Toronto Maple Leafs prospects gain playoff experience in time of transition

By John-Eric Iannicello

Josh Leivo - Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: Kitchener Rangers forward Josh Leivo was one of several Toronto Maple Leafs prospects to join that club’s minor-league affiliate at the completion of the junior hockey season (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Years of building the Toronto Maple Leafs from the ground up started to pay off for the club in the 2012-13 season. The Maple Leafs returned to the playoffs after a nine-year absence to play the Boston Bruins in round one. Toronto took Boston all the way to game seven and looked poised to head into the second round before a third period collapse changed everything. While it was a heartbreaking collapse which led to an overtime loss (and subsequent elimination) it provided a learning experience for a club which lacked playoff experience.

The Toronto Marlies also returned to the postseason. Looking to rebound from a Calder Cup loss last season, the Marlies unfortunately were unable to match their previous success and were eliminated in the second round to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

AHL

The Marlies had a large roster to work with heading into the playoffs which led to many of their late-season additions sitting on the sidelines. Players added after their respective junior seasons included Tyler Biggs, David Broll, Josh Leivo, Stuart Percy, Morgan Rielly, and Garret Sparks. Only Rielly was able to see consistent game time playing in eight of the clubs nine playoff games, managing one goal in his appearances.

Biggs, Percy, and Leivo all had limited roles and only managed four games between them. Rookies who joined the club at the start of the year such as Greg McKegg and Spencer Abbott were able to showcase their offensive talents on the scoreboard. McKegg scored three goals and added three assists in nine games, while Abbott had two goals and three assists in five games. In general, Abbott and McKegg were two of the Marlies most productive players in the playoffs. Other strong contributions came from Carter Ashton who added three goals and two assists, Jerry D'Amigo had one goal and eight helpers and Greg Scott who led the Marlies in scoring with seven goals and two assists through nine games.

ECHL

Mark Owuya was the only standout performance at the ECHL level. With Drew MacIntyre firmly in the driver's seat as Marlies starter, Owuya was assigned to the ECHL in an effort for more ice-time. The move proved beneficial for Owuya, who appeared in five playoff games and posted a 1.61 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. While he did not steal the starter's position, Owuya did play a role in his club capturing the ECHL Kelly Cup Championship.

OHL

Only two prospects from the OHL had notable performances at the OHL level. Ryan Rupert of the London Knights finished 14th in OHL playoff scoring with 11 goals and nine assists through 21 games. His playoff performance helped the Knights win the OHL Championship and earn a chance at the Memorial Cup Championship (of which they fell short). He was one of six Knights to his the 20 point mark in the postseason.

Prior to joining the Marlies, Leivo was dealt from the Sudbury Wolves to the Kitchener Rangers who were expected to make noise in the OHL playoffs. Leivo finished second in playoff scoring for the Rangers with three goals and nine assists through 10 games.

Europe

Arguably the clubs top European prospect, Petter Granberg has seen a surge of success in his hockey career as of late. He is slowly gaining the title of 'winner' as Granberg has seen numerous championships over the last two seasons. Dating back to last year when he won gold with Sweden's U-20 team, Granberg has won back to back Swedish Hockey League Championships (in 2012 and 2013), and has added a World Championship Gold Medal playing for Sweden this past spring at the World Championships. Granberg appeared in 13 playoff games with Skellefteå tallying two assists and a plus-seven rating. Granberg is expected to join the Marlies this fall.

Notes and Signings

In April, the Maple Leafs signed prospect Andrew MacWilliam to a two-year entry-level deal. The 23-year-old rugged rearguard finished four-years at North Dakota prior to signing with the Maple Leafs. He was the clubs seventh-round selection in 2008. He appeared in two games with the Marlies at the end of the regular season.

Other news of note includes the departure of sought after rookie NHL coach Dallas Eakins who signed a four-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Eakins had been a coaching staff member of the Maple Leafs and Marlies since the 2005-06 season. His most impressive productive season as Marlies head coach came in 2012 when he led his club to the Calder Cup Finals.