05/02/2012 at 11:32pm EDT
I will be posting a series of articles looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Brian Burke says that he likes to build his teams from the net out so that is where I will be starting.
Goalies on 2011-12 roster:
Jonas Gustavsson (UFA)
Goaltending was a major issue for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12. The Maple Leafs signed James Reimer to a 3 year deal after a great stint with the big club in 2010-11 and Reimer looked to be the answer in goal for the Leafs. However, he struggled after suffering a concussion early in the season and never was able to get back on track. Gustavsson looked very good at times this past season but consistency continues to be his biggest issue. As he heads into unrestricted free agency we can be fairly certain that he won’t be back with the Maple Leafs for the 2012-13 season.
Ben Scrivens was signed as a free agent out of Cornell University in 2010 and split time in 2010-11 between the ECHL and AHL. Scrivens made the jump full time to the AHL this past season as the starter for the Toronto Marlies and was the league’s top goaltender with a Goals Against Average of 2.04 and a Save Percentage of .926. Scrivens outplayed highly regarded goalie prospects like Jacob Markstrom, Eddie Lack and Ben Bishop at the AHL level. Scrivens also had the opportunity to appear in 12 NHL games and he did not look out of place. The Maple Leafs have high hopes for Scrivens and from what I have seen I tend to agree. I think Scrivens projects as a starter in the NHL but whether he gets his opportunity with the Maple Leafs is debatable. With Reimer having 2 years remaining on his deal and the likelihood of the Maple Leafs bringing in a veteran net minder to pair with him this upcoming season, Scrivens may have to go elsewhere to get an opportunity in the NHL. Scrivens is a Restricted Free Agent this summer.
Jussi Rynnas was signed by the Maple Leafs in 2010 after he finished up his first season in the top Finnish hockey league. Rynnas is a huge goalie at 6’5”, which has earned him the nickname “the bus”. Rynnas has struggled to get many starts after coming over to North America seeing the net only 30 times in his first season and having to spend some time in the East Coast Hockey League this past season. Rynnas is turning 25 this May and is at the end of his 2-year entry level contract. It is uncertain whether the Maple Leafs plan to bring him , especially with the emergence of prospect Mark Owuya. It is possible that Rynnas turns into the next Finnish goaltending sensation but I don’t see him making much of an impact at the NHL level.
Mark Owuya is a very interesting prospect. He was signed as a free agent in 2011 after playing for storied club, Djurgarden, in the Swedish Elite League. At only 21 years old, Owuya just completed his first pro season in North America. He split his time between the East Coast Hockey League and the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. By all accounts Owuya’s first season in North America was a huge success. He posted a 2.63 Goals Against Average and a stunning .930 save percentage in 25 ECHL games and also had a sparkling 1.94 GAA and a .929 Save Percentage in 19 games for the Toronto Marlies. Owuya is a large goalie at 6’2” and will most likely be with the Toronto Marlies in a full time roll next season. Owuya is still very raw and at only 21 years old he may have the highest upside of all the goalies in the organization. He is still likely 2-3 years away from the NHL but he could one day be a regular with the big club.
Garret Sparks was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round of the 2011 entry draft. He just finished his second season in the OHL with the Guelph Storm and his first as a starter. Sparks follows the trend of other Leafs goalie prospects as he is large at 6’2” and over 200 pounds. Sparks is still an unknown commodity and it is very hard to predict whether he will have a future with the big club.
Although the Maple Leafs have not been able to find an answer for their net minding woes at the NHL level, Brian Burke has done a nice job in stocking the cupboard with some pretty good goaltending prospects. Any hockey person will tell you that drafting goalies and projecting minor league goaltending prospects is the most difficult of all positions. Thus, I agree with Burke’s approach to sign older free agents coming out of college and Europe. It is not clear whether any of the Maple Leaf goalie prospects will pay dividends at the NHL level but I think both Scrivens and Owuya have a chance to be part of the Maple Leafs future in goal.