as Aberg can pull in NHL league minimum money playing in the AHL, he’s probably happy and it’s great depth for the Leafs.