In the wake of a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, the Leafs made sweeping cuts to their training camp roster today, trimming the active roster to 26 skaters and 3 goalies. They’ll still need to trim 6 players before the start of the season, and we’ll take a look at who those will likely be in a second. First, though here’s a list of the cuts made today:
Luca Caputi, Joe Colborne, Jerry D’Amigo, Ryan Hamilton, Marcel Mueller, Kenny Ryan, Greg Scott, Mike Zigomanis – no big surprises here. Colborne didn’t have much of a shot, and neither did Zigomanis, given the Leafs’ newfound depth down the middle. Kenny Ryan looked good in preseason, but again, there’s a few guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Caputi is probably running out of chances. Brought in as a pretty highly touted prospect, he’s on the last year of his contract, and hasn’t really shown he’s got what it takes to make it in the NHL. This will be a big year for him with the Marlies.
Jesse Blacker, Jeff Finger, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer, Juraj Mikus – Blacker looked good yet again, but with so many solid d-men in the lineup and Jake Gardiner playing lights out, he’ll spend the season with the Marlies. Same with Holzer, Gysbers and Mikus, while Finger continues to be a victim of that contract. If he came at a lower price tag, he probably would be playing somewhere in the NHL right now.
Mark Owuya – Owuya will have to battle for time on the Marlies with Jussi Rynnas already down there and Ben Scrivens likely soon to follow. Should be interesting to see how those three progress under Allaire, but there’s no question the Leafs have one of the deepest goaltending prospect pools around the league.
The players cut today will join the 23 guys cut earlier in the week. Will Acton, Tyler Brenner, Matt Caruana, Jamie Devane, Brayden Irwin, Kyle Neuber, Kelsey Wilson, Josh Engel, Dave Cowan and Denny Urban were all sent down to the Marlies, while David Broll, Sam Carrick, Andrew Crescenzi, Josh Leivo, Josh Nicholls, Sondre Olden, Brad Ross, Stuart Percy and Garret Sparks will all play next year in the OHL or WHL. Garrett Clarke, Mitchell Heard, Mike Schwindt and Matt Stanisz were all released.
Now, on to the guys still alive and fighting for a roster spot. There’s obviously some guys that aren’t on the bubble, so I won’t bother listing them all, but the players that we will likely see a lot of over the next week will all be trying to prove that they belong on the Leafs this season.
Darryl Boyce – maybe the grittiest guy on the roster, has had his face rearranged so many times he’s gonna look like Frankenstein if he keeps it up. A candidate for the 4th line center position, it could be tough for him to make the club, especially if Matthew Lombardi ends up being healthy. He’ll be at the top of the list for depth call-ups, if he doesn’t make it.
Joey Crabb – not one of my favorites, he’s not flashy, doesn’t have great speed or anything that really sets him apart, but he’s a serviceable 4th liner if needed. Thankfully, we won’t need to see him playing on the top line with Kessel this season.
Philippe Dupuis – it will be a toss-up between Dupuis and Boyce for the rights to the 4th line center role. Dupuis brings a bit more speed to the table, but I haven’t really seen anything that makes him stand out to me so far in the preseason, aside from a couple of good shot blocks on the PK.
Matt Frattin – Frattin got off to a bit of a slow start this preseason, and the fact that Kadri came out flying didn’t help his case. He’s got NHL size already, though, along with a great shot and he looks faster than I thought he would have at the NHL level. If Lombardi truly is healthy, Frattin likely doesn’t have much of a shot, but I’d expect him to see at least 15-20 games over the course of the season. It will be up to him to make management think twice about sending him back down if he gets a call-up.
Nazem Kadri – it seems like it’s been an eternity of waiting for the smallish forward to realize his potential, and we might have to wait just a little bit longer. He’s had a great preseason, and will eventually be a great playmaker. He still does a bit too much dipsy-doodling around every now and then, but he’s better defensively, and I think he’d make a great 3rd line winger, in the sense that he, Bozak and Armstrong would be a solid source of secondary scoring. From what I keep hearing and reading, the consensus seems to be that he could get bumped out if Lombardi is healthy, though. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Jay Rosehill – I’m almost more a fan of Rosehill than Colton Orr. Rosehill seems to bring more of a complete game, he’s quicker, and has the size and guts to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. I think Orr gets the nod over him to start the season, though, and I can’t see a need to have them both in the lineup, unless the Johnstown Chiefs are coming to town.
Keith Aulie – I think Aulie is safe – he hasn’t looked great from what I’ve seen in the preseason, but I think he earned himself a spot with his play last year. He’s big, he’s mean, he makes Dion Phaneuf better, and I think he could be carving himself out a permanent spot in that top 4.
Matt Lashoff – a victim of the overload of solid blueliners, Lashoff will be one of the top blueliners on the Marlies. I liked what I saw from him last season, and as Brian Burke is so fond of saying, you can never have too many NHL-ready defensemen.
Jake Gardiner – I honestly have no idea what happens with Gardiner. On one hand, it seems to be a no-brainer that the youngster spend at least a year in the AHL, and in all likelihood, that’s what will happen. However, Brian Burke was asked about it last night during the game, and said he wouldn’t be averse to keeping 8 defensemen on the roster, given how well Gardiner has played. I don’t know who he knocks out of the starting lineup, as Komisarek has played well, and both Carl Gunnarsson and Cody Franson have more experience. It will be interesting to see how this plays out – I don’t think Gardiner will play the full season, but he should at least get a few chances to prove himself.
Ben Scrivens – Scrivens has been solid, and if the Monster falters early on, don’t be surprised if Scrivens ends up being Reimer’s relief. There’s no question he’ll start the year in the AHL, but I like his style – he plays alot like Reimer, and should be another successful graduate of the Francois Allaire goaltending school when it’s all said and done.
So – who’s in and who’s out? Of the bubble players still on the roster, I think Boyce, Dupuis, Kadri and Aulie all stay with the club to fill out the 23-man roster