July was an exciting time for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year. There wasn’t the one big thing like last year, but there were a lot of changes, so the question is: who is even on this team?
The first answer is: We don’t know for sure. Training camp will decide some fringe roster spots. The second answer is: A lot of redundancy at all positions for the first time in a long time.
Maple Leafs Depth Chart
|C||LW||RW||D - L||D - R||G|
|C||LW||RW||D - L||D - R||G|
|John Tavares||Andreas Johnsson||Mitch Marner||Morgan Rielly||Tyson Barrie||Frederik Andersen|
|Auston Matthews||Zach Hyman||William Nylander||Jake Muzzin||Cody Ceci||Michal Neuvirth (PTO)|
|Alexander Kerfoot||Ilya Mikheyev||Kasperi Kapanen||Travis Dermott||Jordan Schmaltz||Michael Hutchinson|
|Nick Shore||Kenny Agostino||Pontus Aberg||Martin Marincin||Justin Holl||Kasimir Kaskisuo|
|Jason Spezza||Trevor Moore||Nic Petan||Ben Harpur||Timothy Liljegren||Joseph Woll|
|Kalle Kossila||Matt Read (PTO)||Jeremy Bracco||Kevin Gravel||Jesper Lindgren||Ian Scott|
|Frederik Gauthier||Garrett Wilson||Egor Korshkov||Rasmus Sandin||Mac Hollowell||-|
|Tyler Gaudet||Mason Marchment||Pierre Engvall||Teemu Kivihalme||Joe Duszak||-|
|Adam Brooks||Dmytro Timashov||-||-||-||-|
- Arranged primarily by proximity to an NHL job (this is all non-junior NHL-contracted players)
- I moved Engvall to wing because the centre column was getting too long
- Many wingers play both sides
- Many centres play wing
- The defenders are arranged by shooting handedness
This is the least exciting part of the roster. Frederik Andersen is the starter and then there’s a large drop off to two contestants for this year’s backup: Michael Hutchinson (signed for one season) and Michal Neuvirth (on a PTO). Is it a guarantee that the backup with be named Mike? No. The possibility exists that training camp will make the Leafs feel that neither is the best option and they’ll go looking for someone on waivers or via trade.
The Lightning have an extreme surplus of goalies, after grabbing Curtis McElhinney. Maybe the Leafs will end up with one of their extras (please, hockey gods, if you love me, don’t let it be Louis Domingue).
The rest of the list is easy to assign to their places for the season, although Joseph Woll’s broken finger might delay some decisions. But Kasimir Kaskisuo is a great AHL tandem/backup/emergency starter, and Woll and Ian Scott will join the AHL-contracted Maksim Zhukov in the minors in some arrangement. They might be joined by Hutchinson as well, which will make the Marlies formidable, if over supplied with veterans.
These are the guys no one is cutting to the minors.
- Morgan Rielly
- Cody Ceci
- Jake Muzzin
- Tyson Barrie
- Travis Dermott
That’s three lefties and a righty for those keeping track.
Played in the NHL Last Year
- Ben Harpur - 68% of games played were NHL games
- Jordan Schmaltz - 36%
- Martin Marincin - 75%
- Justin Holl - 100%
- Kevin Gravel - 88%
That’s another three lefties and two righties, and none of those players are waivers exempt.
Zero NHL Experience
- Teemu Kivihalme
No there are not two names missing from this list, Hardev. That’s the whole list.
Kivihalme is waiver exempt and on the roster for Traverse City, so it’s safe to assume he’s AHL bound for the season, but I sure was impressed by him. He’s nipping at some heels.
The five contestants for the one roster spot and (potentially) two spots in the press box are a mixed bag. Marincin is definitely too good for the AHL, and seems like a natural choice.
Both Kyle Dubas and Ben Harpur have made some comments that seem to imply the Leafs want to at least try out Harpur in the NHL after he’s failed to impress anyone in Ottawa. Jordan Schmaltz was a high draft pick who just didn’t click in St. Louis, which is a very different thing to getting a roster spot by default on a team like the Senators.
Justin Holl is Justin Holl.
Kevin Gravel is interesting because he’s been troubled by illness, and after a series of attempts to crack the Kings lineup, one year in Edmonton didn’t allow him to make much of an impact.
If you’re just looking for a guy to play Igor Ozhiganov and two more to understudy that role, pick any three, it doesn’t matter.
Is Travis Dermott Going to be on IR?
That’s a good question. And of course, we have no idea. But a smart team is planning for that to happen, so let’s just assume right now he misses two months, and his return is leisurely. The picture doesn’t change much as long as no one else in the first list gets hurt, there is no dramatic difference in the third pairs you can make out of the choices available. Play Martin Marincin and Ben Harpur and figure they can do enough with the two longest sticks on the Leafs to thwart the offence of other team’s fourth lines and call it a day.
