TORONTO – There’s no doubt about it; this year’s Toronto Marlies roster isn’t going to be like the squads we’ve seen in years past. With numerous players across the Atlantic Ocean in the European leagues or moving between leagues, the currently projected AHL February 5th, 2021 start date will bring an entirely new dynamic. Now that the NHL has announced that teams are required to have taxi squads of up to 6 players, it means the depth of the Baby Buds will be thrown out the window.
From a tweet from @eliteprospects, teams are required to carry a minimum of four and maximum of six players in the taxi squad. One of which has to be a goalie if there are not three goalies on the 23-man active roster. It is going to shake up rosters in the AHL and ECHL.
— Travis Rogers (@SinBinStingrays) December 20, 2020
The possibility of the Maple Leafs using all six players is almost inevitable at this point. With nearly 85 transactions from the Maple Leafs, having a mix of forwards and defensemen is virtually guaranteed.
One of the top contenders for the taxi squad is defenseman Timothy Liljegren. Last season with the Marlies, Liljegren posted 25 assists and five goals through his 40 games. After the departure of former Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock, Liljegren spent an extensive amount of time with former Marlies Head Coach Sheldon Keefe. Between December 16th and March 6th, Liljegren was sent between the Marlies and Maple Leafs 12 times, more than any other player in the organization.
Another Marlie that will almost hesitantly have his ticket punched for the Maple Leafs is Rasmus Sandin. Last season, Sandin just about split the campaign between the two Toronto clubs. Through his 49 games played total, Sandin scored three times and had 20 assists. The 20-year-old Swedish native also started in the 2020 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic. In his seven games, Sandin was a +3 with 10 points (three goals, seven assists)
In any other circumstance, I would personally have Liljegren and Sandin on the Maple Leafs roster. But, with the free-agent acquisitions of T.J Brodie, Zach Bogosian and Mikko Lehtonen, there’s simply no room for the young Toronto defensemen.
On the top end of the Maple Leafs, it ultimately boils down to who Toronto has scratched on their 36-man roster. One of the leading projections for the 2021 season points to Pierre Engvall and Travis Boyd. When it comes to Boyd, being in the AHL or NHL for the Toronto system is mostly a toss-up, especially considering his career faceoff stats, running at 39.5%. With the new NHL taxi squads, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him somewhere in the press box at the Scotiabank Arena.
Nic Petan is another center that may replace Jason Spezza on the NHL roster through the taxi system. Spending 25 games with the Marlies and 16 games with the Maple Leafs, Petan spent the first few months of the 2019-20 season between the two clubs. Petan became a point-per-game player with the Marlies, pushing out 31 points through his 25 games in the AHL. The 25-year-old BC native takes a cap hit of $775,000.
— Zack Power (@SinBinMarlies) February 1, 2020
Kenny Agostino also tops the charts after a consistent season on the left-wing for the Marlies. At 27 goals and 22 assists through the 2019-20 season, Agostino trademarked himself as a compatible player on the Marlies night in and night out. The 28-year-old was signed by the Maple Leafs last July.
— Zack Power (@SinBinMarlies) March 7, 2020
Finally, as for the Goalies, it remains up in the air, but it would be hard not to look at Aaron Dell, especially after spending the last four seasons with the San Jose Sharks. Last season, Dell had a 12-15-3 record and a 0.907 SVS% in the NHL. Michael Hutchinson still remains an option for Toronto, but after a tough season last year with the big club, it would be hard to have him back on the NHL ice full-time for the 2021 season.