In case you were too busy with our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs to check the AHL standings, you are missing quite a show by the Toronto Marlies.
The Marlies are currently 1st overall in the entire American Hockey League sporting a 18-5-0 record.
Led by a diverse offense, steady goaltending and an above average blueline, the Marlies are a force to be reckoned with for the 2017-18 season.
Let us start by taking a look at what the Marlies can do with the puck.
Up front the offense is a job that is accomplished via committee. No one immensely flashy player is carrying the load.
However, leading the team is Andreas Johnsson who has 18 pts (9g 9a) in his 21 games played. The 23 year old forward, is becoming the player the Marlies thought they had until a nasty concussion derailed his progress as soon as he landed in North America.
Dymtro Timashov was quietly having himself a season until he decided to end a game in overtime with a rink long rush. People are now starting to recognize the skill this speedy 21 year old has.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 2, 2017
Currently still working on an AHL contract, Mason Marchment has turned a few heads this season. Starting off as an early scratch, Marchment combined his sandpaper style of hockey with the ability to produce points.
With 12 pts (5 g 7a) this year, it wasn’t long before bloggers and hockey minds wondered when he would get a NHL contract. Production has slowed in recent games but he remains all around the puck, and his numbers can change at the drop of a hat. Or gloves.
Between the pipes the story has been excellent.
Garret Sparks and recently acquired Calvin Pickard continue to carry the mail for the Blue and White while doing so with apparent ease.
Incumbent starter, Garret Sparks always seems to be an afterthought with many fans, and the addition of Pickard did nothing to ease that mentality.
Each time Sparks is challenged for his job he seems to rise to the occasion and then some.
Currently rocking a .944 save percentage and a 1.64 Goals Against Average, Sparks is the starting goalie any AHL team could use. At 25 he seems to be finding his groove and focus to carry heavy minutes but is he the future in the Toronto organization?
Big Save by Sparks
Gotta appreciate @graves27' speed and ability to make a pass like this after running around the D-Zone for 50 seconds to kill a penalty. Too bad that Garret Sparks made a great save on Cole Schneider. pic.twitter.com/EDQb2MMlKP
— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) December 2, 2017
Enter Calvin Pickard. Claimed off the waiver wire from the Vegas Golden Knights, Pickard started a bit cautiously with the Marlies but is now playing some of his best hockey in recent times.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 2, 2017
Pickard has a .933 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average. Simiarly aged to Sparks, who will the Leafs decide to keep moving forward?
Curtis McIlhinney is now 34 years old and his numbers with the Leafs are not as good as one could hope in a relief role.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the Marlies loaned Kasimir Kaskisuo to the Chicago Wolves because we do not have enough seats at the table here in Toronto. Currently Kaski has a .903 save percentage and 2.89 goals against average.
Diverse, talented, and one of the most complete in the AHL.
Speed, Skill and a bit of sandpaper.
This is a group of defenders that may actually be playing so well that we are pumping up goalie numbers in this market.
Travis Dermott, Timothy Liljegren and Andrew Nielsen are the young members of this group. Rounded out by former NHLer Martin Marincin, Justin Holl, and newest addition Calle Rosen this bunch is deep and with very limited competition in the AHL. Did I mention we also have Rinat Valiev and Vincent LoVerde?
While not scoring a bunch of ridiculous points from the um…point. This group can shut down opposing teams like none that I have watched in recent memory.
Tops in the AHL with a 89.3% Penalty Kill, the Marlies have had 13 games ( 6 straight earlier in the season, and then 7 games straight most recently) without giving up a freakin’ goal. That to me is ridiculously good.
This defence group is clearing lanes for Sparks and Pickard to see clean pucks directed at them, and have the ability to either skate it out of trouble or make a tape to tape first pass for a zone exit.
Timothy Liljegren has not looked out of place in the AHL as an 18 year old. After recovering from an injury earlier this season, Liljegren is progressing better than most would have expected. Lil Tim has 8 points in 14 games as a Freshman with the Marlies team.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) November 30, 2017
Travis Dermott continues to excel. He simply does everything well. I am not going to get my pom poms out again for this kid but he is a Top 4 NHLer and its only a matter of time. Zero need to rush but if they ever needed a smart decision making, smooth skating, excellent passing, agitating, keep it simple d-man with the ability to head man the puck….this is the guy.
— Mike Fahmy (@McBlunt1) December 2, 2017
If the Leafs do not want to rush him and do need help on the big club one of either Calle Rosen or Justin Holl (yes and even long stick Marincin) could get the call up first.
The Marlies are fun to watch, and I didn’t even mention guys like Kasperi Kapanen, Miro Aaltonen, Kerby Rychel, Trevor Moore, or Jeremy Bracco.
IF you get the chance, head down to the Ricoh Coliseum and watch them play, you will not be disappointed.