March 23, 2015
TORONTO— Prospect Josh Leivo is still getting his scoring chances. He just isn’t burying them as often as he did when he was a rookie.
The 21-year-old winger scored an empty-net goal on Saturday against Rochester to give him 10 goals in 40 games this season with the Marlies.
At a 19-goal pace for a full American Hockey League season, Leivo is well behind the 23 goals he scored in 59 games in his rookie campaign.
“He can be frustrating at times, you want more out of him,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen. “But then you go back and look at the stats and see the amount of scoring chances he’s involved in, the primary guy being involved in it. As long as he’s creating those chances then that’s a good thing.”
Leivo, six-foot-two 180 pounds, has had streaky moments this season, as his goal against the Americans was just his second in 11 games.
His shot attempts this season, though, are slightly above last year’s but his shooting percentage has drastically declined.
This season the Innisfil, Ont. native is getting 2.42 shots per game on net. Last season he was producing 2.37 shots on net per outing. The major difference is that last season he was converting 16.4 per cent of his shots, which is absurdly high. Meanwhile, this season he’s at a more reasonable 9.8 per cent shot efficiency.
“Last year his shooting percentage was higher, it’ll happen with him,” said Dineen.
“It sometimes gets frustrating to not score,” added Leivo. “The chances are there, I just haven’t put them in.”
Last season Leivo, who Toronto selected 86th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, registered seven power-play goals while this time around he has only one— despite still being part of the team’s top unit. The Marlies’ power play, however, has been pitiful all season and it isn’t just Leivo who isn’t scoring with the man advantage.
Earlier in the season Leivo battled injuries which hindered his play at certain times. Most notably he missed four weeks of action between December and January with a separated shoulder and when he was finally healthy enough to return he was sidetracked by the timing of the AHL All-Star break.
“The All-Star break slowed me down a bit,” said Leivo. “It took me a while to try and get it going again, but I’m feeling good now.”
Despite his production tailing off this year, Dineen isn’t concerned with Leivo’s execution around the net because the organization knows he has the skill to score. Through his offensive struggles, the coaching staff haven’t asked him to change or do anything differently. They, instead, have preferred to focus on other aspects of his game.
“We have to make sure we’re taking care of the defensive side so he’s a well-rounded player,” said Dineen. “He’s not so gifted that he’s going (to the Leafs’) second line right away— so he has to make sure defensively he’s solid.”
“I’m mostly working on just keeping my feet moving,” added Leivo. “I’m trying to make myself accountable, be responsible in every situation.”
The Toronto organization thinks highly of Leivo, as seen with numerous call-ups earlier in the year to the Maple Leafs. And he will be heavily relied on down the stretch as the Marlies battle to make the post-season for the fourth year in a row.
It’s unrealistic to expect Leivo to score goals like he did in his first campaign. Better execution on the power play and more consistency from those around him could improve his goal-scoring pace, but his numbers this year seem to dictate a more accurate reading as to what he can do moving forward. Management very much believes, though, that he can crack the next level regardless of how many pucks he puts in the net.
“He’s a guy that’s got so much potential because he has a certain skill set that translates to the NHL,” said Dineen.