Riley Stotts isn’t a name commonly discussed when talking about Leafs prospects. The 2018 3rd round selection has flown under the radar since he was drafted. He entered the season with his rights near expiring, along with Filip Kral and Zachary Bouthillier. However, the Leafs ended up signing Kral to his ELC. With Stotts and Bouthillier unsigned, there remains some uncertainty around whether the Leafs plan on retaining their rights at all.
Should the Leafs sign Riley Stotts?
Who is Riley Stotts
Riley Stotts was picked 83rd overall in 2018 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. His season was notably saved by being traded away from a championship team. After being picked 10th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft in 2015, Stotts made his WHL debut a year later. He had a very solid rookie season, his 16 points were good for 11th league-wide among U17 players. His sophomore season… didn’t go as planned. He was unable to find much success and was leapfrogged by more veteran players. He ended up with three points in 22 games. However, after a trade to the less-than-good Calgary Hitmen, he flourished. He absolutely went on fire, with 41 points in 47 games.
His numbers steadily went up over the next two seasons and he took an alternate captain role during both.
Stotts will never make your eyes pop out, he’s not a human highlight reel, that’s not his job. There’s no real huge strength to point out in particular. He’s an all-around reliable forward. He can score, he can defend, has decent size, can make plays, can play in all situations, and is great on faceoffs. However, this means one thing does stand out in particular. His versatility.
In his D+1 season, Stotts was used as a faceoff specialist in a sense, as one of Calgary’s primary centres. He hit almost 1000 faceoffs taken with a 52.1 FO%. Originally, that was going to be a point in this article.
However, the Hitmen opted for a different take this season. With guys like Mark Kastelic and Carson Focht, they didn’t really need Stotts to play as a primary centre. Instead, he played the left wing frequently, a position he’s also comfortable playing. He was still used as a centre/faceoff man, as he took 360 faceoffs this season and actually upped his FO% to 55%.
Overall, the best way to describe Stotts is solid. He’s a low-risk, low-reward player who is built to be a bottom-six forward in the NHL.
Now, let’s get to the cases.
The Case For Signing Stotts
He’s good. I’ve seen the comparisons in terms of how good he is to Ryan McGregor, who the Leafs opted not to sign. However, I feel that there are a few key differences.
Stotts proved that his success following his trade to Calgary wasn’t just a fluke. He replicated and improved it. That was a concern with McGregor, who broke out during his 4th OHL season. There’s also the other point that… I thought the Leafs should’ve signed McGregor…
Stotts isn’t some high-risk prospect that the Leafs can’t take a chance on. At the moment, his development signals that he’s well on his way to becoming a solid bottom-six forward in the NHL.
His versatility means he can fit pretty much anywhere you put him. Give us a Riley/Riley (Stotts and Riley Woods) duo! I genuinely do think he’ll succeed in his first season and that it won’t be long before he becomes a key Marlie.
The biggest thing?
What happened between June 23rd, 2018, and now, that dropped Riley Stotts from a 3rd round pick/top-100 draft pick to a guy they won’t even sign.
Stotts has progressed as expected throughout the rest of his junior career. There doesn’t seem to be a huge difference for the guy who was invited to Leafs Training Camp this year.
If the Leafs let go of Riley Stotts only two years after deeming him a top 100 pick, I consider that Kyle Dubas’ first draft L (not to be, uh, dramatic or anything).
The Case For Letting Stotts Go
One of the biggest questions that face Stotts is if he’s good enough to make the Growlers. The Leafs have one of the best ECHL teams in the league in Newfoundland, they’re pretty deep. Stotts needed an ATO at the end of the season to prove that he can play with the pros, but that couldn’t happen because… you know…
Stotts looks to be good enough to make it, but the fact that it feels a bit shaky might be a factor to drive the Leafs away.
Another big issue is if Stotts is looking for an ELC. The Leafs are already near the 50 contract limit. One of their biggest strengths has been getting prospects to buy into their system and sign an AHL (sometimes even ECHL) deal. If Riley Stotts isn’t willing to sign an AHL deal, it’s likely that the Leafs could believe that they’d rather just go to the CHL FA market (something that they’ve already done).
Stotts’ role on the Growlers could end up being far less than he’d get if he returned to Calgary for his OA season, or if he signed with another AHL team. That could add some complications.
Personally, I think Riley Stotts is a very underrated prospect. He’s not like the typical Leafs prospect mould where we’ve seen electrifying players look to be the future of the Leafs. He’s just incredibly solid.
I believe Stotts should be offered an AHL deal. He’s a prospect that I do believe is worth keeping. The Leafs saw something in him two years ago, I think that same ‘something’ still shines now.
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