An update on the Maple Leafs of tomorrow:
– After being passed over by the Maple Leafs coaching staff to begin the year, Nazem Kadri has made it his mission to claw his way back to the NHL. He had a superb month of November with 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 12 games played. Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins has been working closely with the youngster to help him simplify his game and cut down on the mental mistakes he was prone to making last year. With that said, the team has been careful about not keeping Kadri on too tight a leash offensively. He should be ready for a return to the NHL early in the new year.
– The latest in the Maple Leafs’ ventures to corner the free agent goaltending market, Mark Owuya was brilliant during his short time in the Marlies limelight while Ben Scrivens was called up to the big club. The Swedish netminder lead the team to a 5-2-1 record on the back of his 1.78 GAA and .936 SV%. He’s got a bit of an unusual goaltending style and will occasionally get caught flopping around, but his instincts and ability to anticipate the play are top notch. Owuya’s still a year or two away from seeing NHL action, but there’s enough here to call him a legitimate prospect.
– Jussi Rynnas just hasn’t been the same since coming back from a finger injury last spring. He struggled down the stretch and has been downright brutal thus far this season, posting a 3.59 GAA and .879 SV% through 10 games played. Given his age, impressive potential and upcoming RFA status, it appears like the Maple Leafs will give Rynnas an extended chance to prove that he has a future at the NHL level. With Owuya breathing down his neck, Jussi better step up his game if he wants to be tendered a contract this offseason.
– After a strong showing in the preseason where he displayed some impressive forecheck and cycling ability, Luca Caputi has struggled to earn consistent playing time with the Marlies. He has been thoroughly unimpressive with his questionable footspeed and inability to generate a whole lot of offense. Caputi’s confidence seems to have taken a hit as he continues tumble down the depth chart. He scored a big goal the other night and will hopefully be able to turn that into some momentum moving forward but it’s looking more and more like he may be non-tendered at season’s end.
Players to Watch:
– Portland winger Bradley Ross has been consistently solid throughout his junior career and this season is no exception. With 20 goals and 38 points in 33 games played, he’s quietly on pace to surpass his previous highs. He’s still doing what he does best and that’s playing with good physical game and getting under his opponents’ skin. Ross has scored in 4 straight games and will look to carry his strong play into the World Junior evaluation camp with the hopes of scoring a surprise spot on the team.
– Marcel Mueller is another young Marlie who may have been lost in the shuffle a little bit behind the likes of Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri, but to his credit he’s continued to make strides in his game each and every year. He’s off to an impressive offensive start to the season with 22 points in 22 games, but his future at the NHL lies more in an Alexei Ponikarovsky type of role as a finesse big man with the ability to play some reliable third line minutes and chip in a few points here and there.