Maple Leafs: Bottom Six Competition
The Toronto Maple Leafs will have lots of players battling for a spot on the team’s bottom-six at training camp. The battle will be next week with about ten players fighting for four spots. Some of those players offer size and grit, while others offer speed and skill. Now even though today’s National Hockey League (NHL) is all about speed and skill, nobody would be surprised if Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock decided to go with size and grit on his bottom-six or at the very least on his fourth line.
Speed and Skill
Speedy winger who possesses speed, skill and also has some size (6-foot-2). Recorded 45 points in 62 games last season for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The biggest challenge for Mikheyev will be the adjustment to playing on NHL size rinks.
Moore had a decent showing last season putting up eight points in 25 games during his rookie campaign. What stood out the most with him was his speed and work ethic. Moore never gives up on the puck and fights hard along the boards to win puck battles.
Petan didn’t have much success after being traded to the Maple Leafs from Winnipeg Jets. He scored just one goal in five games, so he’ll be looking to improve greatly and will need to have an outstanding camp if he hopes to earn a roster spot. He needs to use his speed to his advantage if he’s going to have success.
Bracco had a very good season last year for the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League (AHL) recording 22 goals and 79 points in 75 games. The speedy winger is looking to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL and he has the skill to do it. He should get a long look at training camp from the Maple Leafs coaching staff.
The 25-year-old Aberg has bounced around between five NHL teams and two AHL teams since being drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2012. He has shown flashes of his skill but just can’t seem to find any consistency in his game. I see Aberg as a long shot to make the Maple Leafs roster out of training camp but could be a valuable piece for the Marlies.
Agostino has shown great skill at the AHL level but has never been able to translate that over to the NHL and although he will be given every opportunity in training camp, he will most likely start the season in the AHL with the Marlies unless he blows everyone away during training camp.
Size, Grit or Both
Gauthier doesn’t really use his size the way many fans wish he would, but last season he used it well when protecting the puck along the boards and keeping the puck in the offensive zone with a good cycle game. He probably lost his fourth-line center job this summer when the Maple Leafs added unrestricted free agent centerman Jason Spezza on a one year deal worth $700,000. If Gauthier has a good training camp, he could still make the team either as a winger or as the 13th forward.
Shore is in the same boat as Gauthier in that he’s also a centerman who will need to shift to the wing if he’s to make the Maple Leafs roster out of training camp. He is not really a point generator, so he’ll be looked to protect the puck, cycle down low and keep the other team off the score sheet, a role he should be ok with.
The big left winger (6-foot-4) would be a welcomed presence on this team which hasn’t really had a player of his size and hitting ability in awhile. Marchment is not afraid to lay out an opponent with a big hit or drop the gloves for a fight. With a team full of young stars, the Maple Leafs could use Marchment to help protect those stars.
Wilson brings a lot of the same things into training camp that Marchment does. He’s a big guy (6-foot-2) who likes to hit and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves when needed. If Marchment is unable to make the team, then there’s a good chance that coach Mike Babcock would like to have Wilson on the Maple Leafs this season to protect the team’s young stars.
It’s fair to say that this season’s training camp will be very competitive and should be exciting for the fans as every player fighting for a spot will try to bring their A-game. Who will win a spot? Who will be able to keep their spot? We will find out starting this week.
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