It was difficult to weigh up the expectations for the Toronto Marlies back in September.

The Toronto Marlies camp, held down east in Newfoundland, featured players that would predominately suit up for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. Only Justin Holl from that group wound up playing regularly for the Marlies.

The team expected to take to the ice at Ricoh Coliseum was largely with the Leafs, as the organization’s turn towards youth gave many of its prospects a chance to stick around late into camp.

With a brand new head coach and a much younger roster than in years previous, development was the key word bandied about with the Marlies. How would that manifest itself in results on the ice?

OCTOBER (6-3-0 Record)

Photo: Christian Bonin/

William Nylander scored the first goal of the season in a 5-3 opening day victory against the visiting Manitoba Moose. It was Byron Froese who was making all the early waves, however.

Froese scored in each of the three opening games and produced a shootout winner before receiving the call from Mike Babcock and company. Froese spent the rest of the season with the Leafs, making his NHL debut on October 24, registering his first point November 2, and scoring December 19 versus L.A Kings at the ACC before losing a sizeable chunk of his season to a broken hand.

The Marlies received an early taste of the Albany Devils, a team they would later battle in the postseason. Toronto downed them once in OT thanks to a winner from T.J Brennan but fell to a 3-2 defeat the following day. The main piece of the Phil Kessel trade return, Kasperi Kapanen opened his scoring account in the second game versus Albany.

The Rochester Americans were the first to feel the real brunt of Marlies‘ firepower in the form of an 8-2 reverse on October 23. Eight different players tallied for Toronto, with each goal coming at even strength. Making his debut in this game was Frank Corrado; the young defenseman had been picked up on waivers by the Leafs, but had not figured into NHL action at this point. On a conditioning stint with the Marlies, he impressed in seven outings, helping himself to three assists in the process.

After flogging Rochester, it was a reality check in the next game as Toronto’s youngsters received a lesson from the Binghamton Senators. Despite having Rich Clune and Justin Johnson in the lineup, the young Marlies were bullied by a unskilled but physically-intimidating Senators team and lost 5-1.

In their last game of the month, Toronto was able to exact some revenge on the team that ended their playoff run last season. The Marlies mauled Grand Rapids Griffins 6-1 at Ricoh Coliseum, but the victory came with a price. Typical of his style of play, Connor Brown bravely blocked a shot but fractured his ankle in the process — an injury that took him out of action until January.

Josh Leivo was disappointed not to make the Leafs out of camp, but he was stating a case for a call-up with a pair of three-point games.

Andrew Campbell, recently appointed as Marlies captain, made a name for himself with three goals in the opening five games of the season.

Antoine Bibeau, looking to build on a promising rookie season, won his first four starts despite the team’s fluctuating performances in the opening month.

NOVEMBER (9-2-1-0)

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

The merry-go-round of changes began in full force in November, with 17 transactions directly involving the Marlies. Antoine Bibeau was called up but did not see action, and by the end of the month some defensive depth had been added in Scott Harrington and James Martin.

Carrying on from the Grand Rapids victory, Toronto proceeded on a ten-game point streak (9-0-1-0) only ended by a pair of defeats to St. John’s. The IceCaps proved to be a nemesis for the majority of the season, with each matchup providing ample entertainment.

William Nylander was certainly turning heads, and only failed to register a point in one appearance during November. T.J Brennan was heating up after a slow start, by his standards, with five goals and as many assists.

Mark Arcobello was sent down at the end of October but made quite the impact on his Marlies debut. A game-tying goal followed by an OT winner very much set the tone before Arcobello went on to register points in seven consecutive games.

The second game of November saw Garret Sparks record his first of two shutouts during the month. It was a sterling four weeks for the third year goaltender, notching a .952 percentage, a 6-0-1-0 record, and earning a call-up to the Leafs on November 28. Two days later, he became the first goaltender in Toronto Maple Leafs history to record a shutout on debut.

In Binghamton, the Marlies put to right an early season wrong by drubbing the Senators 6-1. Opening his scoring account was Zach Hyman, who scored his first of four short-handed goals throughout the season.

