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Toronto Marlies 2023-24 year in review: Who stays and who goes?

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Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Bennett Jull
28 days ago
With the Berube era officially underway, the focus in Leaf land has turned to the summer. The organization will certainly undergo many changes between now and training camp, which includes the Toronto Marlies. Just like the Maple Leafs, the Marlies unfortunately bowed out in the 1st round of the playoffs. This will be the final time I go over the 23-24 season. There will be a bit of a review, and a look to the future as well.
Season Review
Toronto’s record this season was 34-26-10-2. They finished with 80 points, good enough for 5th in the highly competitive North Division. They scored the second most goals in the entire league (just 3 back of Coachella Valley) and also had received strong goaltending.
Joseph Blandisi led the way with 59 points including 25 goals in 70 games, good for top-15 in AHL scoring. Logan Shaw and Alex Steeves were just behind him, finishing top-20 in points, with 58 and 57 points, respectively. The Marlies boasted four 25-goal scorers in Shaw (30), Steeves (27), Bellows (27), and Blandisi (25). While Logan Shaw wore the C, Joseph Blandisi was the heartbeat of the team. Kiefer Bellows proved to be a weapon at the AHL level, and Alex Steeves set a franchise record point streak earlier in the campaign.
The Marlies were anchored by Dennis Hildeby. The ‘Hildebeast’ earned AHL All-Star honours in his impressive rookie campaign, and the Marlies were certainly very confident with him in net. More on their future in net will be below.
Unfortunately, the Marlies lost in the decisive game 3 (best of 5) in overtime to Belleville in the first round of the playoffs.
Who’s Leaving?
As it goes in the AHL, many players sign one-year contracts resulting in heavy year-over-year turnover. Notably for the Marlies;  Blandisi, Bellows, Steeves, Max Ellis, Dylan Gambrell, Kyle Clifford, Max Lajoie, Cameron Gaunce, and Martin Jones are among the names of players without a deal (Lajoie, Ellis, and Steeves are all RFA’s). It wouldn’t surprise me to see some of these players return, but the bulk of those players will more than likely try their hand with other organizations.
There are many players that signed one-year AHL deals that featured prominently this year. Zach Solow, Matteo Pietroniro, Tommy Miller, Josiah Slavin, and Robert Mastrosimone all featured heavily for the Marlies this past year. We shall see if any return, but certainly some will attempt to find greener pastures.
John Gruden? It will be interesting to what happens with the Marlies bench boss. Now that Senators rumours have died down, will the soon-to-be 54-year-old be returning? Also, a shoutout to Rich Clune who seamlessly transitioned to be a strong member of Gruden’s coaching staff midway through this past season.
Who’s Staying?
Logan Shaw will be back with the Marlies in the fall, wearing the ‘C’ once again. He will be joined by Jacob Quillan, Roni Hirvonen, Nikita Greybonkin, and Ryan Tverberg. Ty Voit and Braeden Kressler will also look to feature. All of those forwards are on two-way NHL deals and will be looking to make their mark in the organization.
As for the D-core, the Marlies actually have lots that are returning for next season. Topi Niemela, Mikko Kokkonen, William Villeneuve, and Marshall Rifai will all be returning, which bodes well for the organization. In net, Dennis Hildeby will be back and should see the lion’s share of gameplay once again.
I’m excited to see which of these aforementioned players takes a real step towards becoming an NHL player. Hirvonen in particular is coming off a well-documented difficult year, which was completely out of his control. I’m pulling for him to have a strong summer and come back ready and roaring in the fall. Can Nikita Greybonkin follow up on his strong campaign in the KHL? Ty Voit will be looking to stay healthy following an injury-riddled season, while Jacob Quillan should have a more prominent role as one of the only prospects in the organization that’s a true center.
Does one of Topi Niemela, Mikko Kokkonen, or William Villeneuve have a strong summer? All three will be gunning for the ‘first call-up’ spot along with Marshall Rifai, who made his NHL debut this past season. My money is on Dennis Hildeby to repeat with another strong campaign, but will he be pushed by other prospects or signings that the organization makes?
As we get deeper into the summer, I’ll be previewing the Marlies roster for next season. For now, enjoy the weather, and let’s hope for a strong offseason in Toronto!

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