TORONTO– When J.S. Giguere signed with Colorado, and made his way out of Toronto; the move validated the fact that the Maple Leafs would enter the 2011/12 season with James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson as their one-two tandem in net.
Although the number one spot belongs to Reimer, no longer does Gustavsson have to sit in the press box wondering when he will get his next opportunity to strap on the pads. The chance will come this season and if he’s able to overcome last year’s struggles, he could find himself playing 30 games as a solid back-up.
So with the Leafs puck stoppers set in place, who are the guys backing up the big club this season and where will they be developing?
The Toronto Marlies should be going with the combination of Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas.
Scrivens started last season with the East Coast Hockey League’s Reading Royals and was named an All-Star before joining the Marlies in Reimer’s absence. The Native of Spruce Grove, Alberta became a key part of the Marlies, playing in 33 games. He was only 13-12-5 but the lack of wins was by no part his fault. The Marlies lacked scoring much of the second half of last season and even with a 2.33GAA and .924 SV%, Scrivens couldn’t pick up more victories.
After leaving his home country of Finland, last year was Rynnas’ first season with the Marlies as well. Signed by Burke in April 2010, Rynnas started last season splitting time with Reimer. His season was highlighted with AHL Player of the Week honours in early November, however the rest of his season was inconsistent. A broken finger on his catching hand limited his action to just 30 games where he compiled a 10-15-3 record with a 2.71GAA and .911SV%.
Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins could start the season with his duo splitting playing time but if the Leafs need a call-up, Scrivens seems to be the favourite. His development along side goalie coach Francois Allaire has been on a steady incline and partially the reason Burke awarded him a one year contract this off-season. Scrivens, who turns 25 in September, is one year older than Rynnas and one step further in his development.
Further down the list are prospects Mark Owuya, Grant Rollheiser, Dan Sullivan and Garret Sparks. All fit the Allaire mould for butterfly goaltending as none are shorter than 6’2”.
Owuya stated at prospects camp that he would not be returning to Sweden and will be staying in North America to play hockey next season. Last year he played 32 games with Djurgardens IF Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League and had very respectable numbers, putting up a 2.18 GAA and a .926SV%. If it’s true that he does play in North America, it should be with the ECHL Reading Royals.
Jim Hughes, Director of Player Development, addressed the future of his college players and said they would be returning to their schools for next year.
Rollheiser, the tallest goalie at prospects camp at 6’4”, was picked in 2008 in the 6th round, 158th overall, and has spent his last three seasons at Boston University. Another season at school will allow him to play more games and earn his degree in hospitality management. In his three years at Boston, the former Trail Smoke Eater has only played in 24 games.
Sullivan wasn’t drafted but that didn’t stop the Leafs from inviting him to camp. At the University of Maine, he played 21 games as a rookie and by the end of the season was considered their starter. Going 10-7-1, Sullivan was named to the East All Rookie Team and set the school shut-out streak at 202 minutes 49 seconds; breaking the record previously held by Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard. Currently, Sullivan is unsigned and may have to prove himself as a sophomore before Burke commits.
Sparks is the youngest of the crew by four years. Only 18, he was picked up in this year’s draft 7th round, 190th overall, by Burke. With Canadian Hockey League age guidelines forbidding him from playing in the AHL, he is guaranteed a second season back with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm. As a rookie, the Elmhurst Illinois native played in 19 games going 8-6-1 with a 3.64GAA and .890SV%.Time is on his side and the OHL is the best place for him right now.
If age ranked depth at goal, then Reimer would be behind Gustavsson, Scrivens and Rynnas. But it doesn’t and the only one of these four whose age may matter is Gustavsson who will be 27 this year. As the number two guy in Leaf land, he has to prove he can hang around the big show because if not, there are replacements in the making.
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