When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded forward Mike Brown to the Edmonton Oilers last week, general manager Dave Nonis said one of the reasons was to create a roster spot in order to give some players down with the Toronto Marlies a look at the NHL level. Now I’m sure Nonis wasn’t referring to the likes of Jake Gardiner, who already proved he was more than capable of playing for the Leafs last year. Or Paul Ranger, who has had plenty of NHL experience in the past. Both of those players could be inserted into the line-up if necessary at any point.
However, there are a few other Marlies who have only had a brief glimpse of NHL action, or none at all. It might very well make sense to give some of these players a few games to see what they can bring to the table. As opposed to playing, oh I don’t know, Frazer McLaren or Colton Orr. Here are a few Marlies who should get a chance.
Ryan Hamilton – LW
Hamilton has played three NHL games over the past two seasons, but his skating ability is always something that has kept the 27-year-old down with the Marlies. However, Hamilton is a pure goal scorer and has found the back of the net more than any other player in the history of the Marlies. His 25 goals this year is reason enough to give him a little longer stay with the Leafs.
Joe Colborne – C
Colborne had a slow start to the season and was even in head coach Dallas Eakins’ dog house for a while. After being a healthy scratch on a few occasions, Colborne has turned things around and is now up to 33 points in 54 games, and has over 100 shots on goal. In 2011-12, Colborne skated in 10 games with the Leafs and picked up a goal and five points. At 6-foot-5, he has the size that Toronto could make use of at the centre position in the right situation.
Spencer Abbott – RW
Abbott was never drafted and a big reason for that was probably his size. NHL scouts aren’t exactly salivating about taking a winger these days who is only 5-foot-9. Despite his shortcomings, Abbott has always made the most of his opportunities and has 24 points in 40 games this season, while posting an impressive plus-7 rating. He was a star at the University of Maine and his 62 points in 39 games during the 2011-12 season made him a Hobey Baker Award finalist. With the undersized former collegiate player Cory Conacher bursting on the scene this year with Tampa Bay, the Leafs may want to see if Abbott can get comparable results for them.
Carter Ashton – RW
Ashton can provide a lot of toughness to the line-up, while still adding some offense as well. He has 11 goals this year and leads the Marlies with 63 penalty minutes. The Leafs gave up Keith Aulie to Tampa Bay in return for Ashton, so it would make sense to at least give him a shot at some point in the near future. Ashton’s size and rugged style fits into Randy Carlyle’s system and he still brings an above average skill set.