5 Marlies Who Will Play Their Way onto Toronto Maple Leafs During the Lockout
Some of these players are almost guaranteed to make the Leafs when the lockout ends, but some other prospects need a strong AHL season during the work stoppage to impress general manager Brian Burke and head coach Randy Carlyle.
Let's look at five Marlies players who will play their way onto the Leafs during the lockout.
Jake Gardiner, Defenseman
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images
Jake Gardiner has been one of the AHL's best defenseman this season. His 17 points rank eighth in the league in scoring, and his team-leading nine goals are second in the AHL.
Gardiner has continued to develop offensively in the AHL, and his ability to be productive on the power-play has also improved. He scored two power-play goals in a 4-3 victory against the Rochester Americans last week and also added an assist.
Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry has also been impressed with Gardiner's play for the Marlies thus far.
Jake Gardiner of the Toronto Marlies is not only the best defenceman but he's the best player in the American Hockey League that I have seen— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 10, 2012
Unfortunately, he may have to miss some time after taking a hit to the head during a game over the weekend. Here is an update on his status, according to Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV:
Jake gardiner didn't skate today. Sore neck...headache but marlies not saying its a concussion.#marlies— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) December 12, 2012
The Leafs need to be very careful with Gardiner because he is someone who the team will build around for many years. He must be given all the time he needs to recover so he returns to the ice at 100 percent.
Nazem Kadri, Center
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With Gardiner out of the lineup, talented forward Nazem Kadri will have to take on a little more of the scoring burden for the Marlies.
Toronto has won four of its last five games and play Rochester on Saturday, who the Marlies have defeated twice this month.
Kadri has three goals and two assists in the Marlies' last three games versus the Americans, and is starting to play well consistently in December, which is very encouraging.
Here are his stats in December through four games:
|Lake Erie Monsters||1||0||1|
The patience Kadri has been displaying in the attacking zone recently has been impressive. He's not forcing anything, which is limiting his mistakes and helping him make better decisions with the puck.
We all know Kadri will get another shot to make the Leafs if the lockout ends, but if you want to judge his readiness purely based on his performance for the Marlies this season, it's clear that he deserves another opportunity in the NHL.
Ben Scrivens, Goaltender
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Ben Scrivens' struggles to start the season might have caused some Leafs fans to be concerned about his future, but he has improved tremendously over the last two weeks.
In his last four games, Scrivens is 3-1 and has improved his overall record to 8-7. He has a 2.47 GAA with a .908 save percentage during that stretch.
If Scrivens continues to play well over the next few weeks, it's hard to imagine him staying with the Marlies when the NHL returns.
Matt Frattin, Right Wing
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Matt Frattin split time between the Leafs and Marlies last season, and will likely get another opportunity to earn a permanent spot on the NHL roster this year.
In 11 games for the Marlies, the 24-year-old winger has scored seven goals with four assists. He's sixth on the team in scoring despite being the only player in the top seven who hasn't played in more than 20 games.
If he continues to play well for the Marlies, he could earn a spot on the Leafs' third line this season. The key for Frattin is to stay healthy because he has the talent needed to make a positive impact on the Leafs in 2012-13.
Keith Aucoin, Center
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The Leafs signed veteran forward Keith Aucoin during the offseason, and he has spent the last four years with the Washington Capitals and the AHL's Hershey Bears.
Aucoin leads the Marlies with 22 points, including a team-high 19 assists in 23 games this season. He has also scored three goals.
His veteran leadership and playoff experience could be valuable to the Leafs this year, and his offensive production and toughness could be important if injuries hurt the team's forward depth.
Expect Aucoin to join the Leafs when the lockout ends, and likely play on the fourth line.