With the upcoming outdoor game scheduled in Hamilton, it seems like a good time to look at the future of the Maple Leafs. The Marlies season could best be described as up and down, which makes sense when you relate them to the big club. Injury concerns have robbed Dallas Eakins on several occasions this year of a full line-up, but in spite of this he has managed to keep the baby leafs above water. They currently reside at the top of the AHL’s Western Conference North Division, and both Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne have been named to the AHL All Star Game (Though doubtful Kadri will participate if still playing in the NHL)
Joe Colborne – The Centerpiece of the Tomas Kaberle trade to Boston last February, the large center is starting to show signs of being the player Brian Burke had hoped when acquired. The 6’5 Centre has the size and skill that the Leafs are lacking at the center position currently. The Biggest Knock on Colborne is that he is hesitant to use his size, which anybody that watched Nik Antropov play can understand. The time spend with Dallas Eakins seems to have progressed his development, and while most likely not this season, it would be very surprising not to see Colborne challenge for a regular roster spot next fall.
Mike Zigomanis – The current points leader of the Marlies, the former Pittsburgh Penguin prospect is now in his second season in the Leafs system. Zigomanis has been a cornerstone of the Marlies penalty killing, and seems to be taking his assignment to the minor league well. It would be very surprising for him to crack the Leafs lineup, but he certainly has done to work to earn a spot.
Ryan Hamilton – Acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild in the 2008/2009 season, Hamilton now finds himself second in scoring on the Marlies. As with most of the Marlies, time spent with Dallas Eakins has really made a difference. He has reached his points total from last season, and is currently on pace for a career best year. Set to become and unrestricted free agent come July 1’st, it would be doubtful that the Leafs or Marlies are able to retain the young forwards service without some promise of promotion to the parent club.
Jussi Rynnas – This may go down as the best European/College free agent signing in Brian Burke’s tenure with the Leafs. The large Finnish goaltender lost his job last season after an injury gave Ben Scrivens the opportunity to take over the net. The tables turned this season as Rynnas took over for the Marlies after Scrivens was called up during James Reimers injury. The statistics do not completely do justice to how good Rynnas actually is, and I don’t think him being called up would be out of the question if Reimer and Gustavsson continue to struggle .
As already mentioned in this post, credit for the success of the Marlies can be directly attributed to Dallas Eakins. His aggressive penalty killing system as well as timely goaltending has given the team a chance to win almost nightly. Some of his work is evident in the improvement of Nazem Kadri and Joey Crabb. It will be a miracle if some rebuilding NHL team does not promote the coach to the big league next year.