Marlies Sign Five, And Other Thoughts On The Leafs’ Minor League Depth

The Leafs made some moves to shake up the big club on Wednesday, and today the Marlies followed suit.  The team has announced the signings of forwards Christopher Clapperton, Brett Findlay, and Patrick Watling, as well as defencemen Andrew Campbell and Brenden Miller.

Findlay and Watling are familiar faces with the Toronto Marlies and played a combined 44 games for the team last season in depth roles.  Both are former members of the Sault Ste-Marie Greyhounds of the OHL under Kyle Dubas.

Clapperton is an interesting name, and not just because it sounds cool.  A 2013 5th-rounder of the Florida Panthers, Clapperton had a pretty good junior career and was actually considered a bit of a threat to make the Canadian World Juniors team back in 2013-2014.  It didn’t happen, and he’s apparently fallen out of favor in NHL circles because he went unsigned by the Panthers and it looks like he hasn’t been able to get an entry-level contract from any other NHL teams either.  He plays a hard-working, grind-it-out style and could be a good depth piece for the Marlies this season.  Oh and by the way, he played on a line with Leafs prospect Frederik Gauthier in Rimouski this season.

Andrew Campbell is a former third-rounder of the L.A. Kings in 2008 and has had a pretty successful AHL career to date, amassing a total of 489 AHL games and 38 NHL games since turning pro during the 08-09 season.  He’s 27 now and isn’t an NHL prospect, but he figures to play an important role for the Marlies this season.  He’s another former member of the Greyhounds, though he played there before Kyle Dubas became the GM.

Brenden Miller is 21 and just wrapped up his OHL career, playing in a top-four role for a North Bay Battalion team that played a total of 36 playoff games over the last two seasons.  Miller had 55 points this year and had a pretty good OHL career.  He doesn’t figure to be much of an NHL prospect at this point, but he’s another valuable depth piece for the Marlies organization.

Miller and Watling both received invites to the Leafs prospect summer camp, which takes place next week.

These aren’t moves that figures to impact the big club in many ways at all, but it does impact the Toronto Marlies and to that extent it will impact the player development side of things, especially as it relates to allotment of ice time.

The Marlies are very deep right now, with a depth chart that looks something like this:

William Nylander-Byron Froese-Connor Brown
Josh Leivo-Sam Carrick-Kasperi Kapanen
Brendan Leipsic-Ryan Rupert-Zach Hyman
Matt Rupert-Carter Verhaeghe-Nikita Soshnikov
Brett Findlay-Frederik Gauthier-Casey Bailey
Christopher Clapperton-Denver Manderson-Jack Rodewald

Scott Harrington-Petter Granberg
Andrew Campbell-Stuart Percy
Viktor Loov-Tom Nilsson
Rinat Valiev-Matt Finn
Brenden Miller

Antoine Bibeau
Christopher Gibson
Garrett Sparks
Justin Nichols

And don’t forget Matt Frattin or T.J. Brennan either, both of whom for the time being figure to have a decent shot at making the team, especially since they could serve as stop-gaps which would allow the young Leafs prospects to get further seasoning in the minors.  That said, they could very well end up on the Marlies next season, too.  But the Leafs need some extra bodies and the Marlies are incredibly deep, so both figure to be practical options at the NHL level for next season.

Of course the likes of Leivo, Carrick, Harrington, and Percy could end up earning spots with the Leafs out of camp too so this depth chart certainly isn’t official, but the main thing to understand here is that the Toronto Marlies are deep.

Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas has mentioned before that the Orlando Solar Bears (the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate) may factor in more this season.  Just looking at the Marlies depth now, that certainly seems to be the case.  We’re looking at the likes of 2013 first- and third-rounders Frederik Gauthier and Carter Verhaeghe, who both had good junior careers, potentially getting big playing time in the ECHL as opposed to the AHL next season because the Marlies just have so many players.  Rinat Valiev, who had a strong season for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL this season after being drafted in the third-round by Toronto in 2014, is another prime candidate to head on down to the ECHL.

