The Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, have emerged as strong contenders for the Calder Cup this season, showcasing a promising start to their campaign. The team’s early success, coupled with strategic management decisions, positions them as serious contenders for the AHL playoff championship.
Under the leadership of General Manager Ryan Hardy, who joined the organization in 2021, the Marlies have demonstrated a winning mentality. Hardy’s past success, including guiding the Chicago Steel to a Clark Cup Championship and back-to-back Anderson Cup Championships in the USHL, underscores his managerial prowess. The Marlies credit a significant portion of their success to Hardy’s leadership.
One standout player contributing to the Marlies’ success is Kieffer Bellows, a former first-round draft pick from 2016. The team took a calculated risk by offering him a professional contract, and it has paid off. Bellows has seamlessly integrated into the team, recording an impressive five goals and six assists in his first seven games.
Another key contributor is Nick Abruzzese, the second-leading scorer for the Marlies. Abruzzese has displayed consistent performance with three goals and 11 assists in 19 games, showcasing the best hockey of his career. The left-winger position also boasts Alex Steeves, the team’s current point leader, who has been instrumental in the Marlies’ success, drawing comparisons to the performance of William Nylander.
Logan Shaw, despite not reaching his previous year’s form, remains a player with the potential to elevate the Marlies’ forward unit. If Shaw can rediscover his scoring prowess from the previous season, the team’s offensive capabilities become even more formidable.
In addressing one of their previous concerns, the Marlies have improved their goaltending situation. Last season’s Achilles’ heel was transformed into a position of strength with the trio of goaltenders: Martin Jones, Keith Petruzzelli, and rookie Dennis Hildeby.
Petruzzelli, who faced challenges in the previous season’s playoffs, is expected to play a significant role in the regular season, aiming to keep his goaltending partners fresh for the playoffs. Martin Jones, with his vast experience, is a crucial asset for the Marlies, having played 48 games for the Seattle Kraken in the previous season.
Surprisingly, the standout performer in the early season has been rookie Dennis Hildeby, a fourth-round pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2022. Hildeby’s impressive stats, including a 1.53 goals-against average and a 0.935 save percentage, make him a compelling choice for the goaltending tandem alongside Jones when the playoffs commence in the spring.
As the Marlies continue their journey towards Calder Cup contention, their blend of experienced players and emerging talents, coupled with strengthened goaltending, positions them as formidable opponents in the AHL.
The combination of strategic management decisions and on-ice excellence sets the stage for a potentially successful season for the Toronto Marlies.