The Toronto Marlies have added top 2021 NHL Draft prospect Tristan Lennox to their roster ahead of the 2021 AHL season.
The signing is interesting because, well, we haven’t really seen players come into the AHL for their draft year.
Update: Tristan Lennox has been removed from the Toronto Marlies’ roster. Nothing’s really clear about it yet, so I will leave the following article untouched until thing are clear about what’s going on. I did try to give an idea of why this move could be looked into (Heading: “Isn’t This… Kind of Suspicious?”), and appears that it had been. I won’t edit the actual article until things are confirmed, though.
Unique Circumstances Creates Unique Signings
This signing wouldn’t have happened to any player like Lennox before, nor do I think it will happen after this year.
A perfect (or, actually, a very imperfect) storm led Tristan Lennox to the Marlies.
Lennox can’t play OHL hockey right now. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a very tight situation in Ontario, the OHL is in a bit of limbo this season.
As a result, Lennox can’t play. Now, in most years, the CHL and the NHL have a transfer agreement that states that CHL players under 20 cannot play in the AHL, and instead must continue to play in the CHL or play in the NHL until they’re old enough to be sent down.
Obviously, that isn’t practical this year, so it’s been waived. CHL players under 20 can play in the AHL… until their league resumes play. That means, while QMJHL players are still bound to this rule (The Q is underway), WHL and OHL players are allowed to play in the AHL.
Now, on the other hand, the Toronto Marlies have a dilemma of their own. The Marlies were set to ice Michael Hutchinson and prospect Joseph Woll, while prospect Ian Scott was expected to get some games in or get loaned to Europe.
And then, projected third-stringer Aaron Dell was claimed on waivers…
Now, the Marlies’ projected starter is backing up Frederik Andersen, and their projected 1B is on the taxi squad.
With the Ontario Government barely approving the AHL’s Return to Play plans, was it really worth the risk to bring in someone from abroad?
Instead, they brought in Mississauga native Tristan Lennox and Toronto native Andrew D’Agostini. Not the ideal situation, but it works.
Every single one of these circumstances had to happen for the Marlies to look at Lennox. The OHL shutdown, the Dell claim, the Campbell injury, the tight turnaround from the approval of the AHL’s return to play, and, most importantly, Lennox being from the area.
I don’t believe that any other first-year draft-eligible player has done this so far. The closest we’ve gotten is Brett Brochu. The goaltender is in his second year of eligibility and signed an ATO with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in January.
We don’t really know if this deal is an ATO (amateur tryout) or an actual contract. Both are allowed here to my knowledge, but the more likely option here is that Tristan Lennox signed an ATO so he can go back to Saginaw of the OHL with ease if they do play this season. It’s also likely that the other goalie they signed, Andrew D’Agostini, is also in Toronto on a PTO (professional tryout).
Impact on the Marlies
Tristan Lennox wasn’t exactly fantastic last season, but he’s young. Not many guys in their Draft -1 season are splitting time for a top OHL team, but that’s where Lennox found himself last season. His .876 SV% put him pretty low league-wide, but it’s less alarming when you consider it was 3rd among all 2021 first-year NHL draft-eligible goalies in the OHL. He went 20-8-3, and the Saginaw Spirit finished first in their division (although, that was probably aided by Cole Perfetti simply being built different).
In all likelihood though, Tristan Lennox won’t have a great first professional season in the AHL.
Top Leafs goalie prospect Joseph Woll finished his first AHL season with a .880 SV% at 21 (although, that’s not all his fault).
Former Golden Knights fourth-rounder and current Marlies prospect Maksim Zhukov achieved a .871 SV% in his first ECHL season at 20.
Tristan Lennox is going to be good one day. He’s one of the best goalies available this year, and he could develop into a very good goalie in the NHL.
But it’s very unfair to expect him to perform that well at 18 as a goalie in one of the best leagues in the world after playing last season in the OHL.
Although, it’s also very unfair to expect Ian Scott to perform that well after missing 20 months due to injury.
And it’s also very unfair to expect Andrew D’Agostini to play like a rock-solid AHL goaltender after playing in the SPHL just two seasons ago.
Isn’t This… Kind of Suspicious?
I think this move is only weird if the Leafs draft Tristan Lennox (or rather, they draft him very high).
Think about the punishment John Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes got for illegally bringing in and collecting information on many 2020 NHL Draft prospects.
And then think about how the Toronto Marlies are owned by the same company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs (MLSE) and how they (obviously) work very closely together.
It’s probably really hard to not collect information on a player who is literally sitting on your bench! The question here is, does this give the Leafs an unfair advantage when it comes to looking at one of the best goalies in this draft?
The answer, in my opinion, is probably not.
The Coyotes brought multiple prospects in for testing, not just one guy. They were able to gain intel on a variety of prospects, intel that other teams weren’t able to get. The number of prospects meant that it could actually shift around Arizona’s internal draft rankings significantly.
With Lennox… while I understand the concern, it’s just one guy. If the Marlies were to, say, bring in five draft-eligible guys under AHL contracts, then it would be alarming.
However, I doubt the Leafs will even be able to draft Lennox. NHL Central Scouting has given Tristan Lennox a “B” rating. That means they expect him to go around the 2nd/3rd round.
The Leafs have a first and second-round selection, but not a third. It’s very unlikely to me that they reach for him in the first round, and given the team’s current track record, they seem to enjoy picking guys that have fallen out of the first round with their 2nd round picks (Nicholas Robertson, Roni Hirvonen). Unless the Leafs decide to trade up (which, knowing Kyle Dubas, won’t happen), they probably won’t pick Lennox.
He’s probably just a dude that will be able to get some games near his home, and he’ll have access to the Leafs/Marlies’ top-notch staff and facilities.
Obviously, that’s all just speculation. For all I know, the Leafs will draft Lennox in the second round and this section looks very stupid in a year from now.
Whatever the case is, I would assume that the NHL is watching this situation closely, just in case.
If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the Ottawa Senators grows on him. The Marlies will be playing in the AHL’s Canadian Division. They’ll get lots of games against the Belleville Senators, and given Ottawa’s willingness to draft goalies (they’ve drafted a goalie four years in a row), I wonder if they’ll be the team that takes a shot on Tristan Lennox early.
To be honest… I’m not too sure. The Marlies appear to have set their preliminary roster, which has been posted on the AHL’s transactions page but not officially announced.
This does likely mean that the Ontario government has finally given the AHL the green light to play (impacting Belleville and Toronto). The Marlies could end up playing as soon as February 14th, but nothing’s set in stone yet.
Will this signing bear much impact on the team? Probably not. However, it does open a new window of opportunity for draft-eligible prospects looking for a place to play this year.
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