Marlies prioritize development of players but remain focused on competing for playoffs next season

The Toronto Marlies will begin next year likely the same as they did this season — as a development team with a growing intention of getting to the post-season.
Toronto missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2010-11, and while many fans might not think that’s good, the Marlies still had a great year.
When looking back, there were a number of players who got their shot to play with the Maple Leafs because of injuries, and a few others received NHL contracts after being signed to AHL deals last summer.
It seemed like there was a lot of displeasure from fans with the way Marlies head coach Greg Moore ran things at the AHL level, whether it be lineup decisions, in-game choices, and at times, just decisions in general. While there might have been more focus on him than some of the players this season, there was still plenty of development from him, too.
“I saw a lot of growth in him (Moore) this season,” said Marlies GM Ryan Hardy on locker cleanout day. “I think a lot of times from an outside observer, you recognize the games and the outcome and everybody wants to make the playoffs, and that’s certainly a part of the job.
“But he …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

The most optimal lineup for the Maple Leafs heading into the playoffs

One game remaining until the NHL playoffs begin, are you ready?
With a final game against the Boston Bruins, it allows the Maple Leafs to do a lot of things like gain an extra two points and help Mitch Marner hit the 100-point mark for the first time in his career.
It will also let Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe to tinker with his lines one last time before game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead of waiting one more game to see what Keefe does with the lineup, I’m going to discuss what Toronto’s optimal lineup should look like ahead of their first round matchup.
The Maple Leafs have tried a number of scenarios with their forward group this season and so they should. There can be injuries that occur at any point and the team wants to know who works with who beforehand so they’re not piecing it together on the fly.
But if I had to pick, how would I design the lines for the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champions?
First line: Bunting-Matthews-Marner
This is — by far — Toronto’s best line this season and with Bunting hopeful to be ready for the playoffs, this has to be the Maple Leafs’ top line …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

5 potential first-round targets for the Leafs at the U18 World Championships

The 2022 IIHF U18 Men’s World Championships are set to begin this weekend in Germany for one of the premier pre-NHL draft events on the calendar.
Due to the international ban on Belarus and Russia, eight teams rather than the usual 10 will be competing in this year’s tournament. Canada, Czechia, Germany, and the United States comprise Group A, while Finland, Latvia, Sweden, and Switzerland make up Group B.
Not all top prospects for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be at the event. As a U18 tournament, players born in 2004 and later are eligible. 2003-born top prospects for the 2022 draft such as David Jiricek and Brad Lambert are too old to play. Additionally, the Canadian Hockey League playoffs have only just begun and numerous top prospects have not been made available due to their respective team commitments.
Still, there is plenty of 2022 draft talent on display in Germany over the next week and a half, in addition to the exciting mix of 2023 and even 2024 top prospects as well.
This year’s U18 tournament has plenty of interest for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they currently hold a first-round pick for the 2022 draft. With the tournament beginning on Saturday, here are five prospects to keep an e …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Breaking down the Toronto Marlies five NCAA free agent signings

Each spring, the Toronto Marlies begin their annual search for free agent players to bring into the organization to fill out their AHL depth and ECHL roster for the following season. Given the organizational stance on development and how to use the minor league affiliates, the Marlies bring in multiple NCAA and CHL free agents every year to fill the aforementioned needs while also bringing in players that have the potential to develop into something more.
Since 2018, three prospects that have signed with the Marlies have later been upgraded to NHL contracts in Kristians Rubins, Pavel Gogolev, and Curtis Douglas. Goaltender Keith Petruzzelli is making a strong case with the Newfoundland Growlers to earn an ELC too, while Bobby McMann remains on an AHL contract but has become a dependable top-nine forward for the Marlies this season.
Though we will have to wait a few more weeks to see what CHL free agents are brought into the organization, GM Ryan Hardy has already been active in the NCAA free agent market, inking five players to 2022/23 AHL contracts.
Marshall Rifai | LD | Harvard (ECAC)
The Marlies first signing for 2022/23 came when they announced the addition of Harvard defenceman Marshall Rifai.
A teammate of Tor …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: 3 most memorable home openers in franchise history