The team wants to really get the player development side of things right as they begin this rebuild, and my sense is that they really want to do two main things around that: don’t call up their young players to the NHL until they are absolutely ready, and make sure their young players are getting lots of playing time.

Because the Marlies are so deep there simply won’t be enough ice-time to go around in the AHL.  There are going to be more “big name” Leafs prospects playing in the ECHL next year, and I don’t think that will be as much of an indicator that a prospect isn’t very good as it has been in the past.

It certainly won’t get as much hype as all the trades or the signings or Mike Babcock or the Leafs’ continued search for a GM, but there are some pretty interesting things going on with the parts of the Leafs organization that fall beneath the surface.  It’ll be interesting to see exactly the Leafs will maneuver their minor league players and affiliates next season, and if the apparent depth of the Leafs’ projected minor league players are any indication, the Marlies and Solar Bears could be pretty fun to watch next year.

  • Brooksterman

    Need to point out Carrick and Granberg have to clear waivers to go to the Marlies so they most likely won’t be playing their at all this year. Leafs just signed Byron Froese to a 2 year contract and because of how many games he’s played at the pro level will have to clear waivers to play on the Marlies as well. Depending how many more NHLer’s get delt in the summer could free up some spots for Percy and Leivo at the NHL level as well. Plus Kapanen can go back to Europe this year as well. I would just take Carrick and Granberg out of the Marlies picture this next year because I doubt they end up in the AHL. I doubt Carrick would clear waivers and Granberg will be down their in December/January for probably a month on rehab.

    • Brooksterman

      You also need to consider waiver status. Leivo and Baily don’t need to clear waivers to go down to the AHL, Carrick and Froese do. For that reason alone Carrick and Froese will make the team over Leivo and Baily. Plus you forgot Arcobello on that list.

      • Brooksterman

        I’m sure things will change before Sept,
        but I was trying to see what the Line Depth was looking.
        Though if Shanahan likes small skilled guys I’m not sure why we didn’t give Kozun another look?

        • Brooksterman

          I understand that. I’m just saying when it comes to which players make the team and which don’t, a gm also takes in to consideration all the players’ waiver exemption status. The Leafs are going to finish bottom 3 next year so they don’t need to take the best 23 players and potentially lose 2-3 on waivers for nothing. They should be in asset management mode. It will be no different than what they did last year where Leivo got sent down, despite playing well enough to make the team, just because they didn’t want to risk losing Ashton on waivers for nothing as he still had at least a little value at the time.

    • Brooksterman

      50 pro contracts, and those players could be playing in the NHL, AHL, or juniors (Cody Donaghey, for example).

      These five signings are all AHL contracts, which don’t count in the 50 contract limit. Matt Rupert, Denver Manderson, Jack Rodewald, and Justin Nichols are all in the same situation. I don’t believe there’s a limit to the number of players you can have on AHL deals, but don’t quote me on that.

  • Andre Bradshaw

    It’d be nice if there was such thing as letting Babcock just coach the Marlies instead of the leafs this year since it’s going to be a wash of a season.

  • Andre Bradshaw

    It’d be nice if there was such thing as letting Babcock just coach the Marlies instead of the leafs this year since it’s going to be a wash of a season.

  • Andre Bradshaw

    Granberg has one more year of waiver exemption i think since he signed when he was 19, which according to CBA give 4 years of exemption or 160 games played. Carrick signed when he was 20 giving him only 3 years hence he is not waiver exempt.

  • silentbob

    What does the Leafs depth chart look like (so far, I do expect at least a few more of the core players to get traded) and what spots might be “up for grabs” for some of the prospects like Leivo, Percy, Carrick… the guys with a little more AHL experience.

    As far as I can tell this is what we’re looking like so far:

    JVR – Kadri – Parenteau
    Lupul – Bozak – Arcobello
    Komarov – Winnik – Panik
    Holland – Spaling – Bailey

    Phaneuf – Marincin
    Rielly – Hunwick
    Gardiner – Polak

    What spots don’t look secure and could some prospect “win” in September?

    • Gary Empey

      Do you find it odd that in your lineup there are no rookies.

      This was one of the worst teams last year. If no rookies can crack the lineup then our prospect pool must be very thin.