When Kenny Agostino was signed to a two-year contract back on Canada Day 2019, it was believed that he would provide some offensive help for the Marlies. He ended up doing exactly that, leading the team in goals and points.
He does have 85 NHL games to his name, but not a single one of them occurred with the Leafs during the past regular season. It wasn’t due to a lack of effort on Agostino’s part, but more so with the log jam of forwards in front of him on the depth chart.
By The Numbers
As mentioned, Agostino had a strong season offensively for the Marlies as he registered 27 goals, 22 assists, and 49 points in just 53 games. Considering an AHL season is 76 games long, he was on pace to record roughly 38 goals, 32 assists, and 70 points. His play was one of the reasons why the team finished fourth in the AHL in goals-for prior to the pause per AHL.com.
The last time Agostino played in the NHL was the 2018-19 campaign and he did fairly well during a season split between the Montreal Canadiens and the New Jersey Devils. At even strength, he collectively posted a 53.3 CF%, a 52.5 FF%, a 50.4 xGF%, a 51.0 SCF%, and a 53.1 HDCF% in 63 games of action. His 24 points that year would have placed him 11th on this year’s Leafs team in scoring, ahead of players such as Ilya Mikheyev and Jake Muzzin.
Although he wasn’t able to get a chance to crack the Leafs lineup this past campaign, his previous track record indicates that he can hold his own if given an opportunity.
What we’ve seen so far
To give you an idea of what Agostino can provide for the Leafs in 2020, here are a few highlights of him generating offence from this past season.
Kenny Agostino goes end-to-end for the OT winner against his old team Laval. pic.twitter.com/eGf7xCysJM
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) November 21, 2019
Agostino smartly recognized that the opposition was slow to react, so he was able to cut from the left side to the middle of the ice with minimal resistance.
After some sustained Marlies pressure in the O-zone, Agostino spots Petan at the side of the net, who buries it to put the Marlies up 3-0. pic.twitter.com/MlGOOOK529
— Rod Blanchard (@RodBlanchard) January 12, 2020
This second clip is impressive as he is using his hockey IQ effectively. He got the puck to the best option twice within a span of ten seconds, one that resulted in a shot that created a scramble in front and another that lead to a goal. This kind of play is something I’m sure Sheldon Keefe caught glimpses of in the weeks he was Marlies coach.
Kenny Agostino is waiting at the blue line for a pass and Joey Duszak delivers it to him. He rifles it top corner to put the Marlies up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/zp77R8A4D9
— Rod Blanchard (@RodBlanchard) March 7, 2020
He has a good wrist shot, and being able to pull it off in full-motion is vital to be a legitimate offensive threat in the NHL.
Kenny Agostino has a slim shot of cracking the Leafs playoff roster, but he could be effective on the forecheck.
Here, he (#20) battles for possession along the boards and then corrals the puck before setting up a Matt Read goal. pic.twitter.com/4CIGJsgISW
— Michael (@TheLeafsIMO) July 17, 2020
Agostino did get a chance to play with the Leafs during the preseason and the above clip highlights a part of his game that could be useful if his services are called upon. Since Keefe took over, the Leafs have placed a larger emphasis on being aggressive on the forecheck to maintain the cycle. Agostino does that well here, pressuring his man to move towards the boards and muscles the puck off him. He then feeds the puck to a streaking Matt Read who ended up scoring on this play.
To me, this looks like a player who can be serviceable on the fourth line and could provide some good value offensively.
How will he do against Columbus?
With the exception of Andreas Johnsson, the Leafs were healthy to start training camp. Up to this point, Agostino has been primarily playing alongside the other members of the reserve team. Simply put, he will presumably be watching games from home given a large number of forwards ahead of him on the depth chart.
Being listed as a left-winger, which isn’t as loaded as the right side, Agostino does have an advantage over other fringe players in the organization. So there is a slim chance that he does make the roster as a spare forward, but that means a combination of injuries and/or suspensions have to occur. And let’s not forget that some guy named Nick Roberston is making quite the impression thus far.
Kenny Agostino is a nice depth piece in the Leafs system that is coming off a strong season offensively with the Marlies. His experience in the NHL is brief but has shown flashes of being a useful bottom-six forward if given the chance to play. Unfortunately for Agostino, there are simply too many quality forwards ahead of him on the depth chart, preventing him from cracking the lineup. This means that his only shot of making an appearance in the 2020 playoffs is if a number of players can’t play for whatever reason, which appears remote at this point.
So while he likely won’t get to suit up for the Blue and White in August, Agostino can at least take solace that his efforts with the Marlies haven’t gone unnoticed and his appearance at camp is a reward for his hard work. After all, he was ranked fourth on our list of Top Leafs Outside the NHL for a reason.
The chart used is from hockeyviz.com.