It was then off to St. John’s, where — a night after suffering a 3-2 OT loss — we bore witness to one of the craziest games in franchise history. The Icecaps opened the scoring not even five minutes in, but Toronto led 3-1 after 20 minutes thanks to Brennan, Arcobello and Soshnikov. By the time 11:16 had passed in the middle frame, St. John’s had forged themselves a 4-3 advantage that was pegged back 40 seconds later by Hyman. Toronto had given up playing defense by this point and Bibeau looked shaken as the home team tallied twice more to lead 6-4 heading into the final 20 minutes. If that wasn’t enough, the IceCaps struck in the 41st and 47th second of the third period to lead 8-4. The game was surely dead when Bibeau was pulled for Sparks. Cue the comeback of all comebacks.

Arcobello (2:39) and Leivo twice (4:23 + 8:04) brought Toronto within a goal before Sam Carrick drew the Marlies level with five minutes to play to send the game to extra time. Nylander and Leivo, who had three points apiece, combined with Percy to win the game in overtime, with who else but Nylander emerging as the hero.

The Maple Leafs goaltending situation began impacting the Marlies for what would prove to be the first of many occasions. Ryan Massa was signed to a PTO as a stopgap. At this point, the rookie goaltender had made just six appearances for the Solar Bears and was pulled in his last ECHL outing. Expectations weren’t high for Massa for his debut on the road in Syracuse, but the Marlies played wonderfully in front of him. Allowing just one shot on net during the opening frame, Toronto ensured the rookie’s workload gave him every chance to record a victory, and he did just that by stopping all but one of 17 shots faced in a 3-1 Marlies win.

DECEMBER (10-2-1-0)

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

Toronto had to cope with 34 separate player movements in December, but still managed to string a ten-game points streak together.

Jonathan Bernier was the month’s early headline story, having been sent to the AHL on a conditioning stint. He responded with three consecutive shutouts before losing his fourth appearance in an overtime loss to Utica.

In between Bernier’s starts, Rob Madore had been called up from Orlando and began with a 23-save victory against Manitoba. Madore went on to win all four of his starts for the Marlies during this month.

The goaltending story wasn’t done with, however. Zamboni driver David Ayres was signed to a one-day ATO to provide cover, with Antoine Bibeau whisked off to join the Leafs.

The signing of veteran Ray Emery to an ATO was a bolt from the blue on December 18. Emery, who had a relationship with Marlies GM Kyle Dubas dating back to their days together in Sault Ste. Marie, won on debut, becoming the sixth Marlies goaltender to secure a victory this season.

Toronto recorded their largest winning margin in franchise history with a 9-0 pounding of the Manitoba Moose on December 6. Nine different players hit the twine as the Marlies offensive juggernaut continued to roll on, with the goals total now at 96 in 24 games after the victory.

Another memorable comeback for the Marlies was achieved against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Pittsburgh’s affiliate was almost as dominant as Toronto to this point of the season, making for a much-awaited match-up. WBS was by far the better team and full value for a 3-0 lead early in the third period, but the unlikeliest stretch of play ensued as the Marlies scored three shorthanded goals in the space of 2:34 to tie the game. Antoine Bibeau shut the door the rest of the way, making 39 saves in total and was rewarded in the shootout after Soshnikov sealed the extra point.

Mark Arcobello’s five goals and nine assists earned him a recall to the NHL, while other less-noticed names produced big in December — a six-game point streak for Sam Carrick, Nikita Soshnikov scored five times, and Rich Clune was showing he wasn’t just an enforcer with nine points in eleven games heading into the New Year.

Kasperi Kapanen headed home to Finland for the World Junior Championships in the middle of the month. William Nylander remained in Toronto a little longer, racking up ten points in eight games before departing for Europe. Unfortunately, Nylander played little part in the WJC after falling victim to a blindside hit to his head in the opening game.

JANUARY (11-1-1-0)

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

The turn of the year saw the first of many changes begin as well as some notable returns.

The first winds of change began with a trade on January 3. A day after scoring an overtime winner against Syracuse, Richard Panik was traded to Chicago with Jeremy Morin coming to Toronto.

Kasperi Kapanen returned from the World Juniors with a gold medal hung around his neck and the widest of smiles after netting the winning goal in overtime. Kapanen kept the good vibes going by registering at least a point in eight of his first ten games back in Toronto colours.

