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Game 7 of Calder Cup final prime proving ground for Maple Leafs, Stars prospects

It’s been 15 years because the final Game 7 in a Calder Cup final, however the winner-take-all contest provides the kids, veterans and training employees from the Toronto Marlies and Texas Stars the chance to point out simply how far they’ve come.

In all probability, the Toronto Marlies would have most well-liked to wrap up the Calder Cup final with a victory on dwelling ice in Game 6 Tuesday night time. Although, you realize, the additional dwelling date doesn’t harm and this is a corporation that has perfected the artwork of earning profits. We joke. Maybe.

But one of the perimeter advantages of failing to shut issues out and going to the primary Game 7 of the American League final in 15 years is the group won’t solely study just a bit extra about its younger coach and prospects, it would additionally present one other expertise that can higher put together them for taking part in within the NHL. The identical goes for the Texas Stars, a extra veteran-laden staff that has battled again on this collection. There is a handful of doable future Dallas Stars on that staff and it provides them an opportunity to point out what they’ll do beneath the glare and stress of a Game 7.

The sport tonight would be the solely vital hockey sport being performed on the planet. It may even be performed within the Center of the Hockey Universe™ and televised nationally in Canada. For a man within the minors, the highlight doesn’t get extra obtrusive than that. And each organizations shall be preserving an in depth eye on how their gamers reply.

“We’re done growing,” mentioned Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe after his staff misplaced Game 6. “It’s time to just play and get it done.”

This collection is an fascinating examine in contrasts. The Marlies are a youthful, prospect-heavy staff, whereas the Stars have extra of a veteran presence. Some of the Maple Leafs’ greatest prospects exterior the NHL are taking part in on this collection, most notably defensemen Timothy Liljegren and Travis Dermott, together with middle Miro Aaltonen, proper winger Carl Grundstrom and left wingers Andreas Johnsson and Dmytro Timashov. One participant with greater than just a little on the road is goalie Garret Sparks, who performed 17 video games for a horrible Leafs staff in 2015-16, however hasn’t appeared since. The soon-to-be 25-year-old was the AHL’s goalie of the 12 months who was soundly outplayed by Stars goalie Mike McKenna in Game 6. Sparks’ contract turns into a one-way deal subsequent season, that means he’ll make $700,000 whether or not he performs for the Leafs or Marlies. With Curtis McElhinney on the final 12 months of a deal that pays him $850,000, Sparks may improve his probabilities of being the Leafs backup goalie subsequent season.

And right here’s the place the event is available in. Through a lot of this collection, the Marlies’ high line of Aaltonen between Grundstrom and Johnsson has gone head-to-head towards the Stars high unit of Trevor Morin between Justin Dowling and Curtis McKenzie. Collectively, the Stars’ high line has 21 years on the Marlies’ trio and has outscored them on this collection Eight-Three at even power. There’s not a a lot better coaching ground for the NHL than that.

“We’re just looking for them to be the players that they’ve been,” Keefe mentioned. “We’re playing here in this series and playing as deep in this series because of our young players. If our younger players don’t blossom the way that they have in the second half of the season, we don’t have the depth to get to this point. It’s another great experience and all of our young guys are going to play a lot.”

That’s to not say that the Stars don’t have a number of younger gamers on this scenario as nicely.  Wingers Roope Hintz and Remi Elie, in addition to defenseman Dillon Heatherington are on the cusp of NHL employment and Jason Dickinson may discover his solution to the NHL as a fourth-line middle.

“It’s higher level hockey and you get a little pressure on yourselves, so it’s good to see how these young guys react,” McKenzie mentioned. “If they go on to the NHL, which you hope they all do, there’s going to be big moments and big times where you have to be your best. I think the biggest thing with those guys is their legs. If they’re skating, they’re playing well. Elie, (Dickenson), Roope, those guys are all great skaters and when they’re skating they’re at their best.”

There’s one thing driving on this for the coaches as nicely. Keefe has lengthy been tabbed as a future NHL coach and might be behind Toronto’s bench as early as subsequent season. Should Barry Trotz re-sign with Washington as anticipated, there’s hypothesis that Leafs’ assistant D.J. Smith might be in line for the New York Islanders job, which would depart a gap on Mike Babcock’s employees. Stars coach Derek Laxdal has been round for some time and has gained each ECHL and Memorial Cup championships, however 52 just isn’t historic by NHL teaching requirements and he has by no means had a crack.

And it’s fascinating to notice the final time the Calder Cup final went to a Game 7, two fairly acquainted faces had been behind the benches in Todd McLellan and Claude Julien.

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