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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Marlies facing tougher AHL rosters

Where the Marlies previously had an advantage over other AHL teams due to their core of veterans and promising prospects, the influx of NHL players thus far in 2012-13 has flattened the playing surface. AHL stars such as Aucoin, Zigomanis and Kostka are joined by young Leaf Jake Gardiner and a wide range of prospects.

While everyone was focused on names like Kadri, Colborne, Frattin (out with an injury) and Holzer, other names have played as well or better.

Ranger, Kostka, McKegg and Ryan

Paul Ranger is playing like he plans on returning to life as a Top Four NHL rearguard. Mike Kostka is solid as Gardiner's partner and it's not difficult to envision the pair of them patrolling the Maple Leafs' blueline. Other top Marlies defenders include Korbinian Holzer, Mark Fraser, Jesse Blacker, Simon Gysbers, and Dylan Yeo .

Up front, Greg McKegg and Kenny Ryan have contributed to a potent offence that also includes Keith Aucoin, Mike Zigomanis, Joe Colborne, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Ryan Hamilton and Jerry D'Amigo. Depth forwards include Carter Ashton, Brad Ross, Spencer Abbott, Nicholas Deschamps, Greg Scott, and Will Acton.

No goalie is ready yet

Though Ben Scrivens is slated to be the backup netminder for the NHL squad, neither he nor his Marlies teammates have shown that any of them are ready for a promotion. Scrivens proved himself at this level the past two years and appears ready for a shot, however if the NHL does come back this year, Burke would be wise to sign a free agent goalie with some big league experience, for as a minimum it would push Reimer and Scrivens to earn rather than be allocated their positions.

Kadri and Colborne; one bright light

If one compares their NHL stints with their average play in the AHL, both Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri have played better in the bigs than they have in the minors. As a team, the Leafs have also played well with either or both of these gents in the lineup. This means they are able to rise to the occasion, and also they do not feel overwhelmed at the top level.

If NHL plays in 2012-13, which Marlies will make it?

100% - Jake Gardiner

80%+ - Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens

60-70% - Mike Kostka, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komariov

40-50% - Paul Ranger, Korbinian Holzer, Joe Colborne, Jussi Rynnas

20-30% - Keith Aucoin, Mike Zigomanis, Jesse Blacker, Mark Fraser, Ryan Hamilton, Greg McKegg, Mark Owuya, Kenny Ryan

10-15% - Nicholas Deschamps, Carter Ashton

The newfound parity in the American Hockey League means that, at least until the NHL returns to action, the Marls will be in a battle every night. The tough games are also revealing to scouts who is ready to step up, and NHL GMs are taking notice.

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