The Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled defenceman Travis Dermott and loaned Martin Marincin to the Toronto Marlies, the club announced on Friday.
The 21-year-old Dermott recently was named to the AHL All Star team for his contributions in the first half of the season, during which he amassed 17 points – 13 of which have come in the last 10 games – and a plus-15 in 26 games. Prior to this callup, Dermott recorded two consecutive three-point games after returning from injury.
Both games were Marlies wins after the team went 1-6-0 without Dermott during his time on the shelf. In the last two outings, the left-handed Dermott has skated his regular shift on the right side next to Andrew Nielsen in an attempt to settle Nielsen’s game down amid Nielsen’s recent struggles. He’s also been trusted with providing a stable partner for rookie Timothy Liljegren while playing the left this season.
Dermott currently sits 9th among AHL defencemen in even-strength points per 60 and second in the category among under-23 blueliners.
With good showings in consecutive preseasons and a steady progression at the AHL level, the sophomore has taken a step forward this year as the Marlies’ most relied-upon defenceman and a multi-situation contributor. Sturdily-built and strong on his skates, Dermott has evolved into an excellent problem solver on the Marlies’ blue line who excels at retrieving pucks, evading forecheckers, and transitioning out of his own end.
Dermott is a natural fit for a Mike Babcock system – and modern game, in general – predicated on playing fast and being aggressive at the blue lines. He possesses good instincts at the offensive blue line and his strong backwards skating ability (and all-around mobility) allows him to gap up well when defending off the rush and defending zone entries. He’s become a high-end play driver at the AHL level thanks to his abilities with and without the puck.
Dermott also kills penalties for the Marlies and has played the right side some. If he gets into the lineup, it remains to be seen where he will slot in in the Leafs’ defence group and if he’ll see any special teams time.
Friday’s Practice Lines
Hyman – Matthews – Nylander
Marleau – Moore (subbing for Kadri) – Komarov
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Marner
Martin – Gauthier – Brown
Rielly – Hainsey
Gardiner – Carrick
Borgman – Polak
Mike Babcock said they recalled Travis Dermott to practice today, with no guarantee he’ll play tomorrow. If he decides Dermott can help the team, then that’s when he’ll get in. If not, he’ll go back and play in the AHL.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 5, 2018
If Babcock opts to use him at some point in the next stretch of games, the Leafs could go a couple of ways with it. The penalty kill has been excellent lately, recently shutting out the highly-ranked Tampa Bay and San Jose power plays in consecutive games. With Nikita Zaitsev still on the shelf, Babcock could be hesitant to pull Roman Polak out of that rotation, meaning it would come down to one of Connor Carrick or Andreas Borgman coming out. Removing Carrick, who has been in and out of late, would mean Dermott likely slots in on the right, while the leftie in Borgman has made steady progress and has been a mainstay on the bottom pairing since making the team out of camp.
A matchup against a struggling Vancouver Canucks team, at home where Babcock can control the matchups, could be a good situation to get Dermott into his first ever NHL regular season game. It’s a wait-and-see proposition as to whether Dermott gets into a game let alone is ready for prime time, but for a Leafs blue line group that struggles to break the puck out cleanly, it would be a boon for the team if he were to grab an opportunity with both hands and run with it.
As Babcock likes to say, we’ll just have to watch and see.