The Toronto Marlies are icing a fairly young line-up this season, composed of 12 Maple Leaf prospects, 10 of whom are rookies. Forward Dale Mitchell was with the Marlies earlier in the year, but was reassigned to the Windsor Spitfires after a nine-game stint with the club. Stefano Giliati is the only Maple Leafs prospect who is with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.
Alex Berry, RW, 23
In 23 games with the Marlies this season, Berry has recorded only three points (one goal, two assists), but his game is not about points; he’s a hard-nosed energy player who is on the ice to win battles. He’s a fearless combatant and is among the team leaders in penalty minutes for the Marlies with 57, which includes five fighting majors. While he’s not the best fighter, he’s willing to defend teammates, which should keep him in the line-up more often than not. His -8 is the second worst on the team, however.
Tyler Bozak, C, 23
Bozak has had a hard time living up to the high expectations that were placed on him. The first-year Marlie forward was diagnosed with a case of the H1N1 virus earlier in the year, which kept him out of the line-up. It also caused him to lose the weight and strength he put on over last season. After coming back from the flu, Bozak injured his ankle in a game on Nov. 25.
For all the early setbacks to Bozak’s pro career, he’s still been a contributor for the Marlies. In his 18 games, Bozak has scored three time and assisted on nine others for 12 points.
Bozak returned on Dec. 11, scoring two points.
Christian Hanson, RW, 23
Hanson has been a surprising offensive threat this season for the Marlies, tied for the team with Stalberg in points with 19 (eight goals, 11 assists) in 19 games. He’s been a mainstay on the power play, using his large frame to screen opposing goaltenders.
For his early success, he was rewarded with a six-game stint with the Maple Leafs starting on Nov. 24. In his time with the Maple Leafs, he displayed a strong fore-check, good physical play, and work ethic in a bottom-six role. While he didn’t contribute much offensively, he utilized his size in a way that was lacking in his game last season.
Hanson was sent back down to the Marlies on Dec. 6.
Richard Greenop, RW, 20
Those who’ve watched Greenop through his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires knew exactly what he would bring to the Marlies this season: limited minutes, and truculence – loads of truculence.
Greenop joins a team where he’s not the distinct heavyweight. With Jay Rosehill, Andre Deveaux, Alex Berry, Ben Ondrus, Phil Oreskovic, and Brennan Evans sprinkled throughout the line-up on a regular basis, there is no shortage of players who are willing to drop the gloves. This has left Greenop watching the game in the press box on some nights. In 16 games with the Marlies, Greenop has amassed 49 penalty minutes, including seven fighting majors, which leads the Marlies. Greenop is a capable fighter with both hands, and is also capable of absorbing plenty of blows without buckling.
Aside from the lack of offense, Greenop needs to work on his foot-speed in order to be an effective pro. At only 20, Greenop has plenty of time to work himself into a legit NHL enforcer.
Kyle Rogers, RW, 24
A free agent signed in 2008 by Cliff Fletcher, the 24-year-old forward offers some size and good skating ability, but not much else. Rogers is another player who has been rotated in and out of the line-up, only playing 17 games this season. He’s recorded only one goal and two assists along with a -4 rating. Rogers was expected to produce a bit more than he has so far in his AHL career.
With his contract up at season’s end, it’s unlikely Rogers will be re-signed by Brian Burke given his production to date.
Greg Scott, RW, 21
First-year Marlie forward Scott is still trying to find his niche at the AHL level. He’s been a bottom-six/extra forward for the Marlies this season and has even seen time in the ECHL with Reading. With Reading, he recorded one goal in four games. After being called back up with the Marlies this past week, he scored his first AHL goal. In 18 games with the Marlies, he has three points and is a -2.
Scott is a character forward, but will have to simplify his game in order to stay in the AHL. At times, he tries to do a bit too much with the puck and it results in turnovers – but as a rookie it’ll be something he learns in time.
Robert Slaney, LW, 21
Similar to Scott, Slaney is another player who has seen time with both the Marlies and the Reading Royals. Not uncommon for first-year AHL forwards, Slaney has had a hard time adjusting to the high tempo of the pro game as he is one of the youngest Marlies on the roster. Slaney has played in 13 games with the Marlies and has three assists. He’s also a team-worst -10 on the season and has only managed seven shots.
