Focus for junior prospects will be off-ice conditioning and skills, not game action

Steve Spott says the added prospects to his club will keep their focus on off-ice conditioning and skills- Image Courtesy of Christian at TSGPhoto

Steve Spott says the added prospects to his club will keep their focus on off-ice conditioning and skills- Image Courtesy of Christian at TSGPhoto

April 3, 2014

TORONTO- The Marlies dressing room is quickly starting to fill up with extra bodies.

After being eliminated from the CHL post-season, 18-year-old Carter Verhaeghe and 19-year-old Fabrice Herzog joined the Marlies on Thursday and will remain with the club the rest of the season on Amateur-Tryout contracts.

“It’s that time of year where juniors become eliminated, so we’re getting some bodies, some of our draft picks,” Marlies head coach Steve Spott told LeafTV after Thursday’s practice.

Verhaeghe, who was selected 82nd overall in the 2013 NHL draft, had 28 goals and 85 points in 65 games playing centre with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.

Herzog, who was selected 142nd overall in the same draft, produced 32 goals and 58 points in 61 games on the wing with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts- his first season in Canada after leaving his native Switzerland.

Verhaeghe and Herzog are the first CHL prospects to join the Marlies this season, a week after NCAA prospect Eric Knodel was added to the club after finishing his year with the University of New Hampshire.

While Spott said he will find each of them some playing time while they are with his team, Toronto is still battling for second place in the Western Conference and the coach won’t turn away from the players that have brought the club this far.

The prospects, instead, will work heavily with assistant coach Steve Staois on skills at practice and off the ice with strength and conditioning coach Mark FitzGerald.

“Steve Staois will take the lead, not all of them will play regularly with us,” said Spott. “It’s important that we keep the mindset of our hockey club and we stay true to that.

“We’ll put these guys in. They’ll play a few regular-season games. But they’re here to work with Mark and Steve.”

On the same day that Verhaeghe and Herzog joined the Marlies, the Maple Leafs summoned Carter Ashton from the AHL club.

The 22-year-old right-winger has 16 goals and 21 points in 22 games with the Marlies.

The loss for Spott at this point of the year is huge, however the Leafs need any help they can get as they try to keep their post-season hopes alive.

“Our job is to look at the big picture, which is the Toronto Maple Leafs and trying to make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.”

Toronto also reassigned goaltender Christopher Gibson to the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL.

The Marlies currently have a 15-point lead atop the North Division standings and can clinch the division with a single point or any loss by the Rochester Americans.

The Marlies face the Utica Comets on Friday and a win would guarantee them their third straight title.

“From day one I think there’s a lot of people who haven’t given this team credit,” said Spott. “Our fate is in our hands and hopefully we can seal it in Utica.”

KYLE CICERELLA

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