Why Nick Robertson is deserving of an extended look with the Maple Leafs this fall

The thing that Nick Robertson needs most is a full-time NHL gig and I think he’ll get that with the Maple Leafs next season.
After the 20-year-old returned from a four-month layoff due to injury, there was a different look to his game. Robertson seemed to be as confident as ever at a time when it just didn’t seem possible. Coming off an injury like a broken leg, there’s usually a period where a player is getting used to everything again.
Not Robertson, though.
The work that he and the Maple Leafs’ return-to-play staff did together allowed for Robertson to come back to the Marlies as good as ever. The 20-year-old averaged a point-per-game in his final 26 games of the season.
It wasn’t just the points that made Robertson stand out more this time around in the AHL. He seemed more confident with and without the puck, not forcing plays to come to him, but getting in better spots for better looks.
It also seemed like the 20-year-old got stronger on the puck while he was nursing his broken leg.
Robertson wasn’t getting pus …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

The Bruins can never be taken lightly as a playoff opponent

If one thing was made clear in our post earlier today, there’s no shortage of people who think it’s in the Leafs best interest to face the Bruins. I’m not sure I fall into that camp, and while it seems less than likely the Bruins will be who Toronto faces in the first round, there is still a very real possibility that a team whose identity is based on playing “playoff hockey” is going to be able to upset either the Panthers, or based on the current seeding, run through the Metropolitan Division and reemerge to face an Atlantic Division opponent in the Conference Finals. If the Leafs somehow find themselves there, I can’t imagine a more fitting, but unwelcome barrier to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Boston by the numbers:

Boston
Toronto
GP
75
76
Pts
97 (10th)
106 (3rd)
GF
231 (18th)
293 (2nd)
GA
201 (4th)
234 (18th)
PP%
21.6% (14th)
27.8% (1st)
PK%
82.3% (8th)
83.0% (7th)
CF%
54.40%
53.70%
xGF%
56.81%
55.29%
HDCF%
56.27%
55.44%
HDGF%
54.97%
51.21%
PDO
0.989
1.002
as of April 19th
For a team that has a reputation for playing a punishing style of hockey, they are also statistical darlings and their lower point total shouldn’t put teams at ease, especially when looking at their PDO. If things start going anywhere close to right for this team, they are capable of making things difficult for absolutely every team in the league.
Forwards
A forward group that begins with a line of Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Marchand begs to be taken seriously. Throw in a supporting cast led by Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith and the Bruins show signs of offensive depth.
Of course, the Bruins are first and foremost shit disturbers and it doesn’t stop at Marchand. Trent Frederic, Nick Foligno, and Jake DeBrusk aren’t fun to play against. Even the Bruins depth seems to understand that if they want to be in the lineup, they need to make life difficult means there aren’t too many easy shifts …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Fleury fallout could lead to the Wild being the answer to the Leafs goaltending problems

Here’s the thing. It’s deadline day and stuff is happening fast. One of those things that has just presented itself is this:

Sources say #mnwild are trading Kaapo Kahkonen in a different trade
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 21, 2022

That’s not a small thing for the Leafs, and their limited cap space. Kahkonen carries a $725k cap hit for the remainder of this season. He’s played in 25 games and put up a .910 save percentage, and that’s a definite upgrade for the Leafs at this point. He’s also a pending RFA, so the Leafs have the opportunity to re-sign the 25-year-old and make him part of their solution going forward. A lot of things look pretty great on paper.
Now, how does that get done is the next question. What exactly is Kahkonen worth? Certainly not a first and perhaps it’s worth looking at the Leafs’ pool of B-level prospects to see if something can be done. Are the Wild at all interested in Duszak? Probably not, and it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t want more than him anyway. The idea of a midround pick plus a Marlie is probably the ballpark the Leafs are playing in, and one they should be motivated to pursue.
It’s also entirely possible that the Leafs are already locked into the next step in net and are just waiting to see what will happen with Mrazek and Sateri when the waivers deadline hits. Suddenly the day seems a little less likely to be quiet. …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Frank Seravalli is reporting increased interest in 2023 first round picks

