TORONTO– The Toronto Maple Leafs finalized their roster on Friday and forward Nazem Kadri, defencemen Jake Gardiner, Mike Kostka, Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser and goaltender Ben Scrivens were all summoned from their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies.
Add in Keith Aucoin, who was acquired off waivers by the New York Islanders on Thursday, and the Marlies lost seven key players in the past two days.
With holes to fill, the AHL club will be looking for certain players to jump into the line up and keep the club atop the Western Conference standings.
While Joe Colborne, Matt Frattin and Carter Ashton will be taking on a heavier workload in terms of offence, rookies Greg McKegg, Spencer Abbott and Brad Ross will be the players who get a chance to show they’re ready to take on bigger roles.
“It’s probably going to double their ice time,” said Marlies assistant coach Derek King. “They have to be prepared and ready to go and they can’t ease into games. It’s a good chance to take advantage of the extra time and show us what they can do.”
All freshmen have found their way in and out of the lineup this season, with McKegg playing the most games of any rookie at 25, followed by Abbott at 20. Ross, however, has seen the least with just 15 games so far, which has limited him to just a single goal and very little effectiveness with the club.
“It’s been a little hard to adjust, 15 games isn’t too much experience, especially when you go from playing with 16 year olds to 30 year olds, but the experience will definitely make me better,” said Ross about the potential of seeing more ice time. “I can work on my game and hopefully put some points up.”
At the beginning of the season Head coach Dallas Eakins made it clear that none of the rookies would be handed a position, especially with so many players to choose from. It was either earn a spot or watch.
“Dallas was right up front with them and said, ‘who are you going to beat out of the lineup?,” said King. “But, now that the lockouts over things will smooth out and guys will start playing hockey.”
Toronto has already signed Ryan Grimshaw and Corey Syvret to fill holes on the blue line and Mark Owuya was re-called from the ECHL to back up Jussi Rynnas, who takes over for Scrivens.
Tim Connolly is expected to join the Marlies after clearing waivers while Mike Mottau suited up for Friday’s tilt with the Binghamton Senators.
Abbott, McKegg and Ross all dress against the Senators as well.