With a near-finished roster set to play in the final three exhibition games, the Maple Leafs began serious training camp cuts Monday afternoon to clear the decks and set up the nucleus of their Marlies farm team.
There were no shockers in the releases with several NHL contenders and Nick Robertson still in the hunt for a job up front and goaltender Joseph Woll unable to be demoted without going through waivers if he doesn’t make the Leafs outright.
But 17 forwards, seven defencemen and three goalies are now in the charge of new Marlies coach John Gruden and his staff.
Nick Abruzzese and Alex Steeves, who have played 11 and six games respectively for the Leafs the past two seasons, are going back. They also finished second (Steeves) and third behind captain Logan Shaw, who was also on Monday’s list, in scoring for the Marlies last season.
A number of players who arrived late to the AHL squad last season after their European or Canadian junior league seasons finished are slated to start at Coca-Cola Coliseum this month, such as forwards Ryan Tverberg, Dmitry Ovchinnikov, defenceman Topi Niemela and goaltender Dennis Hildeby.
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Draft picks the Leafs want to see get playing time at the American Hockey League level include forwards Roni Hirvonen, Ty Voit and goalie Vyacheslav Peksa.
Also sent down Monday were veteran Marlie Joseph Blandisi and fellow forwards Braeden Kressler, Max Ellis, Tyler Weiss (a former fourth-round pick of Colorado), Tate Singleton, Keenan Suthers, Robert Mastrosimone, Jay O’Brien, Neil Shea and Josiah Slavin.
While Mikko Kokkonen remains in the hunt for an NHL job, given the serous lower-body injury to Conor Timmins, Monday’s demoted defencemen include past Marlies Matthew Hellickson, Matteo Pietroniro, Marshall Rifai and William Villeneuve, along with ECHL Newfoundland Growlers playoff standout Jonny Tychonick and Nolan Dillingham.
Luke Cavallin was re-assigned with Hildeby and Peksa.