AHL: Toronto Marlies Midway Update

Dennis Hildeby #41 makes a glove save Photo: Toronto Marlies X Account

The Toronto Marlies are an affiliate team for the Toronto Maple Leafs and have had many players graduate to the Leafs from their team over the years. As we are into the second half of the season, I figured it’s time to take a look at how the Toronto Marlies are doing this season and also take a look at the performance of some of their players.

Toronto Marlies Team Stats

The Marlies are in third place in their division currently, with a 19-14-6 record so far this season. With 31 games left, the Marlies will need to finish in the top 5 in their division to make the playoffs. 23 of the teams in the AHL make the playoffs, in a different format than seen in the NHL. For further information on how the AHL playoff format works, you can look at their “Qualification Rules.”

Even while likely to make the playoffs, the Marlies haven’t been a great team so far this year. A major factor in the team’s success this season has been rookie goalie Denis Hildeby. One of the factors that has likely contributed to the shortcomings of the team would be the number of players the Leafs have called up to play for them due to injuries and depth players being tested out. The Marlies have lost Holmberg, Robertson, McMann, Benoit, Lagesson, Jones, and even Lajoie for a while.

Toronto Marlies Player Stats

Dennis Hildeby

Let’s start with the rookie goalie, who is in his first full season in the AHL. Hildeby is a beast at 6’7″ and has been given the nickname “Hildebeast”. Hildeby has started the year off strong and looks much closer to being NHL-ready than was originally anticipated, ultimately helping the team to many of their wins, and earning himself a spot at the AHL All-Star game. Hildeby has posted a 12-7-4 record with the Marlies, which may not seem spectacular on its own, but sitting at a .913 save percentage, 2.35 goals against average, and posting 4 shutouts this season has him as the biggest surprise this season. Hildeby started this season as a question mark about his chances at making the NHL, but with his solid play, it has gone from an if to a when.

Keith Petruzzelli

Petruzzelli is in his second full season with the Marlies and has unfortunately not shown as much development as was hoped for. Some fans viewed Petruzzelli as a candidate to be “the next Woll”, but he has lost the starting gig to Hildeby. Petruzzelli is 6-7-2 this season with a .868 save percentage and a 3.51 goals-against average. I find that Petruzzelli’s reaction time sometimes can be a step behind which has resulted in some weaker goals going in against him. Petruzzelli still has some potential as a goalie, but the Marlies are surely hoping they start to get more from him in the second half of the season.

Topi Niemelä

Niemelä like Hildeby is in his first full season with the Marlies and has looked quite composed in his time on the Marlies’ back end. He leads the Marlies defensemen in points with 25 points in 42 games this season. Niemelä has solid offensive upside while also playing a sound defensive game. Being a right-side shot, he will be valued in the league and if his development continues at the current rate, he could see some NHL games next year with a more regular role the following season. It will be interesting to see if the Leafs plan to keep Niemelä for cheap depth in the relatively near future or use him as trade bait to upgrade their roster now.

William Villeneuve

Villeneuve is an intriguing prospect for the Leafs as at times with the Marlies he looks like he has further NHL potential while at other times he falls short and doesn’t look as effective. This season Villeneuve has 16 points with the Marlies in 33 games. Villeneuve will look to finish the season out strong in hopes of pushing up the Marlies depth chart.

Mikko Kokkonen

Mikko Kokkonen was a surprise this year at the Leafs training camp, even earning a shoutout from Keefe. Kokkonen has looked solid with the Marlies this year, and while he only has 11 points in 40 games, he isn’t on the team to be an offensive player. Kokkonen plays a solid defensive game and looks quite composed while doing so. Kokkonen could be rewarded with games in the Leafs lineup as soon as next season if injuries should arise on the back end.

Alex Steeves

Alex Steeves has been the Marlies’ best forward this season and leads the team in points with 38 points in 38 games. Steeves plays an aggressive game and attacks offensive chances which has led to success this season. Steeves has looked great for quite some time and has had multiple lengthy point streaks this season as well. It seems as if he is ready for the NHL, but there didn’t seem to be a spot currently available for Steeves on the Leafs until another illness hit the Leafs. Steeves will look to make an impact on any opportunity he gets, should he play more games for the Leafs this season. Steeves will also look to finish out the season strong with hopes of getting a further opportunity in the NHL next season.

Ryan Tverberg

Ryan Tverberg like Denis Hildeby is a rookie and has also been a positive development for the Marlies this season. Tverberg has 26 points with the team in just 29 games. Performing at nearly a point-per-game pace is impressive, especially in a rookie season where he hasn’t been in first-line minutes. Tverberg is still young and as such will likely spend more time developing with the Marlies. With the possibility of Marlies players being traded as part of deals for the Leafs, if Tverberg is still on the Marlies past the deadline, he’s a prime candidate to grow into a larger role for the Marlies.

Kieffer Bellows

Kieffer Bellows was originally brought to Toronto on a tryout and hasn’t looked back, earning an AHL contract and sitting close to the point-per-game pace. Bellows looks like an NHL player and has a solid shot while playing an aggressive game. Bellows looks like he could take a further step into an NHL role, and would look solid on the Leafs’ fourth line next season.

Nick Abruzzese

Nick Abruzzese is an interesting player for Toronto as the Leafs signed him straight from college and he played a handful of games with the Leafs before becoming a Marlies player. Nick didn’t have all that much success at first with the Marlies but has rebounded with the Marlies this year, with 32 points in 44 games. Abruzzese may ultimately be used as trade bait, but if not, will look to continue his development with the Marlies, in hopes of earning a call-up.

Joseph Blandisi

Blandisi plays a feisty, but also skilled game with the Marlies. He has embraced his role with the team and has 38 points in 43 games this season. Blandisi sticks up for his teammates and often finds himself on the nerves of other players. A hometown kid, who is living his dream of playing hockey in Toronto, he will look to keep playing his game, which has led to his success this season.

Roni Hirvonen

Roni Hirvonen joined the Marlies at the same time as Topi Niemela but hasn’t had as much success in North America. Hirvonen was injured after being hit in development camp this summer and spent time out with injury due to that. He is back now though, and has 3 points in 9 games. Hirvonen will look to stay healthy and start developing with the Marlies.

The Marlies as a team are sitting in a playoff spot as they are tied for 3rd in their division. The playoff format is quite different from the AHL, so the Marlies need to finish in the top five in their division to qualify for playoffs. For more information on the AHL playoff format, check out their Qualification Rules. The Marlies have struggled at times, largely due to how many of their players have spent time with the Leafs. The Marlies have “lost” Holmberg, Robertson, McMann, Lajoie, Benoit, Lagesson, and now Steeves for periods throughout this season. While this isn’t a look into every Marlies player, I hope you enjoyed getting more insight into players on the team.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ITRnathanbondy.

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