Toronto Maple Leafs: Offseason Has Begun for the Marlies

KELOWNA, BC - FEBRUARY 06: Riley Woods #13 of the Spokane Chiefs skates with the puck against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on February 6, 2019 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
KELOWNA, BC - FEBRUARY 06: Riley Woods #13 of the Spokane Chiefs skates with the puck against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on February 6, 2019 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are far from the only team getting an early jump on their offseason.

Ah, the Toronto Marlies: Toronto’s most popular sports team at the moment.

Roughly two weeks have passed since the Baby Leafs saw their season end in a heartbreaking Game Six double-overtime loss to the eventual Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers. But even in defeat, there is no rest for the weary, and the Marlies have kept themselves busy through the initial stretch of their offseason.

Let’s take a quick gander at the under-the-radar transactions made by the Marlies over the past few weeks as their parent club heads into a thoroughly unpredictable summer.

Josh Jooris Walks to Switzerland

The 2018-19 season was not supposed to go this way for Josh Jooris.

Signed to a one-year, $650,000 contract on July 1st, Jooris was thought by most as a contender for a spot within the Maple Leafs’ bottom-six, with many even going so far as to pencil him in as their fourth-line centre. It wasn’t necessarily a far-fetched assumption, either. Jooris entered Toronto having spent all but 86 total games in the AHL prior to this current season. Couple that with his NHL paycheck and resume bearing over 200 NHL games across six seasons, and Jooris appeared destined for a depth role on the Leafs.

Alas, that is not where he ended up.

An underwhelming training camp and similarly disappointing preseason landed Jooris on the Marlies to begin the year, where he eventually remained throughout. Still, a top-line role on the Marlies certainly wasn’t the worst possible outcome. But even as an NHLer playing against AHL competition on a nightly basis, Jooris struggled mightily when it came to offensive production and finished with just 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points in 73 games.

The silver lining of Jooris’ season, however, came in the playoffs. Anchoring a Marlies’ fourth line alongside Colin Greening and Nic Baptiste, the trio assumed what was by far the most difficult matchups on the entire team and managed to not only neutralize their opponents but even drive play, as well.

According to data compiled by The FaceOff Circle, Jooris began 23.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone throughout the Marlies’ second-round sweep of the Cleveland Monsters. And yet, even in spite of his usage, Jooris’ 55.8% CF/60 at 5v5 placed higher than any member of Toronto’s top line.

It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Jooris’ strong postseason performance serves as good a note as any to end his Marlies tenure on. The 28-year-old is reportedly headed to Switzerland for next season, signing a one-year contract with Lausanne HC of the Swiss National League despite technically still being under contract with the Maple Leafs until July 1st.

It’s a parting of ways that is assuredly mutual. And with Jooris out of the picture now, his departure opens up spot within the Marlies’ forward corps.

Which bring us to…

Marlies Sign Riley Woods to One-Year AHL Deal

The Marlies sure do enjoy their undrafted projects.

On June 5th, the Marlies signed forward Riley Woods to a one-year AHL deal, joining the likes of North Bay’s Justin Brazeau as but another Major Junior developmental piece to be welcomed into the Maple Leafs’ organization.

Woods, a hybrid centre and left wing, spent the past two and a half seasons with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs after being traded midway through his sophomore spin by the Regina Pats. The 20-year-old had modest success in the time following his move, putting forth a respectable 57 points in 72 games during the 2017-18 campaign before exploding for 75 points in 65 games this past season as an over-ager.

Woods’ signing seems to fall in line with the Maple Leafs’ overall developmental vision.

At just 5’10 and 181 pounds, the Regina-native is undersized by professional standards, but bears a game with enough skill and offensive instinct to make up for it.

Woods is a crafty player, particularly when operating in open ice.

His shot appears to be his strongest attribute, demonstrating the ability to fire it off quickly in tight space without sacrificing much in the way of velocity. And while Woods assuredly has more than a few hurdles to clear on his big-league path, he seems to otherwise be the perfect dice-roll prospect for a truly cutting-edge development staff to spend countless hours working with.

Will Woods begin the 2019-20 season with the Marlies? That remains to be seen.

Decisions much higher up on the corporate ladder are yet to be made prior to a summer that will surely be filled with internal change. The Maple Leafs’ full-length depth chart could look markedly different after July 1st, and the specificity of those moves could very well impact roster spots throughout the organization.

Nevertheless, Woods is yet another intriguing young piece joining an organization already filled with them.

Next. Mitch Marner is Not Different. dark

And there you have it. Thanks for reading! Raptors in 5.