Connor Brown had almost been forgotten about in this whirlwind of a season, but the former leading rookie scorer had been working his socks off in his battle to return to fitness. Management held up Brown’s return until he was absolutely ready (January 24), and it proved the correct decision. In a fairytale return, the right winger netted twice in his reappearance versus the Utica Comets, and remained in red-hot form through his first four games back from injury.

William Nylander finally made his return on January 29 after being out for over a month, netting an assist in his first game back.

Centreman Rylan Schwartz and defenseman Eric Baier were signed to PTO’s from Orlando.
Neither stayed long, with Baier making just one appearance and Swartz scoring once in five appearances.

David Kolomatis remained until the end of the season, having been signed to an AHL deal, and scored his first and only goal on debut.

January featured winning streaks of six and fives games respectively as Toronto enjoyed their most profitable month of the season.

T.J Brennan was imperious with six goals and thirteen assists this month. He was ably supported by Mark Arcobello, who rode an eight-game points streak, seven of which were multi-point efforts.

Josh Leivo was also hot, riding a seven-game point streak (four goals/eight assists) that extended into early February.

Nikita Soshnikov followed up the previous month’s scoring exploits with another five-goal haul, while Brendan Leipsic scored the Marlies’ first hat-trick of the season.

Antoine Bibeau enjoyed his start to the New Year with six straight victories and a .931 save percentage in the month of January.

Garret Sparks put on a show in Grand Rapids on January 27, turning aside 39 shots for a shutout. That was the second of the month after Rob Madore recorded a duck egg in his last appearance for the Marlies.

FEBRUARY (6-2-1-0)

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

February began with Sheldon Keefe, T.J Brennan, Josh Leivo and William Nylander representing the Toronto Marlies and North Division at the All-Star events.

Mark Arcobello potted his 20th of the season with a two-goal effort on the road in Manitoba in just his 34th AHL game of the season.

Brett Findlay was nothing but reliable during his time with the Marlies, and his double strike was enough to see Toronto prevail 2-1 over St. John’s on Valentine’s Day.

T.J Brennan was the second Marlie to reach the 20-goal milestone on February 19, and he sparked another come-from-behind victory in the process. Toronto trailed 2-0 to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before Brennan’s strike 34 seconds into the third period began the comeback en route to a 4-2 Marlies victory.

In the last outing before the trade deadline, Toronto matched franchise history in a win over Rochester. The 10-5 score line matched the most amount of goals tallied in a single game. Acquired in the Shawn Matthias trade to Colorado, Colin Smith opened his Toronto account with a pair of goals and assists and T.J Brennan helped himself to five points. David Ayres was yet again signed to an ATO as an emergency back-up in what was a memorable game for more than one reason.

The Dion Phaneuf trade to Ottawa saw Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Matt Frattin depart, although the latter returned to the Marlies on loan. Tobias Lindberg was the solitary addition to the Marlies in the deal.

Jeremy Morin never really found his feet in Toronto and headed for San Jose as part of the James Reimer trade, with goaltender Alex Stalock coming back the other way.

Garret Sparks was sent down to Orlando for some game time early in February but promptly returned and was up with the Leafs after the James Reimer trade. Brendan Leipsic and Viktor Loov both made their Leafs debuts but returned prior to the deadline. Among those called up for their first big-league stints were William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov and Kasperi Kapanen as Leafs management gave a collection of their young talent a taste of NHL action in the roster holes opened up by the deadline activity.

MARCH (6-5-1-0)

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

The post-trade deadline Marlies had a much different look but still won their first game of March, shutting down Albany 4-0. Newcomer Tobias Lindberg scored twice and would tally five times in as many games.

The longest losing streak of the season followed as the Marlies fell to defeats against Utica (twice) and Rochester. The transition was never going to be an easy one, and March predictably proved to be the least successful month standings-wise.

Toronto made a resurgence by thumping Portland by a 9-2 score line on March 11. Connor Brown helped himself to four points, and his scorching run of play was rewarded by a call up to the Leafs. The patience by Leafs management ensured Brown was ready to hit the NHL ice running; the 22-year-old recorded six points in seven NHL outings, including three assists against the Florida Panthers.

Eric Faille was one of many Orlando call-ups to impress, scoring three times in four games.

Colin Smith had taken like a duck to water to the Marlies brand of hockey, registering at point-per-game pace throughout this month.

