Chris Granicolo, Howl Staff
Despite Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the Oklahoma City Barons, which evened up the Western Conference semi-final at one game a piece, the Marlies have had a dominant playoff run thus far. Much to the joy of Leafs management, the club has relied on their young guns for offense throughout the playoffs, and they are making a serious case for inclusion on the Leafs’ 2012/13 roster.
Jerry D’Amigo, a 5th round draft pick of 2009, has broken through in these playoffs. Scoring at a hellish pace at the outset of the, he is tied for the team lead with Nazem Kadri at 6 goals for 10 points in 10 games. What makes D’Amigo such an intriguing case is that he projects to be a 3rd liner in the NHL, and he is leading the way offensively for his club. D’Amigo plays on the top penalty killing pairing for the team, and has helped the Marlies kill 39 straight penalties before their recent loss.
Kadri has continued to show the flashes of brilliance that made management select him 7th overall in 2009. He has cut down on his turnovers but still manages to gain the offensive zone regularly with his dynamic puck control. As well, he has shown he can draw penalties regularly and still play a chippy game.
Matt Frattin, who was a Randy Carlyle favourite during the last portion of the NHL regular season, has flourished in these playoffs. Possessing a wicked shot, Frattin is tied with D’Amigo for the team lead with 6 goals. Frattin is using his stocky frame to drive to the net and create hell for the opposing teams’ defenders and goaltenders.
Jake Gardiner is playing on the top defensive pairing and is leading all Marlies defenseman with 6 points. The slick skating Gardiner has shown the ability to quarterback the club’s powerplay along with making smart outlet passes out of his zone.
Despite all these great performances, goaltender Ben Scrivens has been leading the way and has arguably been the club’s MVP. Sporting an 8-2 record and a sparkling 0.941 save percentage, 1.69 goals-against average and 2 shutouts, Scrivens has given the club elite goaltending and a chance to win each night. Scrivens is a restricted free agent at season’s end and will leave Leafs brass in a serious bind as how to plan their goaltending future.
Clearly, going with two youngsters this year imperiled the big club, so a Scrivens-Reimer tandem is not a wise choice. Goaltending depth on the farm is a good problem to have, so we’ll see how Burke decides to handle this “issue.”
The evolution of D’Amigo, Kadri, Frattin, Gardiner and Scrivens as big time playoff performers has management licking their lips for the possibilities going forward. These players are seen as key building blocks for the team, and clearly are making their cases to be in the club’s long term plans.