Two seasons ago, the Leafs saw a surprising influx of rookies and other younger players led by the Big Three. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner had their debuts, and others that had little tastes in the NHL before like William Nylander, Connor Brown, Connor Carrick and Zach Hyman stuck through the whole year.
Then, last season, we saw the permanent arrival of Kasperi Kapanen and the debuts of Travis Dermott and Andreas Johnsson. We also saw a taste of the likes of Andreas Borgman, Calle Rosen, and even Justin Holl — guys who aren’t exactly teenage rookies, but younger than the likes of Roman Polak.
This coming season, we expect that Kapanen, Johnsson and Dermott likely stick the whole year in the NHL. We also expect that Polak’s former roster spot and the 7D spot are taken up by a mix of of Carrick, Borgman, Rosen, Holl, or even Marincin. Waiting in the wings, maybe not ready to start the season with the Leafs but with perhaps a better chance of following in Kapanen or Johnsson’s footsteps for later in the season, is the likes of Carl Grundstrom and Trevor Moore, with Timothy Liljegren as an outside shot.
It’s pretty remarkable to think of the massive influx in home developed and young talent that we’ve seen the past couple of years. I remember the days when it seemed like they either couldn’t draft/develop worth shit, and/or they relied on filling their roster through trades and free agency.
Remember the 2012/13 season, when the Leafs made the playoffs in the lockout-shortened season? That roster featured the likes of:
- Phil Kessel (acquired by trade)
- JVR (acquired by trade)
- Tyler Bozak (college free agent, sort of still a prospect)
- Cody Franson (acquired by trade)
- Jake Gardiner (acquired by trade, albeit as a prospect still)
- Clarke MacArthur (free agent)
- Mikhail Grabovski (acquired by trade)
- Joffrey Lupul (acquired by trade)
- Dion Phaneuf (acquired by trade)
- John Michael-Liles (acquired by trade)
- Jay McClement (free agent I think?)
- Ryan O’Byrne (acquired by a god damn stupid fucking trade)
- Mark Fraser (acquired by trade)
- Colton Orr (free agent I think?)
The guys who were real Leaf products were Nazem Kadri, Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Frattin, Carl Gunnarsson, Leo Komarov, and James Reimer.
Compare that to the forecasted roster for the Leafs this coming year:
Hyman (traded as prospect) - Matthews (draft pick) - Nylander (draft pick)
Marleau (free agent) - Tavares (free agent) - Marner (draft pick)
Johnsson (draft pick) - Kadri (draft pick) - Kapanen (traded as prospect)
Ennis (free agent) or Leivo (draft pick) - Lindholm (free agent) - Brown (draft pick)
Rielly (draft pick) - Hainsey (free agent)
Gardiner (traded as prospect) - Zaitsev (free agent)
Dermott (draft pick) - Carrick (trade)
McElhinney (waivers), Sparks (draft pick), or Pickard (trade)
So in half a decade the Leafs went from having 6 players on their roster that were home grown, to around a dozen (depending on if you count guys the Leafs traded for as prospects but partially developed themselves). I know we were told to expect pain, and we were fully expecting many more years of pain but with better direction at least. We seem to have lucked out huge on how quickly the Leafs turned around the roster with so many talented young players.
And if the T25U25 rankings this year are any indication, we’re all pretty excited (maybe sometimes TOO excited...) about the young talent that’s still coming.
God why can’t the hockey season start already.
ONTO THE LINKS!
How Mike Babcock (and others) are sheltering defencemen while playing them against top opposition | by Tyler Dellow at The Athletic
How well does each team forecheck? | by Ryan Stimson at The Athletic
How long until the Leafs have a better than .500 record all-time against the Canadiens? | by Adam Laskaris, asking the real questions, at TLN
Sekera injury cripples Oilers, leaves defenceman’s future in doubt | by Mark Spector at Sportsnet, for your weekend schaudenfread.
An analysis of how the league’s best forwards score goals | by Travis Yost at TSN
T25U25 — The Week That Was
Have a great weekend!