Thought of as a just a moving part of the Phil Kessel trade, Scott Harrington is making an already crowded Toronto Maple Leafs blue line a little busier. After a strong preseason performance, the Leafs have some tough decisions to make regarding their new prospect.
Heading into training camp, the belief was that there were just two open spots for the sixth and seventh blueliners, with Dion Phaneuf, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Roman Polak all occupying spots. Harrington was one of many young defensemen hoping to steal one of the final two spots on the Leafs blue line.
The 22-year-old has quietly put together an impressive camp, forcing the Leafs to make some tough choices.
Mike Babcock on Scott Harrington's chance of making the #Leafs , "he's been good, I'd be good again tonight if I was him."
— Matt Brown (@brown__matt) October 3, 2015
While Harrington isn’t a defenceman who is going to dazzle you and won’t put up many points–he has just 36 in 124 AHL games–he plays a strong two-way style of hockey and is strong in his own zone. In every sense, Harrington is an old school, stay-at-home defenseman who protects his net first.
There is little doubt that Harrington will become a full-time NHL regular in the years to come. He could stand to be more physical, but his two-way game is enough to foot his bill in the league at this point. The struggle comes when you try to pencil him in this season. Does he take depth seventh spot with the Leafs or play key minutes with the Marlies in the AHL?
His training camp has been impressive enough to keep him in the final 24. When the Leafs skated two units earlier this week–one unit being virtually the team taking the ice when the season begins–Harrington was the extra man. What that tells us is that Harrington is right on the edge of nailing down the final spot with the blue and white.
With 10 games of NHL experience under his belt, Harrington does have some prior big game experience which other rookies don’t have. Having that experience helps him to see the ice better and gives him an edge over Marlies veterans looking for a spot.
He also has two years of AHL experience, and he’s ready to take that next step and play solid minutes in the NHL. The big factor against his hopes of cracking the Leafs is that he doesn’t have to clear waivers to head to the minors.
While Harrington would be the easiest for the Leafs to ship down to the AHL, his strong play this preseason has them thinking twice. He won’t be much more than a sixth or seventh guy in the current line-up, but having a steady defensive-minded guy wouldn’t hurt a Leafs team that has a tendency to forget about defence.
In order for the Maple Leafs to justify keeping Harrington, a move must be made. Either they make a trade or lose someone through the waiver wires. The Leafs have a lot of extra bodies and veteran players that are on their last legs. Making a move to see what they have in Harrington might be worth the shot after a solid training camp.