With the Maple Leafs roster cut down to a more manageable 54, and the first game tomorrow, it’s time to start reading into the practice line combinations.
The Leafs held two practices today, and the lines were as follows:
Lines at the 1st of two Leafs practices— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 16, 2019
Engvall-Spezza-Moore … Baptiste rotating in
* 52 back on the left
Leafs PP units at 1st of two practices today— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 16, 2019
Leafs lines in 2nd of two practices— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 16, 2019
Johnsson - Matthews - Nylander
Mikheyev - Kerfoot - Petan
Agostino - Gaudet - Read / Conrad
Aberg - Kossila - Shore / Clune
Rielly - Ceci
Harpur - Sandin
Rubins - Hollowell
Leafs PP units in 2nd of two practices— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 16, 2019
Nylander - Petan - Matthews
Aberg - Agostino - Kossila
These groupings are set up to allow the two teams that are left to compete against each other, but there is some confirmation of how the roster will look once serious games start to be played. That’s likely to happen in the last four or so preseason games.
The Tavares line:
Kasperi Kapanen - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
The Matthews line:
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
The Kerfoot line:
Ilya Mikheyev - Alexander Kerfoot - Open Job
The opening on the Kerfoot line is real, I think, but the candidates so far seem to be led by Nic Petan and Trevor Moore.
The Spezza line:
Open Job - Jason Spezza - Open Job
Nick Shore doesn’t seem to be challenging Spezza at all so far for the fourth line centre position, and it’s really clear that Frederik Gauthier will likely be on the Marlies this year. Whoever of Petan and Moore don’t get the job with Kerfoot will get one of those spots, and Kenny Agostino seems to be leading the charge for the second one.
Once Zach Hyman is healthy, he bumps Kapanen to the Kerfoot line and then that player bumps someone off the Spezza line.
The defenders are exactly as forecast for sometime, with the only question being who gets the third pair jobs with Travis Dermott out.
Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Jake Muzzin - Tyson Barrie
Martin Marincin, who has played both sides, seems to be leading the charge for the number five D, so that leaves it open for a right- or left-shooting defender to be the number six. Jordan Schmaltz looks to be a bit ahead of Kevin Gravel and Justin Holl. Rasmus Sandin keeps popping up in positions that show he’s being taken seriously, so it’s not impossible he sticks around for a few games, but don’t expect that to last into the regular season past nine games, if at all.
The power play is interesting, because as Jonas Siegel has said, some things will change and some won’t:
No change expected atop the Leafs no. 1 PP unit this season. Tyson Barrie says Morgan Reilly will continue to run PP1, and he’ll take over for Jake Gardiner on the point of PP2.— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 16, 2019
Most notable is apparent change in the way Tavares will be used — moving from net-front to bumper spot in the middle formerly occupied by Nazem Kadri. https://t.co/WslyRTV9Vm— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 16, 2019
If he’s right, and I think he is, that Tavares is taking Kadri’s old spot, that puts a ? at the net-front position, and the most likely man to take that spot is Andreas Johnsson. He’s played that role in the SHL and the AHL.
The top unit would therefore be:
Marner - Tavares - Matthews
The second unit would be:
Nylander - Spezza and two other forwards arranged somehow.
One of those might be Ilya Mikheyev at some point. Alexander Kerfoot is another likely man, and while Kasperi Kapanen is more gifted at PK, he’s not useless on the power play. He’s a very dark horse to take a spot however.
There remains a possibility that Spezza takes a turn on the first unit, but that seems unlikely at this point. It’s training camp though, everyone’s name is written in pencil. We might not really have a good idea on this second unit until we know who is on that fourth line.
Update: The ex-Flyers goalie with a long history of injuries, Michal Neuvirth, is hurt again:
Michal Neuvirth was supposed to challenge Michael Hutchinson for the #Leafs backup job this season, but early in training camp he's been sidelined with an injury, and clouded the backup goalie picture: https://t.co/wcKdOw1XtN— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 16, 2019
No indication of the severity, but the Leafs are retaining Brandon Halverson for now so they have four healthy goalies in camp. (Joseph Woll is also hurt).