The Toronto Maple Leafs continued to bolster their organizational depth today, signing Marlies forward Byron Froese to a two-year, two-way contract.
Bookmark this page folks, because I’ll say it right here and now: Byron Froese could play games for the Maple Leafs this season.
Froese was exceptional for the Marlies this season. A 2009 4th-rounder of the Chicago Blackhawks, Froese really came out of nowhere this year, playing 3 games for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage with 0 points, and another 17 for the Cincinatti Cyclones of the ECHL before ultimately joining the Marlies mid-season. It’s pretty crazy that he had so much trouble sticking around elsewhere, because by the end of the year he was the Marlies first-line center and arguably their best player.
In 46 games for the Marlies this season, Froese amassed 42 points and 120 shots on goal. His 0.91 points per game lead the team, and his 2.61 shots per game were good for 3rd on the team behind only T.J. Brennan (3.00 shots per game) and Matt Frattin (2.64 shots per game). Needless to say those are pretty good numbers.
But it isn’t only the numbers. Froese is a confident and effective puck-handler and has strong two-way instincts. I don’t want to call him flashy per se, but he’s definitely a very noticeable player, especially at the AHL level.
He’s 24 years old and has had a rocky pro career to date, but with the way that he emerged for the Toronto Marlies he’s starting to emerge as a player with real NHL potential. The Leafs clearly feel that way too because he was already signed to an AHL deal with the Marlies for next season. But obviously the team felt strongly enough about him that they decided to give him a two-year contract with the Maple Leafs that would allow him to be recalled to play some games for the big club.
But really, Byron Froese? How good can this guy really be?
He’s probably more of a potential bottom-six NHLer as opposed to a top-six (I don’t think we’ve got Tyler Johnson on our hands here), but I gotta tell you, I really think this guy is a good hockey player. Sure he’s old by “still having NHL potential” standards, but we’ve seen plenty of late-bloomers emerge in some way, shape, or form before. I think the Leafs have a real asset on their hands here and I’m glad this deal got done. He may end up nothing more than a fourth-line center in the NHL (hell, he may not even end up as that), but there is real potential for him to play NHL games for the Maple Leafs as early as next season. It’s not a deal to get overly excited about, but it’s not a nothing signing either.
Jeffler thinks as much too, because back in March he wrote an article about how Froese was already making a case for an NHL contract.