The Maple Leafs have signed 23-year-old left winger Spencer Abbott of the Maine Black Bears, according to reports.
[Abott] had his best season offensively and was named this week one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award that goes annually to the top player in U.S. college hockey.
Too small to play major junior, Abbott played Junior A with the Hamilton Red Wings. He had a late growth spurt to reach 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. He was an alternate captain on the Black Bears.
Abbottâ€™s offensive numbers rose each year with Maine â€” he led the team in scoring this year with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists). He believes heâ€™s ready for the NHL.
â€œWhen I came into this league, I was more of an offensive guy. Iâ€™ve been trying really hard to get better on the other side of the puck, defensively. Itâ€™s tough to do, especially at the next level. I hope to be a two-way player.â€
Abbott worked out last summer with Gary Roberts at his high performance training institute and the plan is to go back this summer to get ready for life in the pros.
â€œSpeed, skill and strength is what Iâ€™ve been trying to implement in my game. Iâ€™ve been working hard in the off-season. (Iâ€™ve got to) put on more weight, get faster, bigger, stronger. I think Iâ€™ve done that consecutive years.â€
Christian Hanson, Tyler Brenner and Brayden Irwin taught us all too well not to get too excited about these college free agent signings. The small but speedy and skilled Abbott did earn nomination as a Hobey Baker finalist, however, and seems to have much more natural talent than any of those three. This signing aligns more closely with the Bobby Butler (2010 Hobey Baker nominee) and Stephane Da Costa (2011 nominee) signings by the Senators, which is not to say those are smashing successes so far either. But at the low cost of a Standard Player Contract slot, these type of pickups are always a worthwhile experiment for an organization equipped with the Leafs’ financial might.
Abbott will join the Marlies for their Calder Cup bid on an Amateur Tryout Contract.
From BDN Maine Sports:
â€œHeâ€™s one of the toughest kids Iâ€™ve ever coached,â€ [head coach] Tim Whitehead said. â€œHe puts his body on the line and takes hits. Heâ€™s so slippery and so elusive. And to show that much poise and toughness after a concussion.â€
The 23-year-old Abbott, the Hockey East Player of the Year and a semifinalist for the Hobey Baker Award, leads Division I hockey with 62 points (21 goals and 41 assists).
He finalized his scoring totals with a goal at 17:16 of the first period with UMaine on the power play.
Abbott received the puck from Brian Flynn high in the left circle and moved toward the high slot, first making a slight hesitation move. He patiently waited for things to develop, then fired a high wrist shot through traffic and past Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter.
â€œHeâ€™d been out there for a minute and a half. Anyone else, I would have been screaming [for him] to get off,â€ Whitehead explained. â€œHe creates magic out there sometimes.â€
Abbott, who was not drafted by any National Hockey League teams, is likely to be getting some calls in the coming days.
â€œHis poise and instincts are exceptional and heâ€™s going to be playing pro hockey real soon,â€ Whitehead said. â€œHe could help somebodyâ€™s power play in the NHL right now. I know that thereâ€™s a ton of teams that understand that.â€