Brendan Leipsic and Sam Carrick both recorded eleven points in March, through ten and nine games respectively.

After recording a shutout in the first game of the month, Antoine Bibeau repeated the same feat in the last game, a satisfying 4-0 win over the IceCaps.

Alex Stalock had been reassigned by the Leafs and made his Marlies debut shortly after.
There were just three starts for the experienced netminder, who failed to receive much help from those in front of him in his first two losses. A win in his third outing was the last time Stalock took to the ice before a mutual agreement with the Toronto brass ended his season early.

Finnish goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo signed a two-year entry level contract with Toronto on March 28 and immediately joined the Marlies following the end to his season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Making Leafs debuts in the spring were Rinat Valiev, Frederik Gauthier, Andrew Campbell and Tobias Lindberg, while TJ Brennan was rewarded with seven appearances for the big club.

Added to the roster were Ben Smith and Connor Carrick (both reassigned) while the raft of PTO/ATO signings started apace. Shane Conacher, Jordan Hickmott, Tony Cameranesi, Willie Corrin, Taylor Doherty and Tylor Spink all made their way to Toronto.

Spink’s stay may only have been for two days, but it was a memorable two days as the Colgate University graduate played four games in four nights, split equally between the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) and Toronto Marlies.

APRIL (6-1-0-1)

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

Despite a raft of lineup changes, Toronto only lost one of their final eight games in regulation. A third straight victory to begin the month saw Toronto claim the AHL regular season title for the first time in franchise history.

Ben Smith was a huge factor in those wins, scoring four times and assisting on six occasions. He was supported by Brendan Leipsic (also six assists) and Eric Faille, who continued his goal-scoring form with three in two games.

Tony Cameranesi, Shane Conacher and Jordan Hickmott all scored their first professional goals this month.

Defenceman Andrew Nielson’s junior season had finished, allowing him to join the Marlies. The 2015 third round selection secured his first point as a professional with an assist after his shot led to Rich Clune scoring on the road in Albany.

Chase Witala, Tyler Wong and Mason Marchment were the latest to make appearances after signing from junior, while Patrick Watling and Brenden Miller made their first trips of the season from Orlando to Toronto.

Kasimir Kaskisuo received his first two starts in the AHL, both on the road in Syracuse — a win and a shootout reverse in which the rookie goaltender showed some promise.

Toronto finished the regular season just as they had begun it with a pair of victories on home ice. T.J Brennan scored his 25th of the season, tying a career best, while Josh Leivo ended the year with a six-game point streak and the understated Zach Hyman recorded his third three-point haul of the season.

Wrapping Up

Photo: Christian Bonin/
Photo: Christian Bonin/

In total, 59 players dressed for Toronto Marlies, eight of which were goaltenders. Each goaltender recorded a victory, which tied the AHL single season record for such a feat.

Antoine Bibeau’s 28 wins fell one short of Drew MacIntyre’s franchise mark, but his three shutouts helped contribute to the combined ten overall, which is a new single-season franchise record.

T.J Brennan, winner of the defenceman of the year award for the second time in his career, tied Mike Zigomanis for the third-most points produced in Marlies regular season play. Brennan’s total is achieved at a considerably greater points-per-game rate than any of those above him, and he now sits just 12 shy of Kris Newbury’s 168 for the franchise points lead.

Toronto set many new team records while achieving their first regular season championship.

Most points in one season: 114
Most wins in one season: 54
Most goals scored in one season: 294
Longest winning streak overall: 7 (December 31-January 16)
Least amount of shootout loses in one season: 1

The obvious disappointment amid what was a tremendous season overall came in the premature end to the Marlies’ playoff bid. In truth, the Marlies failed to ever reach the heights achieved during the regular season.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were pretty much a cakewalk and Toronto only required third gear to speed into the next round. Pushed all the way by a well-coached, structured and talented Albany Devils team in Round 2, the Marlies required a third-period comeback to prevail in Game 7 of what should have been the Conference Final.

Toronto were too often reliant on moments of brilliance to win them games and generally struggled to find that next level required come playoff time. The Hershey Bears’ potent offensive abilities meant they were able to capitalize on Toronto’s shortcomings in net, but the Marlies were unable to generate a full 60-minutes of playoff intensity.

