Newly-signed Maple Leaf Jacob Quillan draws fitting NHL comparable

Mike Armenti
April 2, 2024  (4:11 PM)

Newly-signed Maple Leafs prospect Jacob Quillan celebrates a huge goal for Quinnipiac University
Photo credit: Quinnipiac University

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed NCAA free agent Jacob Quillan to a 2-year entry-level contract on Monday and he's already being compared to another current Leafs forward.

Joe Dumais, an assistant coach at Quinnipiac University, has seen a lot of Quillan, having coached him over the past 3 seasons, so when asked to give his assessment this week of who Quillan's best NHL comparable is right now, naming Leafs winger Bobby McMann as the player who Quillan reminds him most of, it was music to Leafs Nation's ears.
"Bobby could skate, compete and win battles, and Quillan is very similar in that sense. He's not as tall as Bobby, but he's as thick as anyone I've ever seen. He's a big kid and his ability to win battles and races is really high-end."
- Dumais on why Quillan reminds him of McMann

With Quinnipiac being in the same division and Dumais having coached against McMann in ECAC Hockey at the collegiate level for all 4 years of McMann's tenure at Colgate University, the veteran coach knows McMann very well. He has the scouting reports. He has seen McMann in action. So, needless to say, when he says he sees a lot of McMann in Quillan's game, we can probably take his word for it.
McMann's tenure with Colgate wasn't nearly as productive in terms of sheer numbers as Quillan's last two years at Quinnipiac. McMann's most productive season in all 4 years playing collegiate hockey was 14-goal, 30-point sophomore season. In Quillan's sophomore season, he produced 19 goals and 38 points in 41 games, just for comparison. The 22-year-old's 2023-24 season was even more productive, having produced 17 goals and 46 points in 39 games for Quinnipiac this year. He appears to be a little ahead of the curve in terms of the offensive side of the puck when compared to McMann.
Of course, NCAA success doesn't necessarily translate to NHL success, or even AHL success. McMann went through 2 stints in the ECHL and spent parts of 4 seasons in the American Hockey League after college before getting a real NHL opportunity this year, at 27 years of age. Quillan, 22, likely has a long road ahead of him to get to the NHL, but if he can make the most of his AHL opportunity for the next two seasons, we could very well be adding a very useful player who can contribute at the NHL level in a few years.
McMann was able to produce 24 goals in his first full AHL season, which earned him a 10-game trial with the Leafs in 2022-23. Ultimately, he spent most of his 2022-23 season with the Marlies, but he upped the ante again, scoring 21 goals in just 30 games before a knee injury derailed his season.
This year, McMann finally got his shot with the big club and has really grabbed the bull by the horns, contributing 14 goals in 50 games, appearing to earn himself a middle-six roster spot in Toronto, which is also likely where he'll remain when the playoffs begin in a couple of weeks.
For Quillan, the message will be simple from the Leafs. Work hard, play hard and his opportunity will come. McMann is a good example of that. The Leafs love a good project and with Quillan possessing all of the tools to be an effective player at the NHL level, it will just be about using his time with the Marlies to put it all together. He'll have one of the best development staffs in the entire NHL overseeing his development and seemingly endless resources at his disposal. In Toronto, he'll have every chance to make it. The immediate plan, according to The Athletic's Joshua Kloke, is for Quillan is to sign an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) with the Toronto Marlies and join the team on Wednesday.
"[Quillan] just has it in him. He showed up with that work ethic. From day one, he was a beast in the weight room and in practice. He's a kid that doesn't come around too often, with the way he works every single day."
-Dumais on Quillan's work ethic.

One of the things that the Leafs covet is forwards who are very good on the defensive side of the puck. That's one of the primary reasons why Leafs GM Brad Treliving took a healthy run at signing Quillan to an ELC as a college free agent. His reputation as a quality defensive forward is well-known, with the Dartmouth, NS native being named the ECAC's Best Defensive Forward this season. He was also named the Frozen Four's Most Outstanding Player in 2023 after he scored the game-winning goal to help Quinnipiac win their first national championship, beating Matthew Knies and the University of Minnesota in the Finals last April.
"He's always been a good defensive player, but he took it to another level where he was a dominant defensive player this year, especially down low in the defensive zone. Every year he's gotten a little bit better. And he was the best defensive forward in our league for a reason."
-Dumais on the quality two-way game Quillan has become known for

It's anyone's guess what will happen with Quillan, but the fact that he was a highly sought-after piece in NCAA free agency, who garnered a lot of interest from a lot of NHL teams is a pretty good indicator that he has the tools to eventually make it to the NHL. The Leafs may have nabbed themselves another diamond in the rough in the 6-foot, 201-pound center.
Source: Joshua Kloke, The Athletic
What college free agent signing Jacob Quillan could bring to the Maple Leafs
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Newly-signed Maple Leaf Jacob Quillan draws fitting NHL comparable

Do you think we'll see newly-signed Maple Leafs forward Jacob Quillan in the NHL within the next two seasons?

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