Alex Lyon: Is He Worth A Gamble?
Like many NHL clubs, the Toronto Maple Leafs have dipped their toes into the NCAA free agent waters on occasion.
Last year, the Maple Leafs signed highly touted forward Casey Bailey to a free agent contract, only to move him to Ottawa this winter as part of the Dion Phaneuf deal.
Some of the other players the Maple Leafs have signed out of college include, Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson and Ben Scrivens. Obviously, Bozak has been a serviceable NHL’er, Scrivens has bounced around the NHL, but is still getting some ice time (now with the Montreal Canadiens) while Hanson (yes, he is related to the iconic “Hanson Brothers”) was nothing short of a bust.
Some of the more successful free agent college signings include Bozak, Andy Greene, Ryan Carter, Teddy Purcell, Darroll Powe, Danny DeKeyser, Davis Drewiske, Matt Gilroy, Cam Talbot and Matt Read.
Of course, there is a long list of failures, some of which were billed as future “stars”.
To be honest, the vast majority of college free agents are depth players that can play a useful role on an NHL team, but few turn into game changers. Clearly, managing the “hype” created by the media and setting proper expectations is the key when looking at these players.
Which brings us to this years crop of college free agents.
Depending on who you believe, the top three college free agents this summer are Drake Caggiula (LW), Alex Lyon (G) and Brandon Tanev (LW).
All three are poised to sign with an NHL club this summer, all three have tremendous resumes and excellent upside.
At just 5’10” and 180 pounds, Caggiula was passed over in three consecutive NHL drafts. Now, with four NCAA seasons under his belt with the University of North Dakota, the native of Pickering, Ontario, looks poised to be a very sought after player.
Through 34 games played, Caggiula has collected 19 goals and 24 assists for a total of 43 points. He also has an incredible plus-38 rating!
Brandon Tanev is a talented left winger who plays with Providence College. Through 37 games played, Tanev has collected 15 goals and 13 assists for a total of 28 points. At 6’1” and just 170 pounds, Tanev will be hard pressed to make the NHL unless he bulks up.
Still, with great speed and creativity, Tanev could turn into a serviceable NHL player and with nothing but money at risk, there is bound to be at least one NHL team willing to take a flyer on this kid.
Last but not least is goaltender, Alex Lyon.
Playing with Yale University, Lyon has been a dominant force at the NCAA level, registering a 50-28-14 record over three seasons with Yale, culminating in an impressive 19-7-4 record through 30 games this season.
Over that three year period, Lyon has seen his goals against average dip from 2.41 (2013-2014) to 1.59 this season, while his save percentage has improved from .918 (2013-14) to a tidy .938 this season.
Needless to say, with a 1.59 GAA and a .938 SV%, Lyon has turned quite a few heads within the NHL scouting fraternity.
At 6’1” and 200 pounds, Lyon already has NHL size. Described as an excellent puck handler who is positionally sound, has great poise and excellent athleticism, Lyon has been one of the most consistent netminders in the NCAA in recent memory.
Eliteprospects.com describes Lyon as, “Very technique-oriented goalie that combines quick reflexes with sound positional play. Superior core and lower-body strength exhibited through quick cross-crease pushes and smooth lateral movement. Quick glove hand that doesn’t get beat very often. Isn’t very scrambly and accurately predicts where the puck is going to hit him and where it will be redirected to if he doesn’t hold onto it. Analyzes odd-man situations well and is always a step ahead”.
Needless to say, when you consider Lyons’ numbers, poise and overall athleticism, it stands to reason that he will be highly sought after this summer.
Currently, the Maple Leafs employ Jonathan Bernier, Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau at the NHL and AHL levels.
With one more year at $4.15 million left on Bernier’s contract, there would seem to be little interest in him on the trade market, but with a resume that is riddled with inconsistencies, it would appear as if Bernier may be on his way out of Toronto— one way or another.
Sparks is a nice prospect, but the jury is still out on his ability to be a number one netminder at the NHL level. The same can be said about Bibeau— great AHL netminder, but unknown abilities at the NHL level.
While adding Lyon to the mix will likely complicate matters for the Maple Leafs search for a “crease beast”, there is nothing wrong with having a strong stable of talent with which to chose from.
With that in mind, there is no reason Lamoriello should snooze on Lyon. The kid has the size, talent and the right mental makeup to be a solid NHL goalie. It says here, Lou should have a contract waiting for this kid this summer.
If the kid doesn’t work out, it’s only money. If Lyon goes on to be a solid NHL netminder, Lamoriello will be mad at himself for turning his back on a solid prospect for little more than money— which the Maple leafs have in spades!
Do you think Lamoriello should sign Lyon this summer?