Live from the Ricoh – Maple Leafs Prospects Watch
The Marlies returned to the ice on Sunday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum against the Rockford IceHogs. It was the third game in three days for your hometown heroes, and I was concerned that with that much hockey Antoine Bibeau was going to get shelled (more on Antoine in a minute). The Toronto Marlies eventually prevailed in this game in the shootout after overtime play solved nothing, and improved their record to 3-2 on the season.
My main mission today was to keep an eye on the players that I feel are closest to making the big club in the event we have injuries or a change in philosophy when it comes to…ahem…truculence.
I will start with a couple forwards:
He played a fairly quiet game, generated some chances and managed to get off his NHL calibre wrist shot that almost beat Michael Leighton (Rockford) high glove side, but the goalie managed to fight it off send the puck over the net. Leivo somehow managed to avoid detection during one of the most obvious hooking calls you are going to see on a breakaway, but for the most part was average in this game. Josh did lead the team in shots on goal with six, but to me it was a quiet 6 shots.
Big #17 was always just a step behind finishing a play. He had 3 shots on goal and managed to put a few of the punishing checks that he is know for. His hands during the cycle are reasonable but he will never be confused with Spencer Abbott from a distance. Unsure if it was just fatigue but he left me wanting more by the end of the game. Had a solid passing sequence with Viktor (Cant Buy Me) Loov in the 2nd period, but it was eventually cleared from the zone. He’s a work in progress, but he is a big body, something that the Leafs can always use. I do not believe he will be a detriment at the NHL level.
Side note: Jamie Devane battled the puck when he had his touches. I thought his skating was “just ok”. He is likely a long shot to STAY in the NHL if he gets a shot.
On to the defense:
These guys will carry the Marlies all year long.
Had a strong game. Skates well and makes the big hit when its available. Does NOT CHASE a big hit. I believe the Leafs like this about his game.
May have been the best Marlies player this afternoon. His passing is above average but his skating is what caught me off guard. We all saw him jump into the rush during camp, but in the 3rd period “Love” went down the left boards with a full head of steam, dragged the puck back towards Leighton and almost beat him for the games only goal. I truly believe he is the first call up if and when the Leafs need somebody.
Holzer, MacWIlliam (nice tilt), Granberg, and Mikkleson all had solid games as well, but I was generally focused on the aforementioned characters…there will be more games in the future to follow the rest.
Lastly, our goalie of the future:
He is like a younger Bernier. Calm and composed are the best two attributes that I can tag to this young stud. He makes every save look routine, often beating the pass across so he is in exactly the right place at the right time. Once the puck hits his body, it is quickly gobbled up with very few rebounds. Bibeau pitched the shutout today, improving his record to 2-1 on the season with a 1.25 GAA and a .959 save percentage. Those numbers are fantastic, and I am certain it has the Leafs brass re-evaluating just how quickly he can be given NHL minutes. It remains to be seen if his game translates to the NHL with the increased speed of playmaking, but there is little reason (with exception of long time Leafs fan negativity) to not see a bright future for this kid.
It was a fun day at the rink watching the potential Leafs’ future on the ice, and I hopefully will get more opportunities to write down game notes like this for The Hub.
Feel free to ask questions, and thanks for spending the time playing along!