Marlies Sign Justin Nichols to an ATO

The Marlies have made yet another ATO signing, this time Justin Nichols, goaltender for the Guelph Storm. These signings are wonderful because it means the Marlies/Solar Bears rosters will be filled out with players that are developing, rather than players who have seen the door shut on any possibility of making the NHL. Getting another goaltender in the system especially makes sense, as goaltenders tend to develop a bit slower and are harder to project in their late teens/early 20s.

Four things immediately leapt out at me when I went to

Justin Nichol’s HockeyDb page

to learn a little about him:

1. He played on the 2012-13 Soo Greyhounds managed by Mr. Kyle Dubas and Dubas was the GM who drafted him into the OHL. So he’s certainly a familiar asset.

2. He’s 5’9, so he’s teeny tiny by goaltender standards. Hopefully this is what has held him back from getting more attention and he’s in fact the most talented goaltender of his generation.

3. While his numbers don’t leap off the page at you (.907 save percentage) the number of games he played does (59 GP, 86% of the season). OHL goaltending stats are rarely impressive, but what is a bit more impressive is a team forgoing a tandem in junior in favour of one goaltender. 

4. Nichols is the second Guelph Storm goaltender in the Leafs system (Garret Sparks being the other). Both of the goaltenders worked with Matt Smith, he may be a name to watch for as someone who eventually joins the Leafs in some capacity.

While I may be reaching at optimism here, Nichols is another worthwhile, no risk signing, with some potential for upside. It is a safe bet that Nichols won’t see much time with the Marlies in the 2015-16 season due to current goaltending depth and will be Orlando bound. If Reimer or Bernier are moved and one of the Leafs current AHL goaltenders is promoted to NHL backup there is the potential for Nichols to see more work, but he will likely be the ECHL backup next season.

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  • silentbob

    I feel like this takes even more of the “if” out of “If Reimer or Bernier are moved and one of the Leafs current AHL goaltenders is promoted to NHL backup”.

    • It’s an ATO. It’s entirely possible Nichols won’t be around past this year. Hell, he might not even get a start with the Marlies, as the playoffs are about to start.

      He’ll likely just practice with the team and who knows what happens next year.

      • yeah, true.
        I guess I’m just already sold on the whole “trade Bernier’s RFA rights” narrative.
        Then we bring Gibson up to backup Reimer next year, and have Sparks and Bibeau split Marlies starts.
        And then it just makes sense to bring in another fringe prospect to play for Orlando, rather than have some career minor-leaguer get those starts.

        But I should probably re-evaluate my stance on Bernier. It’s such a tough call. The Leafs are probably competitive again in 4-5 years when he’s 31/32, which is by no means over-the-hill. It’s so hard to find a good, consistent goalie. Maybe Bernier is it.

  • seen this kid play a few times. He’s pretty good. Got his team to the memorial cup last year when he won the starting position. did ok this year but the team suffered a big loss on the blue line when matt finn jumped to the marlies. Interesting signing, everyone sort of counted him out when he was young but he has continued to prove everyone wrong. Very interesting signing.

  • loving these type of no risk, possible reward scenarios the new management is taking. nothing to lose and can possibly reap the rewards of a low risk move. if it doesn’t pan out, who cares and he can develop with another ahl-like team with the solar bears. love it. i wish they did this type of stuff sooner.