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Saturday’s FTB: Thoughts on the Maple Leafs thus far

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John Tavares has four goals in two games, and the Leafs may never lose again.

Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Good morning.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are now 3-0 in the preseason, which begs the question: will they ever lose a game again? The team will head down the QEW to take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight, which should be a great opportunity to watch Rasmus Dahlin.

Before we get to today’s links, here are a few thoughts on the Leafs thus far:

The Positives

John Tavares and Auston Matthews did not forget how to score. Marner’s incredible skill level as both a playmaker and puck thief looks like the perfect complement for a power forward and goal-scoring centre. Tyler Ennis looked like a solid middle-six forward in his debut against Ottawa, rather than a player who signed a $650k contract.

Par Lindholm looked a step quicker than I expected, and while Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen did not play their best in their one game of action, I have little doubt that they will be valuable contributors this year. Three of the four forward lines look strong so far, and the eventual addition of Nylander will just make everything even better.

Rasmus Sandin is generating plenty of crafty zone exits, and as Mike Babcock says, he does well to “leverage his body”. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev is impressing for a player of his age and size, and I liked the Andreas Borgman-Justin Holl pair in their one game of action.

Both Frederik Andersen and Curtis McElhinney look to be in midseason form. Pierre Engvall found the back of the net last night, and also showed off with an impressive rush. Dmytro Timashov was fairly noticeable as well, and both Jeremy Bracco and Adam Brooks impressed in their one game of action.

The Leafs are 3-0, so it’s tough to complain too much about the start of the preseason. There’s still plenty of questions about the back-end, and I’d like to see Kadri’s line start to click, but this team looks pretty darn good, and their AHL team also looks pretty darn good. Sandin’s strong performance is the biggest positive for me, as he looks like a future NHL defender thus far.

The Negatives

Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman are injured, and both players should take their time to get back to 100%. Garret Sparks was just okay last night, and I was hoping to see him run away with the backup job this preseason. I don’t think he would pass through waivers.

Nazem Kadri’s line has not been overly dominant, which is a bit concerning given the level of competition they have been facing. I am not worried about Kadri, but I would like to see him paired with a better puck mover than Josh Leivo and Connor Brown. Neither of his wingers are particularly strong in terms of generating zone entries, and we saw a similar issue when Leo Komarov played next to Kadri last season. Brown, in particular, has been pretty invisible thus far.

Connor Carrick is not exactly running away with the third-pairing job. I assume he is a near-lock to make the Leafs, but he only played in 47 games last year, including 0 playoff games. We have only seen one game of Igor Ozhiganov, but I am starting to think that he’s ahead of Carrick in Babcock’s depth chart.

Thankfully, there aren’t many negatives thus far, and the team remains undefeated. Nevertheless, I miss William Nylander. Here are today’s links:

In Case You Missed It

Miscellaneous Leaf Thoughts: Chill Out About Nylander, Get Hyped About The Leafs- Acting the Fulemin

This article has a little bit of everything. I have had enough of the Nylander RFA era.

Eye-testing the Maple Leafs after two preseason games- Katya Knappe

Katya evaluated Toronto’s first two games of the preseason against Ottawa through a player-by-player breakdown.

The waiver period starts today so start worrying about who the Leafs might lose- Katya Knappe

Nothing says preseason is here like speculating on cuts and who might get claimed on waivers.

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev in his own words- Katya Knappe

Toronto’s youngest player spoke to the media prior to his preseason debut. Welcome to the SDA show!

From the Branches

Who should play on the ideal Leafs third pair?- Jeff Veillette, Faceoff Circle

There seems to be a million options for the Leafs third pairing, so it’s nice to see a detailed breakdown here.

Cam Robinson’s 2019 NHL Draft Rankings- Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects

This article is from back in August, but I’m linking it anyways, since it’s a great overview of this year’s draft class.

A different approach to ranking NHL teams by their under-23 players- Loserpoints, Raw Charge

This is a good read, as it is a terrific combination of scouting and statistics.

Enjoy your weekend!