It’s always exciting to have a new face come into the Leafs organization. Well, exciting might be a stretch, but it’s always somewhat noteworthy, and that mild sense of noteworthiness comes from Morgan Klimchuk.
The trade was 1 for 1. The Flames swapping their AHLer winger, who hasn’t produced as well this season compared to the past couple of years for Andrew Nielsen, a defenseman that has struggled to get into the Marlies lineup on a regular basis and has been on a steady decline from his AHL rookie season.
It’s worth noting that there really isn’t anything here that makes Klimchuk seem like a standout who is on track for a bright NHL career. Klimchuk’s numbers are good enough that he’s going to warrant a cup of coffee in the bottom six if the Leafs suddenly find themselves without wing depth or he’ll be a staple of the Marlies top six, if his numbers rebound to what they’ve been the previous two seasons.
It’s likely that where we see the decline in Goals For % over the past two seasons, that Klimchuk is being used increasingly against tougher competition. Not only has he become an AHL veteran that they would trust in these situations more, but in order for him to have found a place in Calgary’s roster he would have needed to improve his defensive game.
That’s a pretty substantial drop in the first 17 games this season, and could be troubling if it’s a bigger issue that a change in usage or a slow start. The change of scenery certainly gets Klimchuk a steady look in the top nine, along with Bracco, Timashov, Engvall, Grundstrom, and Marchment as the Marlies top nine wingers.
What Flames Nation Has to Say on Klimchuk…
When Flames Nation did their prospect rankings this summer, Klimchuk came in 10th in the organization. Ryan Pike had this to say about Klimchuk then…
Klimchuk’s first two pro seasons went very differently. His first season saw him hit hard by the American Hockey League’s learning curve and essentially have to learn things from the ground up, putting up 10 points in 55 games while playing primarily in the bottom six. But he turned a corner late in the season and seemed to find his confidence with the puck. That continued into his second season (2016-17), when he had 43 points in 66 games and was one of Stockton’s most consistent 200-foot players.
Additionally their is this quote in Pike’s writeup from Stockton Heat head coach Cail McLean…
I think he’s a really mature player. He has a good sense of the overall game as a pro. One thing he brings to the table that makes him stand out is speed. He has a lot of speed and so he’s starting to put all that together and making him into a pro that’s going to be able to play at that NHL pace, and now it’s a matter of finding a way to differentiate himself to crack that lineup in Calgary… I think he does a lot of things well, and now his job is going to be to relax into it and show those intangibles that make him a really good AHL player and getting good production at this level.
Previous to those rankings, Christian Tiberi took a statistical look at Klimchuk…
There are concerns, however. Klimchuk didn’t really have much of an improvement from last season (66-19-24-43, 31 primary points, 29 5v5 points, 22 5v5 primary points in 2016-17), as you can see in the first chart. He was rarely better from a points production standpoint than last year, and never really cracked 30 NHLe, a pretty troubling sign. Given the leap from his first AHL season to the next, I think it would be reasonable to expect a slight bump in production, but nothing really came of it. Klimchuk actually shot less than he did last season, which is also pretty concerning.
The Real Reason To Love Klimchuk
Look at that beautiful headshot.
If Klimchuk’s nickname isn’t Wildcard by the end of the day we have failed as fanbase.
This is a pretty small potatoes deal, where the Leafs acquired a 23 year old former 1st rounder who is going to try his luck with a franchise with a slightly better track record of player development. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season, so the Leafs will have the option to cut their losses fairly quickly if they need to, but if they see something in him, he also has the potential to be an affordable bottom six forward replacement for Tyler Ennis, Josh Leivo, Par Lindholm, Connor Brown, etc. should any of them move on from the Leafs.
In a much more likely scenario, Klimchuk will add to the Marlies offense for this season and quite possibly beyond, but as he is shiny and new, why not hope for more?