We are one day into on-ice practices for the Toronto Maple Leafs and I’m already way too interested in what the Leafs lines look like and what they mean. I thought I would share the two groups from Twitter and share my many thoughts on what’s happening.
#Leafs Group 1 lines:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 23, 2021
Notable combos in second group:— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 23, 2021
From these two lists, here’s what I think the forward lines look like at the moment:
Ritchie - Matthews - Marner
Bunting/Ho-Sang - Tavares - Nylander
Kase - Kampf - Gusev
Mikheyev - Kerfoot - Free Space
Right off the bat, Adam Brooks is probably the placeholder for Auston Matthews (a job I hope he doesn’t have to do very often this season during practices). It seems pretty obvious they’re going to go with him, Marner, and Ritchie. They gave Ritchie the most money out of the free agents, and Mitch and Auston have been exchanging notes over the summer to improve their chemistry.
Now for the second line, I think Tavares is playing the role of benchmark for the two guys the team is most unsure are real deals or not. Meanwhile, Nylander is skating with Kerfoot and Mikheyev in the off-chance one of those two guys turns into the 2LW of their dreams. I feel like those are more backup plans than what the team is eager to go to.
The third and fourth lines were most tricky for me because they all depend on what happens above. One thing I do want to note is that there are two tandems that look like plausible anchors for the bottom six. The two Czechs in Ondrej Kaše and David Kampf, as well as the incumbent due of Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot.
As for the primary extras, I think it’s pretty obvious Spezza is going to have a job. Wayne Simmonds doesn’t appear anywhere on the tweets, and all three of Anderson, Brooks, and Engvall are fighting for a job or two on the roster.
Now the defense. So far it’s looking like this, though I don’t think it’ll remain that way once we start the season:
Rielly - Dermott
Sandin - Brodie
Muzzin - Liljegren
Dahlstrom - Holl
The fact that these pairings have perfectly split up the top four across four pairings should tell you that the Leafs are trying to evaluate who can stick with the real boys. Does Dermott have the awareness and responsibility to cover for Rielly when he goes off for fun times? Because with Sandin he’s probably going to have to do that too. What about Sandin himself, can he stick with the big boys and run a pairing offensively with the team’s best foil in TJ Brodie? The very limited ice time from last year has indicated yes so far. What about Liljegren, is he flat out good enough to play next to Muzzin? And finally Dahlstrom is being tried out as the new Marincin.
What lines do you see? Tell me what you think in the comments.
Various Leafs and Branches
Next up is a Nick Ritchie story. I can’t wait for tomorrow when Kristen Shilton is going to tell us Ritchie has a three-legged dog named Champion and a wife named April.
Ondrej Kase, longtime teammate of Nick Ritchie’s, said Ritchie called him at 3 am to say he’d also signed with #Leafs - “He didn’t know about the time difference. He calls me at 3 am and wants to know what I’m doing.”— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 23, 2021
OK wait, I got another one:
The Leafs: “Mom, can we get a puppy?”
Shanahan: “We have a puppy at home.”
The puppy at home:
We said this all last year, but Nick Robertson is a very raw prospect. There’s still a lot of baby fat (junior hockey thinking) that’s keeping him from excelling at the pro game. Lucky for him, he’s got two of the most respected hockey minds in the centre of the hockey universe telling him what to do.
Spezza says he watched Robertson during the rookie tournament. know his skill and adds.— David Alter (@dalter) September 23, 2021
"I think for Robbie a big thing is playing within the structure of the team, using his line mates. I think that's the next step for him."
Rodion Amirov was back from injury yesterday, at 3RW behind the one and only Nikolai
Fulemin err Kulemin.
Наш состав на матч с «армейцами» Санкт-Петербурга ✊ pic.twitter.com/9uqpu8PTjX— ХК Салават Юлаев (@hcsalavat) September 23, 2021
One final note from training camp. AHL defenseman Brennan Kapcheck has joined the team. No word on why so feel free to let your imagination run wild.
Defenceman Brennan Kapcheck will join the training camp roster and skate with group 1 today.— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) September 23, 2021
Oh Bode Wilde, do you even know who your boss is? I’d like to see you try using “human rights” to keep even a whisker of facial hair, let alone a mandatory vaccine.
#Isles prospect Bode Wilde confirms on Instagram that he is the one player unvaccinated in the organization as GM Lou Lamoriello alluded to yesterday, hence why he’s not at camp pic.twitter.com/P8Lgvvk8bC— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) September 23, 2021
How many points if Zach Hyman going to score this year? The answer is yes.
Hyman-McDavid-Puljujarvi— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) September 23, 2021
Luke Esposito-Brad Malone-Colton Sceviour
Among featured lines/pairings in first group today.
How many goals is OEL going to give up this year to McDavid and Hyman? The answer is also yes.