With the enforcer role in hockey changing with every game and Colton Orr‘s ability to intimidate seemingly losing its effectiveness, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a tough choice pertaining to their bottom 6. Do they keep the grit and toughness of a guy like Colton Orr on the roster or do they give it to someone who is arguably more deserving in Brandon Kozun?
Throughout Leafs camp two players that have really impressed are Josh Leivo and Brandon Kozun. Both have looked very good. Some great effort and offencive skill and have arguably earned them a role with the Leafs to start this upcoming season. Add in some injuries to key veteran’s and there are definitely some extra spots open in the Leafs line-up right now.
Leivo and Kozun both survived the Leafs latest round of cuts with 2014 first rounder William Nylander, while others like Sam Carrick and Peter Granberg were sent packing after solid efforts during camp.
While Kozun hasn’t been getting the most ice-time out there, he has been making the most out of the opportunities he gets and he’s certainly been impressing at camp.
The Leafs acquired Kozun, a 6th round pick in 2009, from the Los Angeles Kings in a trade for Andrew Crescenzi last season. Despite once scoring an impressive 40 goals in the WHL, Kozun has averaged roughly 20 goals a year in the AHL for the last four seasons.
“If you come and watch him he jumps out at you because of his speed.” ~ Leafs coach Randy Carlyle
The biggest knock against Brandon Kozun is his size. He comes it at 5 foot 8, 167 pounds, much smaller than your average NHL player. However, what stands out for Kozun is his heart, effort, determination and attitude. He doesn’t play like a guy who is only 5 foot 8 and he uses his small stature to skate like the wind every night.
Kozun has looked good, very good and while he’s not likely to ever have a super impactful role with the Leafs, he’ll provide some skill in the bottom 6. Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle has hinted at keeping Kozun on the roster past training camp, meaning Leivo would likely be sent down, but what about Colton Orr?
Carlyle insists, despite management not approving of his old-school hockey views, of keeping enforcers like Orr and Frazer McLaren on the roster to provide grit and what not just in case. There is no issue with wanting to keep these guys around, however the issue arrives when keeping them costs you talented young players such as Kuzon, Leivo or Matt Frattin.
Whether he cracks the final roster or not is still up in the air, but the speed he possess has been a big reason he has made it thus far in camp when no one expected him to. He’s come up out of the blue and has never played an NHL game, yet may get an opportunity very soon.
Between his wheels, rambunctiousness, penalty-killing ability and potential for offence, he offers more than Orr does while occupying the fourth line right-wing position. Kozun, at least for now, appears to bring far more to the table that Orr. But Carlyle is a huge fan of Orr.
"“The challenge will be and is for the small guy, the smaller player in stature to make an impact, the same impact he was making at the American Hockey League, can that continue on into the NHL against bigger, stronger, faster-skating defencemen” ~ Randy Carlyle"
If Kozun brings more to the table than Orr does then this should be an easy decision, especially since the Leafs will loose Brandon Kozun due to waivers if they send him down to the AHL. After his very impressive preseason camp, there is a strong chance the Leafs would loose him on waivers.
Both Brandon Kozun and Josh Leivo have outplayed their competition during training camp, unfortunately for Leivo sending him down costs the Leafs nothing where Kozun could be lost. Carlyle has been impressed by Kozun throughout camp, but is it enough to bump the teacher’s pet Colton Orr out of the line-up?
At the end of the day Brandon Kozun has earned a spot on the Leafs opening night roster, whether or not he’s given one will largely depend on Randy Carlyle.