Toronto Raptors: 3 most memorable home openers in franchise history

The Toronto Raptors begin their 27th NBA season when they host the Washington Wizards at Scotiabank Arena on October 20 for what will be one of the most memorable home-openers in Raptors franchise history. This Raptors home opener has extra significance. Exactly 600 days will have elapsed since the last NBA regular-season game in Toronto, […]
Toronto Raptors: 3 most memorable home openers in franchise history – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Brian Swane / Raptors HQ

Raptors: Does Yuta Watanabe have an inside track on a roster spot?

Raptors: Does Yuta Watanabe have an inside track on a roster spot?

In a few days, the Toronto Raptors will begin training camp, with their first preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers coming up on October 4. A new era of basketball starts in Toronto with young stars like Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, Yuta Watanabe, and Gary Trent trying to make their mark in the game as […]
Raptors: Does Yuta Watanabe have an inside track on a roster spot? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Jason Mills / Raptors HQ

Leafs enter three-game series against the Canadiens in position to clinch North Division lead

The Toronto Maple Leafs begin a three-game set against the Montreal Canadiens in prime position to clinch first in the North Division. Any combination of Leafs wins or Oilers losses that add up to a six point differential will give them the division title. Additionally, a single win in this mini-series with Montreal will secure the Leafs with a positive win record over each of their regular season opponents.
Meanwhile, the Habs look to continue their two-game winning streak off the back of Cole Caulfield’s first NHL goal. Their play of late (accompanied by a faltering Winnipeg Jets team), has seen them get to within striking distance of third place in the North, they are currently just two points back of a Jets team that has lost six straight games.
Despite the possibility that the Habs could leapfrog the Jets, the Leafs are still sizing them up as a potential first round matchup per Jake Muzzin at today’s morning skate:

Jake Muzzin says Maple Leafs just had a meeting about these three games vs. Montreal being a Round 1 preview: “It’s a little introduction to maybe the playoffs…. A little chess match here.”
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) May 3, 2021

The Leafs …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

TLN Three Stars: There’s always tomorrow, right?

Where do I begin with this one? As always, I was excited to watch a good ol’ hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, what really gets better than this match up? Well, it turns out a lot of things. I think the Leafs got the start time of this game mixed up, because they ended the first period trailing 0-2, and got outshot by the Canadiens 11-3. The Leafs woke up in the second and managed to bounce back with goals by Auston Matthews and John Tavares. But that didn’t last long as Josh Anderson helped his team regain the lead less than two minutes later. The Canadiens managed to hold on and score another in the third as they ended the game 4-2, and the Toronto Maple Leafs took the L.
Three Stars
3rd Star: John Tavares
Oh captain, my captain! John Tavares managed to tie the game up tonight after a very rough first period by the Leafs. His goal put some much needed energy and enthusiasm into the team, and it looked like the boys were going to make a comeback. They didn’t, but Tavares still had a decent game. …

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Author: Roxanne Khasow / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: The faces in the background of this unique season

Toronto Raptors: The faces in the background of this unique season

As of March 19th, the Toronto Raptors will begin welcoming a limited number of fans back to their home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay. While playing to a couple thousand mask-wearing Floridians in Tampa hardly counts as ‘business as usual’ for the Raptors, it might end the strangeness of plying their trade in […]
Toronto Raptors: The faces in the background of this unique season – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Ben Fisher / Raptors HQ

Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby may be the answer on offense

Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby may be the answer on offense

The Toronto Raptors have struggled to begin this season. However, the solution to their offensive woes may actually already be on the roster. Thanks to a 107-102 victory Sunday afternoon against the Indiana Pacers, the Toronto Raptors improved their record to 7-9 before falling to Nate Bjorkgren the following night. Going into a slump on […]
Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby may be the answer on offense – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Jason Mills / Raptors HQ