TORONTO, ON – For players longing to step into (or step back into) the NHL, to what extent can a successful American Hockey League playoff run really affect their chances? A handful of Toronto Marlies could well find that out in the coming months.
The Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) have won nine straight postseason contests in back-to-back series’ sweeps en route to a berth in the Calder Cup Final, which opens Saturday against the Texas Stars.
Regardless of how these playoffs end, certain Marlies – blueliner Travis Dermott and forward Andreas Johnsson, for example – are pretty clear on what’s next. Both Dermott and Johnsson rejoined their AHL club after lengthy call-up stints with the Leafs, and will be prime candidates to start in the NHL come fall.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old defensive prospect Timothy Liljegren has only one professional year under his belt, and is likely to need more seasoning before he graduates to the NHL. And then there are players languishing somewhere in between – some who have gotten a taste of life with the Leafs before and some who are still waiting on their NHL debuts.
Whether those opportunities come in Toronto or beyond, being on the bubble makes every AHL game (especially in the playoffs) a fresh audition. Five Marlies in that position have used this run to their advantage in that respect, and in turn could be putting themselves on the radar for a potential NHL gig next season.