On Monday night, the Toronto Marlies will finally return to action a full 11 months after their last game.
While the American Hockey League officially started on February 5, 2021, the teams in the Canadian Division have had to sit tight. Negotiations have been taking place between the league and the provincial government of Ontario as to whether Toronto and Belleville will be allowed to compete at home.
As of February 12, 2021, both Belleville and Toronto have been given the go-ahead to play home games and will not announce a full schedule beyond what’s been tentatively agreed to at the time of publication.
Toronto is set to start the season on the road, heading to Manitoba to begin a stretch of eight games in 12 days. The Marlies will play a four-game set starting on Monday against the Manitoba Moose, with games scheduled for February 16, 16, 18, and 19.
It’s then off to Calgary to face the Stockton Heat, who have been relocated to Canada by the Flames organization and will host their games at Scotiabank Saddledome. The two teams, who have never met before, will play four times on February 21, 23, 24, and 26.
With five teams in the Canadian Division, the expectation is for a 32-game season, playing each opponent eight times. There is no plan in place for league-wide playoffs or a Calder Cup to be awarded, although the idea of playing for an interdivisional championship has been bandied about.
In a normal year, I would be assessing Toronto’s chances of making the playoffs and possible championship success, but in these circumstances, let’s ignore the results side of the business and take a look at the opening roster.
- Ian Scott
- Joseph Woll (currently in taxi squad)
- Andrew D’Agostini (PTO?)
- Tristan Lennox (ATO?)
- Kai Edmonds
In an ideal world, this campaign would have seen Ian Scott and Joseph Woll split the starts with a heavy workload, giving each goaltender the same amount of playing time regardless of game-by-game performances. That should be possible once Jack Campbell is healthy enough to return and Michael Hutchinson rejoins the taxi squad.
Toronto has signed 27-year-old Andrew D’Agostini as cover at this point on what I assume to be a professional try-out contract. The hometown goaltender has 71 ECHL games to his name but has yet to receive any ice-time in the AHL.
He’s not part of the roster as far as the AHL official page is concerned (listed on transaction page), but Tristan Lennox of Mississauga is training with the team on what I also assume is a try-out contract. The 18-year old is eligible for the upcoming NHL entry draft and is considered a mid-range second-round selection by the prominent scouting services.
- David Warsofsky
- Teemu Kivihalme
- Timothy Liljegren (currently in taxi squad)
- Rasmus Sandin
- Joseph Duszak
- Riley McCourt
- Kristians Rubins
- Calle Rosen
- Martin Marincin
- Mac Hollowell
The Marlies‘ blue line features a good mix of youth and experience.
David Warsofsky is a stalwart of over 500 professional games, adding veteran experience alongside Calle Rosen and Martin Marincin. The less experienced prospects include Joseph Duszak, Mac Hollowell, and Kristian Rubins, while Riley McCourt is the lone rookie among the group.
Teemu Kivihalme and Rasmus Sandin will be the two players looking to make a strong impression in case an opportunity presents itself in the NHL. Timothy Liljegren is likely to be in the same boat as Kivihalme and Sandin, with management likely to be bouncing players between squads to get them ice-time. Competitive action is long overdue for all the above important prospects.
Noel Hoefenmayer has been on loan with Wichita Thunder and will remain in the ECHL for the time being.
- Bobby McMann
- Kalle Kossila
- Jeremy McKenna
- Rourke Chartier
- Richard Clune
- Kenny Agostino
- Nick Robertson
- Adam Brooks
- Gordie Green
- Scott Sabourin (currently in taxi squad)
- Joey Anderson
- Colt Conrad
- Scott Pooley
- Justin Brazeau
- Hudson Elynuik
- Tyler Gaudet
- Pavel Gogolev
- Keegan Stevenson
- Cole Mackay
- James Hardie
Adam Brooks might be a little disappointed to have been reassigned to the AHL after scoring in his lone NHL appearance, but he’ll also benefit from the game action. Brooks and 22-year-old Joey Anderson, who has suited up for one NHL game in this campaign, have a lot to prove in this shortened season. They will be high on the list when it comes to call-ups.
The rookie group of four including Bobby McMann, Pavel Gogolev, Jeremy McKenna, and Gordie Green will be worth keeping a keen eye on. It’s not inconceivable that one or two of those players will punch above their weight and surprise a few teams.
Toronto has kept a solid veteran core in Rich Clune, Kenny Agostino, Kalle Kossila, and Tyler Gaudet, while Scott Sabourin — currently up with the Leafs — will probably be used in a role to keep the flies off the rookies.
The four players I am most looking forward to watching: Scott Pooley, Justin Brazeau, Nick Robertson (for however long he is actually with the team), and Rourke Chartier.
Pooley is a personal favourite of mine and has shown an eye for goal in limited opportunities at the AHL level. If used on a more consistent basis, I’m intrigued to see if Pooley can take his game to another level.
Robertson wouldn’t normally even be allowed to play in the AHL as a rookie, but these are unprecedented times. Coming off of his knee injury, he’s well served receiving regular ice-time and opportunities on one or both special teams, but with the Leafs‘ relative thinness at LW, it’s hard to picture him spending too long at this level.
Brazeau tore up the ECHL as a rookie with 27 goals and 55 points in 57 games. He must have been frustrated to only receive the one appearance in a Marlies uniform through 2019-20 and will no doubt be looking to prove that was an error in judgment. The 23-year-old right-winger has the tools to be an effective scorer at the AHL level, but can he put it together?
Rourke Chartier is a name unfamiliar to many. The 24-year-old sat out the entirety of the 2019–20 season due to lingering post-concussion symptoms after suffering three concussions inside two years, two of which were seven months apart.
Selected 149th overall by San Jose in 2014, Chartier proved himself a decent scorer at the AHL level (74 points in 121 games) and appeared in 13 NHL games before being released by the Sharks in the summer of 2019.
Chartier said in August 2020, “I’m finally feeling better now. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” His appearances in Leafs camp — including the intrasquad game — grabbed some attention with his energy level.
Chartier could be the most interesting story of the campaign. To my mind, he is the project of the season (the Marlies always seem to have one).