More than just a debut for the Maple Leafs

Published November 13, 2021 at 5:38 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs selected Joseph Woll 62nd overall in the 2016 entry draft and they had high hopes for the Boston College committed athlete from the start. Woll went on play three successful seasons in Boston before signing his entry level contract with the Leafs on March 24th, 2019.

Woll joined the Marlies and made his professional debut in the 2019-2020 season and appeared in 32 games posting a goals against average of 3.75 and save percentage of .880 while posting 2 shutouts. Woll ended the season with an 11-16-3 record. In the COVID shortened 2020-2021 season Woll appeared in 15 games and posted an .892 S% and a GAA of 3.54 while adding 1 shutout.

Unfortunately for Woll he wasn't lucky enough to play behind some of the Maple Leafs top prospects and in both of his seasons the Marlies struggled defensively. In the 2019-2020 season the Marlies finished dead last in goals against and followed that up in 2020-2021 by finishing 22nd out of 28 teams in goals allowed. Anyone who was lucky enough to watch the Marlies over that time span likely knows a lot of those games could have been significantly more lopsided if it wasn't for Woll. This tweet was sent out by Slovakian scout Sammy Tirprak of Dobber prospects.

Here are just a few examples of what Sammy was talking about:

If you can see anything from Joseph Woll it's that he doesn't give up on any play and that's exactly what you want out of your goaltender. Historically there are many stories of a goaltender struggling to perform in the AHL while delivering strong results in the NHL. This is often attributed to the fact that goaltenders with higher hockey IQ are often caught off guard by AHL shots from players and locations that don't make sense, while allowing them to view the game at a higher level makes the game appear much easier.

For example, Tuukka Rask never had a career AHL S% above .915 but went on to have an amazing NHL career. Jordan Binnington found himself an average AHL goalie and suddenly found himself thrust into the spotlight and winning a Stanley Cup. Cup winning goalie Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks is another prime example. Even the Leafs current starter Jack Campbell struggled in the AHL before eventually finding his game and eventually capturing the starter job for the Maple Leafs.

Now tonight might just be the NHL debut for Joseph Woll, but it's so much more for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last goaltender the Maple Leafs drafted and developed who played significant minutes for the franchise was James Reimer and that dates back all the way to the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and carried over to the 2010 season before Reimer made his debut for the team.

To say the Leafs have struggled to develop goaltenders would be the understatement of the century, the Leafs have consistently looked to other franchises for their developed starting goalies: Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Jonathan Bernier, Frederik Andersen and now Jack Campbell.

It's clear to everyone that Jack Campbell is the Leafs starting goaltender right now and Leafs Nation hopes he's the goaltender for years to come, but that also likely means clearing themselves of Petr Mrazek's $3,800,000 cap hit for the next two seasons. Doing that might already be a challenge, but it becomes much easier if someone like Joseph Woll can take a significant step forward in their development.

Woll's debut represents a huge milestone for the young goalie, but for a team that has a very particular salary structure it also likely represents a potential cost controlled asset in a position the Leafs have had as a revolving door for years, excluding Michael Hutchinson who Leafs' fans cant seem to shake. That's why tonight is so important for the Leafs and for Joseph Woll.

So tonight I'll be cheering for the Maple Leafs and I'll be cheering for Joseph Woll, but I'll also be cheering for the prospect of Joseph Woll being a long-term solution in the Maple Leafs net.
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