Slaney is still finding his stride at the AHL level, and is likely to bounce between the AHL/ECHL all season depending on how healthy the Marlie roster remains.
Viktor Stalberg, LW, 23
After an impressive pre-season with the Maple Leafs, Stalberg had a difficult time carrying his offensive production over to the regular season. Stalberg also suffered a concussion on Oct. 6 and was sent down to the Marlies after he returned.
The good news is that Stalberg has been one of, if not the most dangerous Marlie forward night in and night out. With blazing speed and a nose for the net, Stalberg keeps opposing defenders on their toes. Stalberg often looks to be ahead of his competition in the AHL, which should bode well for a future call-up.
In 17 games this season, Stalberg has recorded eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points, which ties him for team lead. He’s also averaging approximately three shots a game.
Stalberg still requires work on his defensive game, as he tends to run around in his own zone, causing him to drift out of position. However, Stalberg is starting to put together a more consistent effort on the back-check due to his speed.
Carl Gunnarsson, D, 23
After an impressive preseason, Gunnarsson joined the Marlies and continued his strong play until he was recalled to the Maple Leafs on Nov. 12.
Coming over from Sweden, the 23-year-old defender was expected to jump into a top-four role with the Marlies immediately and be fairly effective both being older as well as coming from a men’s league in which he played three seasons.
Gunnarsson came as advertised, but his play in the NHL is what has been most impressive from the young Swede. He played big minutes, and displayed poise beyond his years. Injury struck Gunnarsson in his short NHL stint as he hyper-extended his elbow in a game at the end of November and will be sidelined until the New Year.
In 12 games with the Marlies, he recorded two assists and was a -2. With the Maple Leafs, he notched four assists in eight games and was a +4. He also averaged over 20 minutes of ice time and was used in all situations.
Juraj Mikus, D, 21
An unknown coming into the season was how much of an impact Mikus would have in his first season in the AHL. As the youngest Marlie defender, the 21-year-old has been one of the most impressive defensemen on the team.
Although he played the last few seasons in the Slovak men’s league, not many expected him to have the type of impact he’s had early on. With a career high of eight points in the Slovak league, Mikus has already eclipsed those numbers, as he leads the Marlies defense in scoring with two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 23 games.
What is the most promising is that he plays the type of game that should only get better as he adds more weight. He’s not afraid to jump into scuffles, and even got in his first AHL fight this season. At 6’4, he has great size, but still requires added strength to fulfill his potential.
Many believed when he was drafted that it would take a few years for this selection to start paying off. If these early signs are any indication of what’s to come, the Maple Leafs could have a really good player on their hands.
Phil Oreskovic, D, 22
Oreskovic has carried his hard-nosed defensive game into this season yet again. What you see is what you get with the 6’3, 217 lb defender. His game isn’t spectacular, but it gets the job done. He’s on pace to surpass his penalty minutes of last season (103) by a fair margin, as he already has 65 in 22 games (seven fighting majors). He’s also one of the few defenders, again, who is on the plus side with a +1.
Foot-speed and consistency will be two things Oreskovic will continue to work on as he looks to make the jump to the NHL full time next season.
James Reimer, G, 21
After Justin Pogge was traded, Reimer had the opportunity to really take control of the No. 1 spot with the Marlies. Even with Joey MacDonald as the Maple Leafs third-string goalie, Reimer has been the better of the two at the AHL level.
With an impressive year in the ECHL last season, Reimer has continued where he left off with great numbers on the Marlies. In the nine games that Reimer has started, he’s posted a solid 2.29 goals against, and a strong .925 save percentage to go along with his 6-1-1 record. While he’s only been in a limited number of games in comparison to other AHL goaltenders, his early success is impressive.
Although his start has been great, Reimer suffered a serious high-ankle sprain in late November that will keep him out up to two months.
Stefano Giliati, LW, 22
After a full season with the Marlies last year in which he recorded 15 points in 53 games, Giliati has been playing with the ECHL Reading Royals this season. In 21 games with the Royals, Giliati has recorded eight goals, 10 assists for 18 points and is also a +3. He’s fourth on the team in scoring, but hasn’t been given a shot with the Marlies yet this year, even with his good offensive production.