What can’t be immediately measured is the amount of learning and development that took place throughout 2015-16. The playoffs provided some hard lessons, as did the rigours of a long regular season in which, from an early stage, this young team had a target on its back.

It may not have resulted in a first Calder Cup, but in just about every other respect this was the most successful season in Toronto Marlies history.

Part Two of the Toronto Marlies 2015-16 Season Review, featuring individual player grades, will follow in the coming days

Toronto Marlies Player Stats — 2015-16 Regular Season

T.J. BrennanD6925436834539016914.8
Mark ArcobelloC4925345919228216914.8
Colin Smith (TOR)C237152284104316.3
Brendan LeipsicLW6520345416555116911.8
Josh LeivoLW5117314814145015810.8
William NylanderC381827457103011216.1
Zach HymanRW5915223731240413411.2
Sam CarrickC5216183411903011314.2
Matt FrattinRW71132134351201319.9
Tobias Lindberg (TOR)LW226612212306010
Connor BrownRW34111829108317514.7
Connor Carrick (TOR)D51232210911.1
Nikita SoshnikovLW5218102826183212015
Richard Panik (X)RW3391625534006613.6
Kasperi KapanenLW449162578406513.8
Andrew CampbellD66915243972008710.3
Richard CluneLW498162420146224418.2
Stuart PercyD584202434700666.1
Rinat ValievD6041923323001596.8
Justin HollD6051621321500935.4
Frederik GauthierC56612181810005111.8
Casey Bailey (X)RW384141851600557.3
Brett FindlayC396111796005411.1
Ben Smith (TOR)RW542630101625
Viktor LoovD5531215144000773.9
Ryan Rupert (X)C2966121114103020
Eric FailleRW15731052102825
John Kurtz (TOR)LW141345000156.7
Jeremy Morin (X)LW132460810296.9
James MartinD1705511300190
David KolomatisD2313412800244.2
Byron FroeseC4303-10101323.1
Shane ConacherRW721320001513.3
Scott HarringtonD1712341400205
Frank CorradoD7033320070
Taylor DohertyD120337200090
Tony CameranesiF62022000540
Jordan HickmottRW31121000616.7
Chase WitalaLW3022200050
Willie CorrinD4022460050
Andrew NielsenD5022-200050
Rylan SchwartzC5101-1000616.7
Eric Baier (X)D1011000030
Tyler WongRW3011000050
Ty StantonD4011100030
Jack RodewaldRW7011140070
Justin JohnsonRW80110360050
Tylor SpinkC2000000010
T.J. FosterRW3000-120040
Mason MarchmentLW3000000050

Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats — 2015-16 Regular season

Ryan Massa159:56:00100011160.941
Rob Madore4240:00:00400151.25990.952
Jonathan Bernier4239:43:00300351.25910.948
Garret Sparks211211:33:0014403472.336020.928
Alex Stalock (TOR)3180:32:00120082.66780.907
Kasimir Kaskisuo2125:00:00101052.4480.906
Antoine Bibeau402353:44:00289031062.710640.909
Ray Emery (TOR)3178:29:00210082.69700.897

Toronto Marlies Player Stats — 2016 Playoffs

Connor CarrickD1571118812304117.1
Josh LeivoLW15481211210498.2
William NylanderC14741132103122.6
Mark ArcobelloC1529111210365.6
Connor BrownRW15729-66122825
T.J. BrennanD15549-41440529.6
Ben SmithRW152797200355.7
Kasperi KapanenLW1435812101421.4
Nikita SoshnikovLW1152754002321.7
Zach HymanRW1533632300319.7
Colin SmithC91451200911.1
Sam CarrickC12055-31900200
Brendan LeipsicLW13224-11210229.1
Stuart PercyD1404431200130
Justin HollD150441200140
Viktor LoovD1112311400616.7
Richard CluneLW1512323400714.3
Andrew CampbellD90222400120
Travis DermottD1000-100020
Matt FrattinRW1000-200000
Andreas JohnsonRW2000-100020
Tobias LindbergLW3000020030
Garret SparksG5000000000
Frederik GauthierC9000140060
Antoine BibeauG12000000000
Rinat ValievD12000140070

Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats — 2016 Playoffs

Garret Sparks5235:01:00220192.3970.915
Antoine Bibeau12681:36:006501312.732780.9