Maple Leafs depth had interesting looks in first set of preseason games

The Maple Leafs’ depth is the biggest question mark heading into this year’s regular season, but it seems like that question might be getting sooner rather than later.
There are a number of players vying for a spot in Toronto’s lineup — one being on John Tavares’ wing and another few spots within the bottom six. These few games are a big test for those wanting a role in those positions, to see who might fit where.
Denis Malgin, Adam Gaudette, Zach Aston-Reese, and Alex Steeves — they all stole the show on the first day of preseason games. Nick Robertson and Kyle Clifford, however, did not.
As training camp goes on, the play is only going to ramp up even more. So it’s best to get off on a good foot, especially when you’re trying to secure a lineup spot on the Maple Leafs.
Malgin — on a line with William Nylander and Pontus Holmberg — looked very good in Toronto’s first game of the day against Ottawa. The 25-year-old seemed to have a lot of chemistry with the two and even got on the scoresheet scoring what was the game-winning goal.

Denis Malgin
What a pass from Nylander pic.twitter.com/NXMCpy3UoD
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) September 24, 2022

Malgin even got some praise from Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe after the game.
“I think he was good in the first few days. I thought he was excellent here today (Friday) …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

How can Mitch Marner take yet another step forward for the Leafs?

Mitchell Marner has been a key part of the Toronto Maple Leafs ever since he first burst onto the scene in 2016-17, as part of that core group of rookies that helped the Leafs in their surprising push to the playoffs. Ever since that magical first season, Marner has only gotten better. There have been ups and downs for the star winger, from a controversial contract, to struggles in the playoffs, but he has undoubtedly been a key cog in the Leafs’ regular season success, and he will need to continue to do so if the Leafs wish to remain competitive.
But can Marner find yet another level in the 2022-23 season? He’s been nothing short of dominant alongside Auston Matthews the past few seasons, and despite the first-round loss, the two of them finally seemed to have it all together in the playoffs this season. Remember this?

“Marner to Matthews scORESSSSS! YES! YES! YES!”
Felt that call in my SOUL!pic.twitter.com/uQ3GiP9cKE
— Kwnhausen (@KwnStorm) May 11, 2022

That might have been the best Leafs fans have felt during the playoffs since 2004, and Marner will be on a mission to try and improve on it even further this season, with the burden of trying to bring the Leafs past the first round for the first time in what will be 19 years when April 2023 rolls around. That burden has seemed to weigh heavily on Marner in the past, especially after the raised expectations that came with the $10.9 million contract he signed in the summer of 2019. People noted that he seemed to try to do too much, especially in the playoffs, trying to be a hero …

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Author: Jaden Ho / The Leafs Nation

There is no shortage of personal milestones to be hit by Leafs players this season

