Marlies training camp roster full of new faces

American League affiliate takes aim at Calder Cup again

There will be familiar faces and some new life in this year's edition of the Toronto Marlies. 

This is not the same American Hockey League team that led the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup Finals.

The Marlies announced their 2012 training camp roster this week in anticipation of its opening day on Thursday. There are 34 players invited to attend, including 20 forwards, 10 defencemen and four goaltenders.

And while there are as many familiar faces from the 2011-12 year on this list, from captain Ryan Hamilton to goaltender Ben Scrivens, there are a few notable absences as well.

No more will Marcel Mueller threaten from up front and Phillippe Dupuis no longer will anchor a forward line. Gone also are blue-line stalwarts Juraj Mikus and Josh Engel.

And Jeff Finger, the highest paid player on the team, has moved along.

In their place, the Marlies have brought in more than a few locked-out NHL hopefuls like Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri. They have also invited some different faces in the hope that new blood may bring them the Calder Cup that eluded them this past June.

Of all the new faces that will be in a Marlies uniform on Thursday, it is feisty Finnish forward Leo Komarov that will likely draw the greatest amount of interest.

The 25-year-old chose to opt out of his final year with reigning champion Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, with whom he played a key role, for the chance to sign an NHL contract with the Leafs this summer despite a lockout looming.

Another newcomer that will attract a lot of attention this year is highly touted NCAA free agent Spencer Abbott. The Hamilton native, who played left wing for four years at the University of Maine Black Bears signed a one-year contract with the Leafs in March before taking part in the Marlies Calder Cup run.

A finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in NCAA hockey, he is expected to replace the offence lost in the departure of Mueller to Europe.

Kenny Ryan, a 2009 second round pick, spent the majority of last year playing for the ECHL-affiliate Reading Royals, and will likely find even heavier competition this year in order to make the Marlies squad.

He will be challenged by 2010 draft picks Brad Ross, Greg McKegg and Sam Carrick, all of whom have played out their careers in the CHL this past year.

But the unexpected surprise of the list was Western Hockey League graduate and free-agent Adam Hughesman.

Hughesman, a left-winger from Winnipeg, came to the Leafs’ prospect camp in late June and garnered enough attention to receive an invite to training camp from the Marlies.

He has spent five years with the Tri-City Americans, cashing 116 points in his final season as an overager.

The forwards may have experienced some turnover, but it is the defence that has seen a real changing of the guard. With key top-four defenceman Mikus gone, along with regulars Engel and Kelsey Wilson, there are a number of spots open for players to vie for.

But the competition will be tough, and that is without taking into consideration Gardiner and Korbinian Holzer returning to the AHL due to the lockout. The Marlies have aggressively scouted and signed a number of players that will compete for a role.

The one player that most scouts will be keeping a particularly close eye on is former Tampa Bay player Paul Ranger.

Only a few years ago, Ranger was a prominent up-and-coming defenceman with the Lightning. But he then fell off the face of the earth, first with injuries, then for “personal reasons.” Reportedly in 2010, he had even retired from professional hockey altogether.

After three years, he is back and is currently attending camp on an AHL contract. But if the 28-year-old shows any indication or sign of his former ability on defence, one can expect someone will swiftly tender him an NHL deal.

Another intriguing addition is AHL veteran Mike Kostka.

Kostka already has some notoriety amongst Marlies fans from when he played for the Norfolk Admirals last season. He was the one that was credited for the controversial goal in overtime in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals.

But he is better regarded as a solid top-four defenceman, with a solid offensive touch.

One player hoping to beat the odds and achieve a roster spot is Ryan Grimshaw.

Grimshaw received an invite following a senior season with Harvard University where he had eight assists in 34 games. The 22-year-old defensive defenceman already has some AHL experience, having played six games with the Rochester Americans.

Dylan Yeo will be one of his competitors for a full time roster spot. A free agent signing, the 26-year-old has spent most of his time bouncing between the ECHL and AHL over the last few years.

A reputation as a hard, tough hitter may serve him some good with a defensive core largely bereft of truculence.

Another player in tough for a spot on the roster is Corey Syvret. After spending much of his previous two years in the ECHL, the former sixth round draft pick of the Florida Panthers has to have an impressive camp in order to continue his career.

He has fairly mediocre numbers at both levels, but was likely brought in more for his muscles than his scoring.

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By: Grace Im
Posted: Sep 25 2012 10:01 pm
Filed under: Hockey Local Sports Sports