The redundancy can be explained by the simple fact that the Leafs will absolutely be shunting non-waivers-exempt players to the AHL at the end of training camp, and they might lose some. Gravel’s a good bet to be able to clear and so is Schmaltz. I don’t understand what Justin Holl is doing in the NHL, beyond having the lowest salary of any of these guys, making him ideal as the press box extra in a cap-strapped season.
What about Ceci?
Just because Cody Ceci was played like a top pairing defender in Ottawa doesn’t mean he is one. But Ottawa was bad the entire time he was there, and he never played with Erik Karlsson. What that means is that all the results his statistics are compared to (even in a more sophisticated model like RAPM) are skewed by that one good player being on the ice. We might not have a clear picture of his ability. I think we can all agree he won’t suddenly turn into a star on the Leafs, however.
Regardless of his own innate ability, he will certainly be playing with a very different set of forward teammates to his time in Ottawa, so it certainly seems sensible, since the Leafs have the guy and would have to pay to trade him, to give him a whirl. Ron Hainsey looked extremely plausible on the Leafs in the offensive zone, playing with top forwards and Morgan Rielly in a way that gave him one job: Hold the puck in at the blueline. Ceci actually has quite a bit of offensive game as well. Relative to Hainsey.
But what if he’s really bad? Who do you want to promote up out of that third pairing competition to take some of Ceci’s minutes with Dermott still out?
And now think about that all year if one of Barrie/Rielly/Muzzin is hurt.
There is a possibility that either Rasmus Sandin or Timothy Liljegren could get some NHL time, particularly later on in the season. Nothing is written in ink on the Leafs rosters right now. But it’s a low more likely that someone like Schmaltz or Kivihalme is given a chance to show if they are less than or greater than Ozhiganov.
The really important thing about this year’s defence corps is that none of them save Rielly (and the prospects in the AHL) are under contract past this year. The choices for the future are wide open, and those choices include trading someone this season, and adding in someone new. This defence corps is filling the gap before Sandin and Liljegren are ready.
The Marlies defence corps is going to kick ass and take names, led by two of the youngest players in the AHL and augmented by Joey Duszak, Jesper Lindgren, Kivihalme and whichever veteran players get cut.
The Leafs have been searching for a 4C for what seems like forever, and Kyle Dubas has finally managed to put together a list of top NHLers, depth, tweeners and prospects long enough to satisfy even me.
I absolutely think Alexander Kerfoot is the 3C unless and until he’s truly bad at it. I see no reason to think he’ll be bad. Jason Spezza is there to be the mentor to everyone, but if he can’t nudge Kerfoot to improvement where he needs it, I’ll be very surprised.
Frederik Gauthier has a gorgeously small AAV, which means a lot on the Leafs these days, and he is very likely to be the 13th forward. He’s such a good person, he’d be an asset in that role. Kalle Kossila is a dark horse. He was very good in the AHL last year.
Tyler Gaudet is going to be the guy Sheldon Keefe relies on as a grownup who has a lot of experience (a lot of it playing for Keefe). Adam Brooks will be trying to convince as an AHL 1C and Aaron Luchuk, the top points man in the OHL the year before Justin Brazeau did it (yet weirdly not as famous), is another question mark. He played more ECHL than AHL last year, and if that keeps up, his last year in the OHL might be the last of his glory days.
Right wings vs left wings is no contest. The left side will be missing Zach Hyman for a bit which just makes it worse, and it seems like we’ve all agreed to declare Ilya Mikheyev a left winger because he just has to be. I’m still fascinated by the timing of the William Nylander as a left wing experiment at the World Championships. I don’t think he’s really playing anywhere but 2RW, but I’d bet left wing ahead of centre as the next most likely.
Kenny Agostino and Pontus Aberg are both NHL-capable, and might both give Nic Petan, who I don’t think is a centre contender, a run for his money on making the Leafs.
Matt Read fulfills the veteran requirement in preseason, and there is SPC space for him, if he seems like a valuable call-up option. Garrett Wilson is starting out hurt, but will likely end up in the AHL when he’s ready to play.
Jeremy Bracco is not going to play in the NHL this year, and neither are Egor Korshkov or Pierre Engvall. All three of them have a development plan on the Marlies. There is room on the Marlies this year for AHL-contracted wingers, and there are a lot of fun choices. The Marlies are going to be a very interesting team.
Who the heck is...
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I knew the whole roster and have memorized their boxcars
I said that so often, I thought this was an April Fool’s story
Wait, where’s Tyler Bozak?
You made up at least one name, and I will figure out which one...