The 2010-2011 Leafs roster is anything but set in stone, and although there are several stand-outs that will, barring injuries, be wearing blue and white for the season opener against Montreal, there could be some surprise scratches. For the first time in a long time, there is a lot of pressure coming from the farm in terms of challenging for roster spots, and gives the appearance of being one of the hardest for Leafs management to figure out in quite some time.. Regardless of what is decided, it is certain that the Leafs are going to be a much better team, and the Marlies are going to get a much needed shot in the arm. Let's start by setting down what could very possibly be the starting line-up for the Leafs, for arguements sake, focusing specifically on the forwards.
Left Wing Center Right Wing
More after the jump...
Now, there are several names which come to mind when you think of possible additions to that line-up. They include Kadri, D'Amigo, Mueller, Caputi, Rosehill, and to a lesser extent, Crabb, Zigomanis, and the oft-forgotten Brayden Irwin. Let's take a look through the lines, and see which players should be feeling the pressure beneath them.
The first line seems pretty locked up with the only tangible being Versteeg and Kulemin switching places. The 1st line C looks pretty locked up by Bozak, with the possibility of Kadri threatening, should he break into the league like gangbusters completely dominating. Dare to dream. Kadri will be a monster. Whether that happens this year, or, more likely, 2-3 years down the road, he will be a very good NHL'er (though, from what I saw of his last video here, he needs to stop channeling his inner Mike Ribeiro post haste.) He has gained the size, most likely getting pretty close to 190 by the start of this years pre-season, and he definitely has the hands to make a very good impact on the team right out of the gate.
The only other line that I see locked up is the 4th line, who will very shortly require a nickname to match their awesomeness. To get the ball rolling, I will throw out a few: The Bash Brothers, Emerg Ward, or my favourite, The BOH Train (Choo, Choo!) I have a feeling that we're going to be seeing a few more touchdowns called by Mr. Carkner this year.
On the second line, the only job that is up for the taking is that of our favourite Pineapple Assassin, Grabovski. The pressure Kadri is putting on to make the big club may be enough to bump Grabovski to the 3rd line, or possibly beyond. He could be seeing his 3 million dollar salary for the next 2 years moving elsewhere should any one of the kids develop their game quickly enough.
Now it gets interesting. The 3rd line for the Leafs will most likely be the one to see the most flux. Unsure of timelines, Sjostrom is sidelined and recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, and though Mitchell has seen a good amount of time in the NHL, he could very possibly get bumped from the pressure below. Crabb, and Zigomanis are pretty close to guarenteed to start the season in the Marlies, but it will be very interesting to see who will stick on the 3rd line out of Caputi, Irwin, D'Amigo, Rosehill, and Mueller. Mueller and D'Amigo will most likely start out in the AHL, and depending on development, will most likely be on the very short list should any injuries cause shuffling. Irwin has the size and ability to start the season as a quick-fix for Sjostrom, and Caputi has had minutes in the NHL and didn't seem out of place ALL the time, but more than likely needs more time in the AHL and a little more strength. Rosehill will most likely be a call-up who sees spot duty as a puncher/punching bag for the odd game, but he will see the majority of his time in the AHL. The most intriguing prospects, in my mind, are Mueller at 6'3", 220 pounds, Irwin at 6'5", 205 pounds, and the talented two-way player D'Amigo. Should they need some more seasoning, expect to see all three abusing opposing AHL'er near you.
The questions are very intriguing, and I, for one, can't wait to find out what the answer is.
Thanks for reading,