March 26, 2014
TORONTO– If Josh Leivo wants to take the next step in his pro career he should take some notes on Leaf forward Joffrey Lupul, according to Marlies head coach Steve Spott.
Similar to Lupul, 20-year-old Leivo is a right-handed forward who has been most effective playing on the left wing instead of the right- where his career started. And Spott has already made it clear in the past that Leivo, like Lupul, will most likely be converted into a left winger to fit in with the Leafs.
“(Lupul’s) a guy we’d like to mirror him after,” said Spott. “When you look at a Joffrey Lupul- big, strong, can play left wing or right wing, Josh has to watch and maybe mirror a Joffrey Lupul where he uses his size to his advantage and has a great shot and great puck possession.”
Leivo’s scoring pace with the Marlies in his rookie season is 25 goals over a full 76-game AHL season. In Spott’s opinion he has already shown traits that Lupul possesses, although there is still work to be done before becoming a full-time NHL player.
“(Josh) has tremendous puck protection, good hands and he possesses a good shot,” said Spott. For Josh, it’s consistency every day, being a pro on and off the ice. This is just a part of the maturation process.”
“I’ve watched (Lupul) a lot during the games and I’d love to play like him, he’s a great player,” said Leivo. “If that’s what Spotter sees, that’s a good thing. I kind of watch him when he’s skating out there and I kind of learn, see what he’s doing…I just think I need to get a little bit better defensively. I think I’ll be good.”
Leivo’s first season with the Marlies has had both highs and lows. While he earned two call-ups with the Leafs back in October, he also played his way out of the Marlies lineup in November and found himself a healthy scratch.
Currently the 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward is playing both wings, depending on where Spott sees fit with the lineup he dresses game to game. But he has been on one of Toronto’s top-two units all season regardless of which side he lines up on and has played centre as a last resort when the Marlies faced injuries in January.
The Toronto organization has continuously stressed a top-six bottom-six set up with its forward lines and the Leafs have James van Riemsdyk and Lupul filing the left side on the top. At this point in time depth and skill pushes Leivo out while he further develops his game with the Marlies. But if he reaches the potential the Leafs believe he has then perhaps he one day becomes Lupul’s replacement.
“He has to be considered a top-six forward for the Leafs,” said Spott. “And a threat every time he’s on the ice.”
Leivo has 17 goals and 34 points in 50 games with the Marlies.