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

Leafs hoping to be the team that unlocks Victor Mete’s potential

Following his selection in the 2016 draft, Victor Mete has been on a path that had him viewed with more potential than most fourth round selections. At 19 he made the Habs opening night roster. He’d follow that up with making the Canadian World Junior team, an accomplishment that now seems to be viewed more as a curse than an achievement. And the next two seasons would still see Mete used as an NHL regular, although never really establishing himself with a role with meaningful minutes. In short, he seemed rushed to the NHL.
Given his early arrival in the NHL, Mete also had an early arrival at waivers eligibility, and the Senators were all too happy to take a chance on a once regarded prospect at a discount price. Unfortunately, Mete’s time in Ottawa involved a further step away from NHL regularity and resulted in spot duty throughout his time in the capital. He seemed to be moving further away from the promising role he seemed destined for in Montreal.
It seemed entirely possible that it was time to write off Mete, but there is something to be said for a little exploration of talent. Montreal’s defensive reputation of late has been geared towards us …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Inside the Leafs’ development pipeline: Report from the Rock

The following article contains excerpts from an interview originally conducted in November 2020.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, like any team aiming for long-term success, have heavily invested in prospect development. And in a flat salary cap world, the versatility of good players being able to slot into a lineup for close to league-minimum is more valuable than ever before.
Following in the footsteps of what the Pittsburgh Penguins established years ago with the Wheeling Nailers, the Leafs made a commitment when they established an affiliation agreement with the Newfoundland Growlers in 2018 that the ECHL club would be seen as a true development program for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and beyond. This agreement made the Growlers the entry-level point of a true three-tier development system, as opposed to just another ECHL team where careers would go to die, or players banished from an AHL club would wind up to play out their contracts in obscurity.
The process is slow, naturally, but it has begun to bear fruit. Defenceman Kristians Rubins played three games for the Leafs this past season after beginning his tenure within the organization on an ECHL contract with the Growlers in the team’s inaugural season. Timothy Liljegren is technically a Growlers alumni, as he played a single game with the tea …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation