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Breaking: Leafs make two AHL signings

Nothing wrong with some more depth in the organization. Trust the Shanaplan!

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The Toronto Marlies, American Hockey League affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, have announced that they’ve signed forward Pierre Engvall to a professional tryout contract (PTO) and forward Brady Ferguson to an amateur tryout contract (ATO).

The 21 year old Engvall recently concluded his 2017-18 season with HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League where he put up seven goals and 20 points in 31 games. Marlies fans may remember the Swedish winger from his brief, VERY brief, stint with the Marlies in last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs where he suited up for just a single game.

The former 7th round pick (188th overall) of the Leafs in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be given an opportunity to contribute on a stacked Marlies team down the stretch and into the playoffs and could use the opportunity to audition for a full-time role with the squad for next season.

As for Ferguson, the 23 year old recently concluded his college career with Robert Morris University of the NCAA’s AHA conference, scoring 18 goals and 49 points in 41 games this season. Last season the native of Lewisville, Texas put up a remarkable 24 goals and 58 points in just 38 games. 

It remains to be seen how he factors into the Marlies’ long-term plans, but it’s likely that he’ll be given a shot on the wing down the stretch.

Report: Leafs already have Bozak’s replacement in place?

It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs will look a lot different next season. Veteran players like James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Tomas Plekanec are all slated to hit the open market as free-agents and with high priced extensions coming up for youngsters like William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews something’s got to give. 

While the Leafs may be able to squeeze together enough change to retain one of their impending free-agents, most likely van Riemsdyk, it’s inevitable that they will lose some veteran talent. Arguably the most important player set to depart this offseason is Bozak. As the Leafs’ third line center behind Matthews and Nazem Kadri, Bozak has quietly put together a productive season. While it’s nothing close to the 18 goals and 55 points he put up in 78 games last season, Bozak’s 11 goals and 38 points in 72 games this season are nothing to sneeze at. If and when Bozak leaves the Leafs, who’s going to step into the role as the Leafs’ 3rd line centre? Dominic Moore in unlikely to return, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t have much faith in former first round pick Frederik Gauthier and the free-agent crop looks remarkably thin… could the Leafs be forced to look for their next 3rd line centre from within?

In his latest article for The Athletic, Leafs analyst Jonas Siegel proposes a perfect solution to this potential problem: William Nylander. Siegel argues that Nylander has earned a shot at playing down the middle of the ice, but will the Leafs give it to him? Or will they continue to keep him on the wing as Matthews’ sidekick?

“Centre, wing, it doesn't matter — wherever Babs wants me to play,” Nylander said when asked about replacing Bozak down the line.

“You have more options,” Nylander explained of the difference he feels at centre. “In the middle I can go right or left versus when I'm playing right wing going into the middle is kinda hard — I mean, guys are back-checking and stuff so usually you can only use the outside.”

So, what does Nylander have to do to get a shot at centre? Babcock has made it clear what he expects out of his centremen saying, “Each and every night there's a test for you. It's never a skill-set [issue for Nylander], it's your determination to play without the puck, it's your puck pressure in D-zone, it's your ability to sort things out. And some nights the matchups are easier than others.”

It remains to be seen what the Leafs do in the offseason to replace Bozak, and to be fair Nylander is only one option. Still, he’s an intriguing option and may end up best the team’s best option. If nothing else, the kid is raring to go.

“Yeah, I enjoy playing centre,” said a smiling Nylander.