It’s training camp time, which means we are spending the next three weeks anticipating a season that is essentially an eight month long transaction to get us to the hockey that we really care about, the playoffs. I think we should be reasonably comfortable with the idea the Leafs are a playoff team, and even if the biggest pessimists will grant the Leafs the bare minimum of a wild card spot in the playoffs, while we’re waiting for that hockey we need something to keep us interested and to some degree that will include players hitting personal milestones.
That is partially why I spent some time putting together a list of what the Leafs’ individual players could achieve.
Who
Milestone
How far away
Joey Anderson
1st Leafs goal
1 goal
Joey Anderson
1st Leafs point
1 point
Joey Anderson
100 games played
42 games
Nic Aube-Kubel
100 games played
31 games
Jordie Benn
600 games played
5 games
TJ Brodie
800 games played
28 games
Michael Bunting
100 games as a Leaf
21 games
Michael Bunting
100 points as a Leaf
37 points
Michael Bunting
100 points
23 points
Kyle Clifford
800 games played
49 games
Carl Dahlstrom
100 games played
33 games
Pierre Engvall
200 games played
32 games
Pierre Engvall
100 points
38 points
Adam Gaudette
100 points
30 points
Mark Giordano
100 games as a Leaf
80 games
Mark Giordano
1100 games
76 games
Mark Giordano
600 points
56 points
Mark Giordano
400 assists
7 assists
Justin Holl
100 points
36 points
Calle Jarnkrok
600 games played
26 games
David Kampf
100 games as a Leaf
18 games
David Kampf
100 career points
16 points
Alex Kerfoot
400 games played
40 games
Alex Kerfoot
200 points
13 points
Timothy Liljegren
100 games played
26 games
Denis Malgin
200 games played
8 games
Denis Malgin
100 points
40 points
Denis Malgin
1st Leafs goal
1 goal
Denis Malgin
1st Leafs point
1 point
Mitch Marner
500 games played
73 games
Mitch Marner
500 points
45 points
Mitch Marner
400 assists
83 assists
Mitch Marner
9th on the Leafs alltime assists list (321 tied with Doug Gilmour)
4 assists
Mitch Marner
8th on the Leafs alltime assists list (330 tied with Ted Kennedy)
13 assists
Mitch Marner
7th on the Leafs alltime assists list (349 tied with Tim Horton)
32 assists
Mitch Marner
10th on the Leafs alltime points list (537 tied with Rick Vaive)
82 points
Auston Matthews
300 goals
41 goals
Auston Matthews
200 assists
2 assists
Auston Matthews
500 points
43 points
Auston Matthews
8th on the Leafs alltime goals list (260 with Wendel Clark)
1 goal
Auston Matthews
6th on the Leafs alltime goals list (296 tied with Mahovlich and Armstrong)
37 goals
Auston Matthews
5th on the Leafs alltime goals list (299, tied with Vaive)
40 goals
Auston Matthews
10th on the Leafs alltime points list (537 tied with Rick Vaive)
80 points
Matt Murray
300 games played
54 games
Matt Murray
150 wins
18 wins
Matt Murray
20 shutouts
9 shutouts
Jake Muzzin
700 games played
21 games
Jake Muzzin
200 games as a Leaf
17 games
Jake Muzzin
100 points as a Leaf
20 points
Jake Muzzin
300 points
7 points
William Nylander
500 games played
61 games
William Nylander
400 points
57 points
Morgan Rielly
700 games played
46 games
Morgan Rielly
400 points
27 points
Morgan Rielly
4th all time in Leafs defensive points (414 tied with Ian Turnbull)
41 points
Morgan Rielly
5th all time in Leafs defensive games played (717 tied with Jim Thomson)
63 games
Ilya Samsonov
100 games played
11 games
Ilya Samsonov
10th shutout
4 shutouts
Rasmus Sandin
100 games played
49 games
Alex Steeves
1st NHL goal
1 goal
John Tavares
1000 games played
51 ga …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

“Just win a round”: The hot seats of Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe

It is abundantly clear where the bar is set for the Leafs this season. It’s really in the same spot as last season, the season before that, and the season before that. We’ve already established that the Leafs are a pretty good regular season team, dominant even at times, but with a playoff drought that is older than their top pick in this summer’s draft, the bar that needs to be cleared is erasing almost two decades of embarrassment before saying you are focusing on winning the cup.

Dubas on if it’s a make or break year and what the betting lines about Keefe’s job: “Our goal is not to win one round, our goal is to win four; I don’t worry about what the betting line says about Sheldon or any regard.”
— David Alter (@dalter) September 21, 2022

Dubas was playing the hits again yesterday when talking about his job security as well as Sheldon Keefe’s and while I’d generally give high grades to Dubas’ tenure in Toronto and say in many ways he has brought in a roster that I can support, there is no ignoring the obvious failure. Dubas is essentially a very good skimmer that can’t stick his face in the water, wait that’s not fair, it’s the team at large in that situation. The Leafs are a good skimmer that just can’t stick their face in the …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Nathan MacKinnon contract and how it affects the Leafs

You had to know this post was coming right? And it probably doesn’t take much effort to guess at how this affects the Leafs. So let’s jump right into the inevitable discussion of how Nathan MacKinnon’s contract will impact not only Auston Matthews’ next contract, but likely Mitch Marner’s next contract as well.
Here’s the contract:
$12.8 AAV for 8 years with a full no-movement clause throughout. The deal was signed when Nathan MacKinnon is 27 years old, the deal is front-loaded and pays him a $16.5M combined salary and signing bonus in year one, transitions in year 4 (2026-27) to $12.15M and drops to $9.9M in year 5 and stays at that until the end of his contract. MacKinnon’s contract is largely paid in signing bonuses and has an escalated salary to reflect the minimum salary being likely to rise. The signing bonus structure means it would be a gigantic pain in the ass to buy out. The one year (year 4, 2026-27) where the majority of MacKinnon’s contract is paid as salary instead of signing bonus coincides with the expiration of the current CBA. Based on the current salary cap of $82.5M, MacKinnon’s contract takes up 15.27% of the salary cap. That’s the import …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

