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Rumours: A look at Steve Greenley’s change of scenery candidates and if they are a fit for the Leafs

A few weeks back I took a look at a couple of players I deemed reclamation projects, Dylan Strome and Vitali Kravtsov. I am unapologetic in my love of this type of transaction because it is a low risk swing for the fences. This is basically a no outs runner on third, swing for the fences because you aren’t risking a whole lot and there’s a very good chance that even if it isn’t a home run, you’ll get a bit of help you need. The Leafs being a cap tight team without the resources to sink into bona fide stars at the moment, reclamation projects seem ideal.

Today in his article at DailyFaceOff.com, Steve Greenley put a bit more formal terminology to my reclamation projects by outlining his change of scenery candidates and the definition that GMs use to identify these players.

You can check out the details and full list of players at DFO, but here is the criteria for change of scenery candidates:

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  • Lack of ice time

  • Road block in the current organizations depth chart that prevent player success

  • Not meeting expectations of where they were selected in draft

  • Minimal special teams usage in an area where you think player may thrive

  • Hitting certain internal analytic marks that your organization values more than player’s current organization

  • Comments to the media by coach, management that shows a displeasure with the player

  • Noise from the player’s agent growing louder in and around arenas

So first of all, a number of these certainly fit with a couple of Leafs players, most notably Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, and Timothy Liljegren seem to best fit the bill of this, and before this season I probably would have had Pierre Engvall on this list as well, but his usage certainly seems to be up this year. Considering that change of scenery players are often dealt for other players that are on the outs with their organization, those would be the names I’d keep in mind when looking at the list of players suggested by Greenley below.

We won’t go through the entire list of players suggested by Greenley, but here are a few of the potential fits for the Leafs.

Tyson Jost- Colorado- LW/C

First of all, I’m not entirely certain that Jost is on the outs in Colorado and whether it’s injuries or his play that has warranted it, Jost played over 19 and 21 minutes respectively in his past couple of games, and scored his first goal of the season in his last outing. For a former 10th overall pick, Jost has had an underwhelming career, primarily being allocated to the third line wing position with some occasional center work.

There’s never been a 20 goal season or even 30 point season in Jost’s history, but at 23 years old, he could have some untapped potential if allowed to move out from under his third line situation and considering the Leafs could use a grinding presence with some untapped offensive upside with an affordable price tag in their top six, that’s why I’ll make the suggestion to consider Jost.

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Jost is generally on the right side of the play having a 63% GF%, 58% CF%, and 59% xG% last season. Jost played with Donskoi and Nichushkin last season, but this year has been playing primarily with Darren Helm, who is unlikely to kick start his offence, or really benefit Tyson in any other way either. Given the Nick Ritchie experiment not panning out as the Leafs would have liked, could Tyson Jost be a better fit in Toronto?

Barrett Hayton- Arizona- C

Anytime you can add a former Soo Greyhound to a list of potential Leafs, you have to make that call, and while Hayton’s Soo playing career came largely after the days of Dubas and Keefe, this is no doubt a player they are very familiar with as well, and could have an idea of how to get him on track, provided they didn’t need to pay a premium to bring him to the Leafs.

Hayton never had any business being selected fifth overall, and because Chayka reached unrealistic expectations were put on a player who over time could be developed into a solid 2nd or 3rd line center, and of course that development wasn’t helped by throwing him into NHL spot duty over the past two seasons, producing 7 points in 34 games, while averaging 11 minutes a night.

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The fact that Hayton is cheap, and they aren’t committed to pushing him onto the NHL roster this season makes it unlikely that the Coyotes are shopping him at a bargain price, but the Coyotes drafting and developing track record also speaks for itself, and there could be a benefit in letting Hayton go in favour of a prospect they feel more comfortable with.

And while Hayton might not be a priority for the Leafs, there’s no ignoring the Soo connection, and affordable center depth with upside could be beneficial in the later parts of the season for the Leafs.

Tyler Benson- Edmonton- LW

To date there hasn’t really been an opportunity for Benson to play in Edmonton, and while they have an improved forward group this year, the fact that Benson could only get seven games of 4th line duty with the Oilers lackluster bottom six group last year says something.

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It also says something that the Oilers spent a small fortune acquiring Zach Hyman instead of attempting to develop a potential Zach Hyman in Tyler Benson. That’s a stretch, but I think it’s also important to remember that Hyman started as a Panthers throwaway for Greg McKegg.

The AHL output and strong two way game that could fit well in the bottom six but grow into a top six role is something to keep an eye on in Benson, and while he could simply be a bust, it’s also important to note he’s unlikely to have the same price tag attached to him as Hayton or Jost. The Leafs might simply have to waive Amadio to make room for Benson, and give up a Marlie of modest potential.

Since the Leafs seem to be more focused on lessons and patience than pursuing roster upgrades it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see much from Dubas in the way of trades anytime soon. That being said, the Leafs can truly only afford projects and gambles and those players should be acquired earlier in the year rather than waiting until the deadline.

Data sourced from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick