If you are not one of those hockey fans that plan to stage some sort of boycott as a form of retribution for the lockout, you are probably excited to see your favourite NHL team in action once again. As training camps are now underway, many AHL squads are now dealing with the loss of key players. The Toronto Marlies are one such team that figure to lose multiple contributors to the Maple Leafs.
The Marlies have been in a battle for the top spot in the Western Conference all season, but now have to survive without the likes of Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri, and Ben Scrivens. Not to mention the possibility of losing a couple of key defenseman in Mike Kostka, Mark Fraser or Korbinian Holzer, depending on what decisions the Leafs make on their blueline.
Despite all this, the Marlies have some solid depth and should be able to overcome these losses if other players use this as an opportunity to step up. Someone like Joe Colborne figures to have an increased role with all the forwards surely heading to the Leafs. After a rocky start to the campaign to say the least, Colborne has picked up his play recently and is now up to 19 points on the year with a plus-8 rating.
Jussi Rynnas is quietly having a stellar season in goal, and will now be looked upon as the number one guy with the departure of Scrivens. Rynnas is sporting a 1.96 goals against average and a .937 save percentage with three shutouts in 2012-13. With the inexperienced Mark Owuya now the only option at backup, the Marlies will be counting on Rynnas to continue his strong play on a nightly basis.
Since the Marlies roster was so crowded because of the lockout, players that were forced out as scratches will now get a shot to play more regularly. Someone like Spencer Abbott who had only skated in 20 games this season, will now have to contribute every night. Abbott does have 15 points this year and was a proven point producer in his four years at the University of Maine, so getting him more playing time in the AHL will be vital for his development.
Carter Ashton is another forward that should benefit from more playing time. After being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Keith Aulie, Ashton has been somewhat inconsistent in his time with the Marlies. He has just 14 points in 35 games this season, and that will need to improve should the team hope to stay near the top of the standings. Ashton’s big frame should see more power play minutes going forward as well, which will hopefully increase his production.
During the early part of the season the issue for the Marlies was having too many players. The lockout and the lack of an ECHL affiliate saw an influx of bodies on the roster, and coach Dallas Eakins was forced into tough decisions on who to sit out on many nights. However, this allowed several youngsters to gain some important AHL experience which could prove valuable down the stretch. Now that the team is going to be losing many of those guys to the Leafs, which was once a problem now could be a blessing in disguise.