This could be Wayne Simmonds’ last season as a player with the Toronto Maple Leafs

All good things must come to an end, and for Wayne Simmonds, this could potentially be the last season he pulls on a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.
It’s always difficult to see such likeable players come to the end of the road with their team or career. Wishing to see them continue to succeed and win the ultimate prize before sailing off into the sunset is something that many fans will hope for, as seen with how strongly the Toronto Maple Leafs fanbase was drawn to Jason Spezza before his retirement this off-season.
But, as with all things in life, at some point, it can’t continue and there could be an argument that this is the case with Wayne Simmonds and the Leafs this upcoming season. Simmonds has been a popular addition to the team prior to the Covid-shortened 2021 season, being well-liked by both his teammates as well as the fans, but his run with the team may not continue beyond this campaign.
The biggest indicator of this is how little Simmonds actually played for the team last season. While he featured in 72 games during the regular season, scoring five goals and providing 11 assists, Simmonds averaged …

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Author: James Reeve / The Leafs Nation

Third line could prove key to Toronto Maple Leafs’ success this season

The Toronto Maple Leafs enter the 2022-23 season desperate to progress beyond the first round of the playoffs, and this year’s roster should have a serious chance of achieving that.
The Leafs have fallen short of playoff expectations in the past couple of seasons, suffering back-to-back game seven eliminations against the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning respectively. Coincidentally, both teams reached the Stanley Cup Finals. However, the two series felt completely different from the Leafs’ perspective.
The 2021 collapse to the Canadiens felt like the Leafs were their own worst enemies, with some sloppy decisions resulting in Montreal’s comeback from a 3-1 deficit, while the 2022 series was much closer and the narrow 2-1 defeat in game seven felt like a genuine disappointment after such a strong showing.
This year, the team will be determined to overcome six consecutive years of first-round eliminations and will look to build on the positives from the nail-biting seven-game series against the Lightning. However, they will do so with quite a different-looking bottom-six forward group.
The likes of Ondřej Kaše, Ilya Mikheyev and Jason Spezza are no longer with the team, so a new-look bottom half will be seen on the ice this season. It’s arguably the biggest shake-up the team have had, …

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Author: James Reeve / The Leafs Nation

Key dates for the 2022-23 Season

Key dates for the 2022-23 Season

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported on some of the key dates coming up for the NHL season in his rumblings column today.
• March 3: The NHL trade deadline. That’s a Friday, by the way.
• June 28-29: The NHL Draft in Nashville, which the NHL announced last month. That’s a Wednesday and Thursday. Remember that the NHL went to a Thursday-Friday draft this past July in Montreal, getting away from its normal Friday first round and Saturday end-of-draft set-up.
• July 1: Opening of free agency. So finally back to the normal July 1 Free Agent Frenzy day, for the first time since pre-pandemic. Free Agent Frenzy was Oct. 9 in 2020, July 28 in 2021 and July 13 this past year.
The one day in between the draft and free agency is going to be fun. The less prep time for NHL GMs between major decisions is only a good thing, and will hopefully lead up to some additional excitement leading into the draft as well. I could go for a Saturday day two of the draft, but it’s worth it for the short turnaround.
 

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Establishing reasonable expectations for Ilya Samsonov

I’ve been following the Leafs for a long time. And in those many years of following the Maple Leafs one thing I can never recall seeing is a goaltender coming to Toronto and seeing their career rebound. Jack Campbell and Frederik Andersen maybe punctuated their success after establishing that they were good during their time in Southern California, but neither was truly struggling. Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour came to Toronto and continued on with their Hall of Fame worthy careers, but no one breaks out in Toronto and that’s part of why establishing expectations for Ilya Samsonov is important.
It’s also important to note that with a new goaltending coach comes the opportunity to erase the past. Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t happen now. If hope is an important part of your Leafs viewing process, I’m not going to be the person that takes away from you, and admittedly I’m very excited about Curtis Sanford as the Leafs goaltending coach too. I’ve caught myself believing he could do for goaltending what Dean Chynoweth did for special teams, and then reminded myself to dial it back a little.
Dialing …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation