February 10, 2014
TORONTO- Rookie Josh Leivo played the right wing when he was with the Maple Leafs.
Marlies head coach Steve Spott, however, believes the prospect’s future will be best served on the left side.
“When you look at the Leafs roster with guys like (David) Clarkson, (Phil) Kessel, we have to maybe look at moving Josh Leivo over to the left wing for his long-term career,” said Spott.
When the 20-year-old was called up to the Leafs in October most of his minutes were on the right because of an absent Clarkson, who was serving a 10-game suspension. But for the majority of his time with the Marlies the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Leivo has played the left wing, a position he was very familiar with coming out of junior even though he’s right handed.
“The only thing (playing the left side) changes is taking the puck on the back hand in the D-zone, I have no problem with it,” said Leivo. “I’m comfortable with it and there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Leivo, who was selected by Toronto 86th overall in 2011, recently dealt with a hip flexor injury and missed nine games because of it. But he returned to Toronto’s lineup on Friday and scored the eventual winner in a 4-1 victory against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
After controlling the puck over the Griffins’ blue line, the Innisfil, Ont. native eventually got the puck back at the left face-off circle, skated to the middle of the ice and snapped a wrist shot past goaltender Petr Mrazek at 4:01 of the second period.
“It’s nice to get Josh back in the lineup,” said Spott after the game. “He’s a top-six forward for us. He scored a big goal and gave us big minutes.”
In 34 games with the Marlies, Leivo has 10 goals and 23 points.
The AHL All-Star break starts Monday and the game itself is expected to take place Wednesday in St. John’s.
Defenceman T.J. Brennan will be there to represent the Marlies. It’s unclear, however, if forward Spencer Abbott will join him.
“That’s something we’re wrestling with now,” Spott said Sunday after his club fell 4-3 to the Hamilton Bulldogs. “I sure hope so, but at the end of the day we’ll do what’s best for Spencer and the organization.”
The 25-year-old, who is fifth in league scoring with 12 goals and 50 points in 45 games, was injured Friday against the Griffins in the second period and did not return for the third.
Spott listed Abbott with a “lower-body injury” after the contest and he didn’t suit up when Toronto hosted Hamilton.
AHL players aren’t expected to return to practice with their clubs until Friday, so if Abbott stays back he will have four full days to recover from whatever he is dealing with.
Brennan leads all AHL defenceman in scoring with 20 goals and 51 points in 48 games, which also puts him fourth overall amongst all skaters.