AHL Preview: Toronto Marlies

AHL team: Toronto Marlies

NHL affiliate: Toronto Maple Leafs

Home rink: Ricoh Centre, Toronto

NHLers on 2012-13 roster: Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin

2011-12 record: 44-24-8 (2nd in West; lost in Calder Cup final to Norfolk)

2011-12 leading scorer: Mike Zigomanis, 61 points

What you need to know:

It’s been a dark decade for Toronto sports teams, and with the NHL locked out the Marlies will be looked upon to lighten the mood in the success-starved city.

The Marlies enter the 2012-13 campaign with high expectations, having reached the Calder Cup final last season after finishing the season with the third-best record in the AHL.

While the NHL lockout will level the competitive balance league-wide, the Marlies will return a similar roster to last season and should be considered Calder Cup threats.

Led by head coach Dallas Eakins, the Marlies are a well-rounded squad with quality depth at forward and in goal.

Ben Scrivens, who led the AHL with a 2.04 goals-against average last season, is the backbone of the team and will have a chance to prove to Leafs GM Brian Burke he is ready for NHL duty, while Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya will split time backing him up.

Watch the Toronto Marlies’ home opener this Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on Sportsnet ONE.

Up front, the Marlies have a nice blend of youth and veterans and are flush with skill and grit. Youngsters Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin will help carry the load offensively alongside proven AHL scorers Mike Zigomanis and newly-acquired Keith Aucoin, who finished fifth in league scoring last season with 70 points in 43 games.

Secondary scorers Jerry D’Amigo, Nicholas Deschamps, Carter Ashton and Ryan Hamilton will complement a contingent of bruisers and grinders to round out the forward unit.

The Marlies will lean on Jake Gardiner to lead the charge from the backend. Newcomers Paul Ranger and Mike Kostka, who has been a top producer among AHL defenceman the past two seasons, will improve the mobility and overall skill of Toronto’s defence corps.

Fun fact: Ricoh Coliseum, which opened in 1921, was used as a training base for the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.

Cheapest ticket: $10