The Toronto Marlies continued to build up their depth at defense and center with the acquisition of young free agent talent in the last week.
Alex Gudbranson and Kristian Pospisil have been signed to two-way AHL contracts, although it’s reasonable to assume that both will begin their 2017-18 campaigns in Orlando rather than Toronto.
A free agent following his junior career with the Soo Greyhounds, Gudbranson signed an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild organization in 2014. The defenceman spent the majority of the last two seasons with Quad City Mallards (ECHL) until he was picked up on loan by the Marlies in February of this year.
Featuring in four games for Toronto, Gudbranson didn‘t really have the chance to make much of an impression but he certainly wasn‘t a liability on what was an injury-ridden Marlies blue line at the time. He plays a physical brand of defence and doesn’t venture too far from home.
In 50 AHL games, the Ontario native has just one goal and four points to his name but one sign of encouragement is that his ECHL number are better than those he posted in junior, so perhaps there is room for improvement.
At 22 years of age and a right-handed shot to boot, he’ll likely have the chance to prove himself with greater ice time in Orlando than Toronto, with the opportunity to put himself at the head of the lineup as far as call-ups are concerned.
Certainly the more intriguing of the two signings, the undrafted Pospisil was an invitee to the recent development camp, where he made a strong impression on Leafs brass.
The Slovakian native is a product of EC Salzburg, where he made a positive impact during his final year with the club, posting 20 goals and a point-per-game pace through 49 outings in the MHL (Russian junior league).
After heading across the ocean as a 46th overall in the CHL import draft, Pospisil added 25 goals and 40 points for Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL as a 19-year-old. In 48 games for Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL this past season, the now-21-year-old put up 40 points and went on to lead his team in scoring through the postseason before they fell at the final hurdle to the Chicago Steel.
Pospisil a left-handed shot who is listed as playing both at RW and center, but he spent most of his time in the middle for the Musketeers in 2016-17.
The step up to the professional game shouldn’t intimidate the well-traveled forward who has the size (listed at 6’2″ and 180 lbs) to help him integrate into the rough-and-tumble game of the ECHL if that’s indeed where he is headed. However, it would not be a surprise if another strong camp showing earned him a stay at Ricoh, at least to begin the season.