Person of Interest: Maple Leafs acquisition Michael Carcone

Michael-Carcone;-Vancouver-Canucks;-Toronto-Maple-Leafs

Michael Carcone has spent the last three seasons with Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. (Rich Lam/Getty)

It’s been a wild weekend for the Leafs faithful. Between the long-awaited signing of William Nylander, the temporary demotion of rising star Travis Dermott, and the inevitable roster crunch that resulted in Josh Leivo being shipped to the Canucks, Leafs Nation has had a lot to mull as of late.

Which brings us to the latter move, which sent Leivo — he of seven years in the Leafs organization — to Vancouver in exchange for AHLer Michael Carcone on Monday afternoon.

With the deal fresh and all eyes on the newest Leaf, here’s a look at what Toronto is getting in Carcone.

Age: 22
From: Ajax, Ontario
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 172 pounds
Position: C/RW

A boost for the defending champion Marlies

Those who have been watching the Utica Comets — Vancouver’s minor-league affiliate — aren’t convinced Carcone is a strong bet for the big leagues. The undrafted 22-year-old has made great strides recently, but still hasn’t proven to have a high enough ceiling to crack an NHL lineup. That isn’t likely to change in Toronto, as the addition of John Tavares and the return of Nylander have made the Leafs’ forward group one of the deepest in the league.

But Toronto has a reputation to uphold in the AHL, too, with the Marlies coming off a championship-clinching Game 7 performance in June, earning the franchise’s first title.

With former Marlies standouts like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson having graduated to the big club, Carcone should slot in as a replacement at the AHL level as the minor-league club looks to go back-to-back.

Suiting up in his third season of AHL play, Carcone has taken a step forward offensively in 2018-19. Building on an 18-point rookie effort with a 27-point sophomore campaign, the versatile Ajax, Ont., native is already up to 17 points through 20 games thus far this season — good for a career-best 0.85 points-per-game pace.

Carcone’s 17 points would rank him tied with Carl Grundstrom for third among the Marlies’ current scorers, behind Chris Mueller (21 points) and Calle Rosen (18).

A gamble on today’s NHL offering a higher ceiling for Carcone

Carcone’s shown a knack for piling up points in the past.

The quick-footed winger dominated in his second year of juniors, which came for the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs. Year One in the league brought a fairly strong 41-point effort through 50 games. Year Two saw those totals skyrocket, with Carcone amassing 47 goals and 89 points through just 66 games — leading the team in the former category and tying for the top spot in the latter. That point total also ranked eighth-best league-wide during that 2015-16 season.

His rocky start in the AHL is proof enough that those junior numbers should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, however. Going undrafted, the five-foot-10, 172-pound prospect eventually joined the Canucks’ minor-league affiliate as a free agent. While Carcone’s high-flying ways weren’t enough to grant him immediate production, his versatility has helped him carve out a valuable role at the AHL level.

“There are two things that have stood out about his game at the professional level: his speed and versatility,” Sportsnet 650’s Ryan Biech wrote of Carcone in a piece for The Athletic. “Carcone isn’t a burner but is really effective with his two-step quickness and elusiveness. He’s quick to adjust lanes, on loose pucks in no time, and able to push the pace for the Comets transition. He’s also willing to get in there and muck it up when need be.

“He may be on the smaller side but he’ll get right in there and battle. The 5-foot-9 and 170-pound winger has been able to move up and down the Comets lineup filling a variety of roles as injuries ran rampant throughout the Canucks and Comets rosters. He has played well with offensive guys as well as in an energy role.”

While getting a call-up to the big leagues still remains a longshot, the game’s shift towards top-end speed and dynamic offensive creativity — which has spurred the success of many a quick, undersized scorer — leaves the door open, albeit only slightly, for Carcone to potentially get a cup of coffee in the NHL down the line should he continue to raise his stock in the minors.

Carcone is playing out the final season of a three-year, $2.025-million deal signed with the Canucks in 2016. He carries a $675,000 cap hit this season, ranking him currently as the cheapest of Toronto’s group of forwards on entry-level deals.

The utility forward will become a restricted free agent upon the expiry of his current deal. While he likely won’t have the same impact Leivo did in Toronto — the Leaf-turned-Canuck suited up for 84 games at the NHL level during his tenure in Toronto’s organization — the Leafs were somewhat handcuffed in making the deal that sent the longtime winger west, with a spot on the big-league roster in need of clearing following the recent signing of Nylander.

Bonus: In adding Carcone, the Leafs are also getting a potential hook-up for all their Peterborough-based vegan dining needs.

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