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Sunday FTB: Fourth line reinforcements are coming for the Leafs

Abruzzese is coming, and Knies may be right behind.

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Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Leafs aren’t winning 90% of the games they play, and that has us fans angsty. The second line is getting outscored, and the fourth line full of our beloved veterans haven’t been so hot for a long while now.

We’ve been told for a while now that the Leafs have plans to try and revitalize the fourth line, at least — reinforcements coming from some of their top prospects in the NCAA. Specifically, Nick Abruzzese and Matthew Knies. They shed some contracts to make room for two more contracts under their 50 contract cap.

With Harvard being eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Friday, the Leafs made good on the first half of that rumour. They signed Nick Abruzzese to a two year ELC, and are expected to burn the first year by playing him in the NHL this season.

Matthew Knies, on the other hand, helped Minnesota advance to the second round against Western Michigan. They play this afternoon at 4 pm EST. If Minnesota is eliminated, it may be another day or two for Knies to decide if he wants to turn pro after only one season or not. But if they win, that decision will wait another week for the Frozen Four games to be played.

Abruzzese and Knies would make interesting additions to the Leafs, for different reasons. Knies is a high-effort, big, physical, power forward with great transitions, puck protection on the cycle, and a wicked wrister. Abruzzese is a good but not brilliant skater, elusive and shifty, is a good play maker and passer, but his defining skill is one that’s not easy to notice. He is always characterized as having very good instincts, knowing where to be and when to be there. The two worked well together at the Olympics for Team USA, and the Leafs are rumoured to want to try both out to save their fourth line.

The question would be: do they want to try both out on the fourth line together, or one at a time? And then who would be their center? Abruzzese was the 1C for Harvard, but in the Olympics was wisely moved to the wing. I’d say he’s best served to start his NHL career on the wing as well.

Bunting - Matthews - Marner

Blackwell - Tavares - Nylander

Kerfoot - Kampf - Mikheyev

Knies - Engvall - Abruzzese

That’s something I might try. Engvall is big, he’s a good two-way player who can drive play and be defensively responsible, and may be the best option to baby sit for two young rookies. That would also be a pretty big line, and strong skaters even with Abruzzese.

We’ll just have to see!

LEAFS LINKS

Leafs lose to the Canadiens while dominating the play | by Katya and Omar

Quick Shifts: Why the Maple Leafs should bring in Matthew Knies soon | by Sportsnet

How can the Leafs activate Jake Muzzin from LTIR? | by TLN

‘It was emotional’: Travis Dermott opens up on being traded from Leafs and rebuilding his confidence with Canucks | by The Athletic

For those following Leafs’ prospects in their playoffs, we have the following games tomorrow:

Matthew Knies and Mike Koster play at 4 pm ET

Topi Niemelä starts his first round matchup with Kärpät at 9 am ET in the Liiga playoffs.

Roni Hirvonen on HIFK begins his first playoff round at 10 am ET.

MISCELLANEOUS HOCKEY LINKS

Dadonov scores OT winner to complete Golden Knights comeback over Blackhawks | by TSN

Cale Makar sets Avalanche single-season record for goals by a defenseman | by Daily Faceoff

The Washington Capitals picked an... unusual way of honouring Nicklas Backstrom hitting 1000 points in his NHL career. The assist machine feeding Ovechkin for the past 15 or so years saw his home stadium throw a bunch of fake apples on the ice. Get it? Apples?

Here’s a nominee for the “Does the Puck Actually Cross the Line?” category at the annual Academy of Hockey Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards.

Australian goal alert!

For anyone like me who raised an eyebrow at this “first player born in Australia to score a goal” stat because you immediately thought about Australian NHLer Nathan Walker, it turns out Walker was actually born in Wales, and he moved to Australia at the age of two, much like how William Nylander is Swedish, but he was actually born in Calgary.

Have a great Sunday everyone! Hope your day is more happy than Mike Smith’s was yesterday.