The merry-go-round between the Maple Leafs and the Marlies continues, with four coming up and four going down, as opportunity knocks for those likely to play in Buffalo this evening.
Loaned back to the Toronto Marlies are Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Rinat Valiev and Connor Carrick. All four will be making the journey to Syracuse for this Friday’s encounter with the Crunch.
Heading to the Maple Leafs will be forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Tobias Lindberg as well as defensemen Andrew Campbell and T.J. Brennan from the Toronto Marlies. All, barring Campbell, are recalls on an emergency basis.
This will be Kapanen’s second stint with the Leafs having appeared in four games previously. Since his reassignment, March hasn’t been a good month production wise for the Finnish forward, with just three points in nine games, but that for the most part belies his level of performance during that span. With Hyman back to the Marlies, it’s feasible to expect Kapanen will get the chance to fill in alongside Tyler Bozak or William Nylander.
T.J Brennan will also get his second opportunity having played just the once for the Leafs this season. He continues to be an offensive powerhouse in the AHL, leading the Marlies in points with 67 in as many games. More like a “thank you” than a chance to shine for Brennan, it’ll be a nice send off if he’s allowed to play a few games and perhaps even net his first goal for the blue and white.
Part of the Dion Phaneuf trade, Tobias Lindberg found it tough in the early going of his Toronto career. Now fully up to speed and in tune with the Marlies‘ program, the former Binghamton Senator has ten points in twelve games through March. He’s been an impact player at even strength with over two thirds of his points earned at five on five. If he makes his debut this evening, the Swedish native will be the 12th Marlie to make his NHL debut this season.
Last but certainly not least is Andrew Campbell. This is a well-earned reward as the Marlies captain has been a rock for the baby buds this season and contributed in just about every way possible. Riding seasonal highs in goals and points, he can also be given some credit for Rinat Valiev’s impressive rookie season, with the two having been paired together since October.
A native of Caledonia, Ontario, Campbell has 36 starts behind him in the NHL with stints for the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes. He currently leads the AHL in plus/minus with a +39.
As with Brennan, Campbell’s recall can also be considered a well-deserved pat on the back for a fine season along with a nice little pay raise.
The players going down have been some of the Leafs‘ better performers in their recent 6-3-0 run. Connor Brown has six points in seven NHL appearances, while Zach Hyman has been a consistent sparkplug, and Connor Carrick’s play has come on strong, with his time-on-ice average climbing recently.
A cynic might suggest the Leafs were winning too much for management’s liking, but this is likely about rewarding two of the Marlies’ better veterans with an NHL paycheque and getting a look at Lindberg and (another at) Kapanen before the season is through. Carrick is yet to play a game as a Marlie, so his time with the Marlies should allow Sheldon Keefe the opportunity to develop some familiarity with the defenceman’s game before the playoffs.
The other factor is that Byron Froese is now healthy and set to return tonight vs. Buffalo, shifting Brooks Laich to the wing.
Projected Lines vs. Buffalo
Milan Michalek – Nazem Kadri – Michael Grabner
Tobias Lindberg – Tyler Bozak – Kasperi Kapanen
Colin Greening – William Nylander – PA Parenteau
Brad Boyes – Byron Froese – Brooks Laich
Martin Marincin – Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner – Frank Corrado
Andrew Campbell – TJ Brennan
Starting Goalie: Garret Sparks
Note: Ben Smith cleared waivers at 12 p.m. today and is likely bound for the Marlies.
Babcock says plan is for Nylander to go back to Marlies once Holland is healthy
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 31, 2016