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Top Leafs Outside the NHL: #4 Kenny Agostino

I have really enjoyed Jon Steitzer‘s series on the best Maple Leafs outside of the NHL so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Today I’ll be talking about one of the more underrated players on this list: Kenny Agostino.

The Leafs signed Agostino for $737, 500 on a two-year contract in the summer of 2019. He offered the Leafs an inexpensive fringe-player who has past NHL-experience. Agostino’s numbers at the NHL level have been quite respectable for a bottom-six winger to say the least. In the 2018-2019 season, he spent time on both the Montreal Canadiens and the New Jersey Devils. He finished with 24 points in 63 games while spending the majority of his time on each team’s fourth line. The majority of his value that year came defensively and in transitioning the puck up the ice.

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This year, Agostino spent the whole season with the Marlies. He got called up once but didn’t end up playing a game which surprised me considering how well Agostino performed throughout the year.

In an organization full of eye-opening offensive forwards, Agostino’s silent-but-crafty skill set tends to be forgotten. He’s an intelligent player who does the majority of his damage without the puck. His sound positioning and anticipation allow him to disrupt opposing play in all three zones. 

In the 2018-2019 season, he finished 5th on the Devils in Takeaways/60 at even strength, only trailing Hall, McLeod, Johannsson, and Zajac. For completion, he finished 9th on the Canadiens in the same statistic that year.

Agostino’s work ethic is another area that stands out. He wins a ton of one-on-one battles along the boards as he effectively is able to use his body and stick to win pucks back. Agostino’s relentlessness has earned him high praise from his coaches. Most recently, Marlies coach Greg Moore had this to say about him:

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“Agostino was probably our best player. At times when we were down maybe two or three goals he would go out and try and finish hits and try and bring energy, which isn’t necessarily his game all the time and that’s a tribute to the type of person and player he is. He wanted to be an impact guy and do anything he could do for the team to try and win hockey games. If it was an overtime situation or pulled-goalie situation, he just wanted to be the guy and he has the mentality that he wants to be the one to make it happen and he’s not going on the ice scared to cause the goal against. He was a really good teammate, really good leader for us and contributed in a lot of ways.”

This season with the Marlies, Agostino was one of the most consistent players on the team. His appealing mix of strong positioning, high hockey IQ, and a strong work ethic made him one of the few bright spots at the end of the season. Agostino wasn’t the player you’d tune in to watch, but on many nights, he was the one you’d be talking about after. He led the Marlies with 49 points which were also 12th most in the league.

With the puck, Agostino is a capable carrier in transition but doesn’t generate many higher-end plays in the offensive zone, like many other forwards the Leafs have in the organization. His value comes from getting the puck up the ice before making a simple pass to maintain possession in the offensive zone.

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Adding to this notion, Agostino does a great job of finding holes in the opposing defense. This year he scored 27 goals, many of which were due to being in the right place at the right time. When you have creative passers on your team like Jeremy Bracco, Nic Petan, and Pontus Aberg, players who know how to get themselves open hold a ton of value. Here are a few examples of Agostino scoring after finding open spaces for a pass.

 

What’s next for Agostino?

Looking forward to next season, the Leafs have a plethora of left-wingers who will be fighting for a spot on the team.

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Potential Left-Winger Status
Zach Hyman Signed for 2.25M until 21-22
Andreas Johnsson Signed for 3.40M until 23-24
Ilya Mikheyev RFA
Pierre Engvall Signed for 1.25M until 22-23
Kyle Clifford UFA
Nick Robertson Signed to an ELC for 850 000 until 22-23
Nic Petan Signed for 775 000 until 21-22
Kenny Agostino Signed for 737 000 until 21-22

Agostino’s chances of making the Leafs next year is low but could improve before that time comes. His chances will surely be influenced by the decisions Kyle Dubas makes during the offseason. Considering the number of left-wingers the Leafs have, something “has got to give”.

  • Zach Hyman seems like the only left-winger that is a lock for next year’s roster, and frankly, he’s earned that. 
  • Johnsson had a season full of injuries and poor puck-luck. It felt like he took a step back from his rookie campaign. I personally still believe he is a legitimate top-six winger, but I understand that his concerning injury history and cap-hit play a role as to why he could be traded. 
  • Ilya Mikheyev is an RFA but it looks like there is interest on both sides for him to stay a Leaf. When healthy, Mikheyev was a strong even-strength producer who looks like he could step into the top-six. His ability to kill penalties is also valuable. 
  • Pierre Engvall had a good start to his NHL career but struggled at the end. Despite being signed to a two-year deal, he isn’t a shoo-in to make the opening night roster next year in my opinion, and could even be used in a trade before that time comes. 
  • Kyle Clifford is a UFA and is apparently interested in signing back with the Leafs. I like what Clifford brings to the table, but I would advise against signing a fourth-line winger for more than 1 million dollars AAV. The Leafs need to fill their fourth line with cheap talent and have the personnel to do so. 
  • Nic Petan is clearly too good for the AHL but still hasn’t found his game at the NHL level. It was rumoured that the Leafs were looking to find him a trade but clearly haven’t found the right one as of yet.
  • Nic Petan is clearly too good for the AHL but still hasn’t found his game at the NHL level. It was rumoured that the Leafs were looking to find him a trade but clearly haven’t found the right one as of yet.
  • After scoring 55 goals in 46 games, it doesn’t feel like there’s much more for Robertson to do at the OHL level next year. In saying that, he is too young to go to the Marlies so it is OHL or NHL for the 18-year-old. I am extremely high on Robertson’s game and believe that he could make the Leafs next year. I also think the Leafs need to be careful with his development. They have a potential star on their hands and it doesn’t really make sense to rush Robertson to the NHL when they have cheap talent like Agostino, Petan, etc to fill out their last left-wing slots.

The biggest advantage Agostino has is his cap-hit is lower than the other left-wingers on the team. Once again, the Leafs are going to be up against the cap, and having cheap forwards to fill out their roster is vital. He’s a player who has done well in the NHL before and could provide the Leafs fourth line with defensive stability and help in transition: two things that the fourth line lacked at times this past season. Despite all of this, the most likely scenario for Agostino is a return to the Marlies. Based on Moore’s comments, it sounds like both Agostino and the organization has liked that fit. He can continue to provide them with value on and off the ice and could be considered as a call-up if the Leafs face any injuries.

Previous Posts

Honourable Mentions
#16-20
#11-15
#10 Mac Hollowell
#9 Mikhail Abramov
#8 Teemu Kivihalme
#7 Jeremy Bracco
#6 Egor Korshkov
#5 Pontus Aberg