TORONTO – One thing that every hockey management group desires is a healthy team, especially at the goaltending position. The Toronto Maple Leafs are no different in that regard, and with one of their potential netminders going down during training camp this past week, the depth chart shuffle will no doubt trickle down to the Toronto Marlies, as well.
As announced by Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock on Sunday, netminder Michal Neuvirth will continue to be out with a lower-body injury he sustained earlier this week. Neuvirth didn’t practice on Monday with the Maple Leafs, nor did he have a role in Tuesday’s game vs Ottawa. For the 31-year-old native of the Czech Republic, this could spell trouble for his professional tryout (PTO).
With Neuvirth’s injury struggles the past few seasons, there’s been little chance for him to prove himself between the pipes. Last year, Michal only played seven games with the Philadelphia Flyers, posting a 1-4-1 record and a 4.27 GAA. With this poor showing last season and an unhealthy body to boot, it doesn’t come to a surprise that his tryout has unfortunately been a flop.
This means that Toronto would need to search for an alternative backup goalie behind Fredrik Andersson. One such option could be Michael Hutchinson. Last season, Hutchinson stepped in as the backup goalie at a time when the Leafs were littered with injuries. Posting a .914 SVS%, he played well enough to earn a one-year contract for the upcoming season.
With the dominoes falling the way they have, Kasimir Kaskisuo could now be named starting goalie for the Toronto Marlies. His hot streak in the 2019 AHL Playoffs was one that made waves throughout the hockey world. Rocking a .927 SV% in the postseason, some say he could have been one of the reasons the Marlies made it so far. Prior to camp, Kaskisuo was facing rumors that he could be traded based on the sheer number of goalies in the system. Serving as a backup in Tuesday’s preseason game versus Ottawa, however, is no doubt a promising sign for the 25-year-old goaltender.
Still, Kaskisuo will have a tough competition in the form of Brandon Halverson, who is expected to be the starting goalie for tonight’s game against Ottawa. Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2014, Halverson spent most of his time in the AHL, most recently splitting his last season between the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack and Maine Mariners of the ECHL. Currently on a PTO, Brandon’s next steps will be based on his performance in camp and in tonight’s game.
If the Maple Leafs decide to cut Halverson from the team, they’re still left with solid options for an AHL backup. Three top contenders could be Ian Scott, Joseph Woll, and Maksim Zhukov. Originally from Prince Albert, Scott spent last year in the Western Hockey League, where he posted an impressive .932 SV%. Even with putting up solid numbers in the WHL, most would expect him in the ECHL for the upcoming 2019-20 campaign.
With Woll, one thing in his favor is his three-year, entry-level contract, where he can harvest his talent through the farm system if needed. Woll put up an eye-catching season at Boston College (2.41 GAA and .919 SV%) and is expected to be in the AHL for the start of the season.
As for Zhukov, the Maple Leafs picked up the rights to the goaltender back in May. He split last year between the OHL and USHL, posting a paltry 3.43 and 3.94 GAA, respectively. In spite of that, what stands out the most is his impressive run in the 2018 World Juniors with Russia. Zhukov had the best save percentage among all netminders, earned best goaltender honors, and left the tournament with a bronze medal.
When the dust settles, the Leafs should be exploding with goaltending options. Anticipating that the PTO’s bust, a potential picture in the crease could look like this:
|Team||Starting Goaltender||Backup Goaltender|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Fredrik Andersson||Michael Hutchinson|
|Toronto Marlies||Kasimir Kaskisuo||Maksim Zhukov|
|Newfoundland Growlers||Joseph Woll||Ian Scott|
With the AHL preseason set to begin in the coming weeks, this will shine a better light on who the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies have in net for the upcoming season. The Marlies play their first preseason game on September 27 against the Rochester Amercians in Buffalo, New York.
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