Photo courtesy of Christian at TSGphoto.com
The Toronto Marlies came into this January 30 – February 1 stretch with a three-game road trip on tap in the southern states. The Marlies squared off with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton), San Antonio Rampage (Florida), and the Texas Stars (Dallas).
This was a week to forget for the Marlies, who won one of three games and suffered a 6-0 blowout in one of the losses.
As those who could tolerate the Fox Sports commentators and the poor camera angles can attest to, the Marlies staged a late comeback effort to win 4-3 in shootout over the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Hockeytown Winter Festival Outdoor game. The Marlies sit 17-10-3 at the 30-game pole and now lead the North Division by three points over Hamilton with three games in hand.
Courtesy of the Toronto Marlies:
“The Marlies posted a record of 1-0-1-0 in two games this past week. On Friday night, Toronto traveled down the QEW for their third meeting of the season against the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Despite Josh Leivo scoring his first goal of the season just over five minutes into the game, the Marlies were defeated 2-1 in overtime. Martin St. Pierre tallied both goals for the Bulldogs, while goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.
It seems like the Jake Gardiner talk just won’t go away, even though an immediate trade seems extremely unlikely.
Based on the personnel on offer, preseason could become at least a little more interesting tonight.
Randy Carlyle will be icing a few line combinations of intrigue, including a potential “shut down line” combination of Dave Bolland, Mason Raymond and Nikolai Kulemin. How Raymond fares on that unit will be a worthwhile talking point; this seems to be, based on the projected opening night lineup, the spot he is vying for. The line looks good on paper, with a nice balance of two-way acumen, speed, and some grit between Kulemin and Bolland.
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.