The news was didn’t catch Joseph Woll off guard, but that didn’t make it much easier to digest. Read MoreLeafs prospect Woll ‘learned a lot’ in first year of pro hockey — Toronto Sun
The news was didn’t catch Joseph Woll off guard, but that didn’t make it much easier to digest.
When the American Hockey League officially pulled the plug on the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs on Monday because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the AHL rookie year of the Toronto Marlies goaltender was done.
“It has been a weird couple of months with not knowing exactly what was going to happen,” Woll said on Tuesday from his parents’ home in St. Louis. “But now that it’s over, it’s tough. I wanted to be able to see some of the guys again.
“With pro hockey, you never know what the team is going to look like next year. At the same time, it’s good to have an answer and be out of the unknown. We can take a step back and focus on the summer now.”
Before he completely sets his concentration on the off-season and eventually returning to Toronto to resume his hockey career, the definite conclusion of the season allowed Woll to look back and make a few judgments on how it unfolded for him.
A third-round pick by the Leafs in 2016 — he was taken 61 picks after Toronto announced Auston Matthews’ name first overall in Buffalo — Woll made the transition to the AHL after three seasons at Boston College, appearing in 32 games for the Marlies.
Woll, who turns 22 on July 12, described his season as a bit of a roller-coaster. He had a record of 11-16-3, an .880 save percentage and a 3.75 goals-against average; the Marlies were nine points out of a playoff spot in the North Division when play was halted on March 12.
Not the greatest statistics line, to be sure, but Woll wasn’t asking for the world in his first run at the minor-pro level.
“I learned a lot, to be honest,” Woll said. “I think I dealt with a lot of adversity and so did the team.
“It was different than any hockey I had played before. Across the board, everyone is more skilled, for the most part stronger, faster. It can be a little overwhelming at first. The way players see the ice, their ability to make plays, was something I had to adjust to.
“It really taught me to have a really short mindset and focus on going into the next game, work on keeping your identity with all the ups and downs.”
The Leafs aren’t necessarily set in goal for the long haul — Frederik Andersen’s contract expires after the 2020-21 season and Jack Campbell’s is done after 2021-22 — but it’s not a managerial group in Toronto that will rush anyone, Marlies goaltenders included.
Kasimir Kaskisuo is eligible for free agency, and the Leafs are hopeful that Ian Scott can make a full recovery from hip surgery.
When we asked Woll about the role of patience in his development, he mentioned a pair of goalies, Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers and and Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues, who have taken different routes to the National Hockey League.
“That’s one thing around goalies, the stigma that they might take a little longer to develop, but I think it’s unique to every player,” Woll said. “You see someone like Carter Hart go right into the NHL and be so successful, and you see a guy like Jordan Binnington who had to grind and spend his time in the minors.
“I’m just trying to find what my path is. It’s not like I’m trying to streamline it like Carter or necessarily wait for years like Jordan. I’m keeping my head down and working, and when it’s my time, hopefully I will be ready.”
Like everyone else involved in the sport, Woll doesn’t know when we will see hockey games again. He enjoyed all aspects of his first year in Toronto — Woll lived with Marlies teammate Kristians Rubins in a condo not far from the Coca-Cola Coliseum — but, like he is with his on-ice growth, he will be patient.
“You have to go with the flow of it,” Woll said. “I’ll be training like the season is starting like normal but I’m also prepared (for the idea) it could be a pretty long summer. You just have to make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes.”
Joseph Woll isn’t about to take a mental break from hockey during the off-season.
“The biggest thing I want to spend time on is my mind and focus more internally this summer,” the Toronto Marlies goaltender and Maple Leafs prospect said.
“When things don’t go your way and you’re not happy with the game you played, it’s important to look at it from a long-run perspective and looking at how that can make you better. It’s just about being rational and remembering that I’m still young and this was my first year in the American Hockey League and there is a long road ahead. I think that’s the right thing to look to.”
Not that Woll is going to ignore the physical side of keeping his body ready to return to Toronto.
“I’ve been training a lot and the Leafs and the Marlies have a lot of good virtual programs they have had us working with,” Woll said.
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