If there is one thing you can always count on, it’s that NHL GMs will adopt a “grass is always greener on the other side” approach to asset management. This is partially how you wind up with competitive teams lining up to throw assets at Montreal so they can tuck Ben Chiarot into their 3rd pairing.
That’s why with an abundance of 2022 draft picks being made available, teams are losing interest and focusing on 2023 picks instead:
From Seravalli:
… so far, teams have asked for and prefer 2023 draft picks as compensation over picks from the upcoming 2022 Draft. They are seen as more valuable – and that includes later-round picks, not just first-round picks.
Unscientifically, the 2023 Draft is perceived as being “deeper” than 2022. Whether that is actually true depends on the eye of the beholder.
So much of what will transpire over the next week will likely be circumstantial and dependent on what teams have to trade. This year, it just so happens also that some of the teams that may be most active (Florida, Colorado, Vegas, Carolina) have already traded away their top 2022 picks and only have 2023 currency to trade.
So the good news for the Leafs is that they a …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

There won’t be a Rule 5 Draft this year

One thing that’s pretty much been lost in the excitement of CBA Day is the fact that there won’t be a Rule 5 Draft this year.

The Rule 5 Draft was supposed to happen back on December 9 but that got postponed as Major League Baseball instituted a transaction freeze as the league went into a lockout at the beginning of the month.
So, according to Zach Buchanan of The Athletic, rather than re-scheduling it and shoving it in somewhere amidst all the chaos of free agency and spring training happening at the same time, there just won’t be a Rule 5 Draft for 2021.
This is a nice little win for the Blue Jays, as they had a few interesting prospects who were set to be eligible for the draft.
Back in November, the team added Hagen Danner, Bowden Francis, Zach Logue, and Leo Jimenez to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft deadline, leaving names such as Samad Taylor, Miguel Hiraldo, and Eric Pardinho available to other teams.
These are middle-of-the-pack prospects that nobody should lose sleep over, but, still, it’s a little extra ammunition for the Blue Jays if they want to trade for, say, Jose Ramirez. …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Top Leafs prospect Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela have been named to the Finnish World Junior Roster

So here’s the thing. This really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. Roni Hirvonen has been playing very well for some time, and Topi Niemela…well…no Finnish defenseman in the history of Liiga is having a season like he’s having. He was not only a lock, but a lock made out of adamantium with a vibranium locking mechanism.

Finland announced its World Junior roster today. pic.twitter.com/PqnBkChbKW
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 8, 2021

Roni Hirvonen’s numbers:
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
P
PIM
2019-20
 Ässät
Liiga
52
5
11
16
14
 Finland U18 (all)
International-Jr
9
6
6
12
10
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
3
1
2
3
14
2020-21
 Ässät
Liiga
54
6
15
21
54
 Finland U20
WJC-20
7
2
4
6
18
2021-22
 HIFK
Liiga
26
4
9
13
18
 Finland U20
WJC-20





 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
11
12
3
15
14
Topi Niemela’s numbers:
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
P
PIM
2019-20
 Kärpät U20
U20 SM-liiga
1
0
1
1
0
 Kärpät
Liiga
43
1
6
7
8
 Finland U18 (all)
International-Jr
9
0
4
4
2
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
9
0
4
4
2
2020-21
 Kärpät U20
U20 SM-sarja
6
1
3
4
0
 Kärpät
Liiga
15
0
4
4
2
 Finland U20
WJC-20
7
2
6
8
6
2021-22
 Kärpät
Liiga
27
5
17
22
6
 Finland U20
WJC-20





 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
9
2
5
7
8
Both players had a strong WJC performance last year, and the expectations are just as high, if not higher this year as …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Off-Season Notes: More teams are getting in the free-agent mix, Corey Seager might be Toronto’s “ideal target,” Blue Jays catchers are drawing interest, and more!

One thing that was advantageous to the Blue Jays last winter is that there weren’t as many teams as usual in the mix to sign big-ticket free agents.

Last year, it was pretty much the Blue Jays and New York Mets appearing in rumours around just about every name on the open market while the usual suspects, the Yankees and L.A. Dodgers, were also creeping around.
That won’t be the case this year.
The Mariners are expected to add to their roster after a surprising season that saw them go 90-72. The Texas Rangers are expected to have a big off-season and there are rumours that they could add more than $100 million to their payroll for 2022. The Los Angeles Angels, fresh off yet another disappointing season wasting the likes of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, are planning to add significantly to their starting rotation this winter.
And those usual suspects, the Dodgers and Yankees, will, as always, also be in the mix. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Corey Seager as free agents, so they’ll have a bunch of cash to make changes to their roster. The Yankees need to improve after a ho-hum …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

It’s only been four games so let’s cut Nick Ritchie some slack

It’s only been four games so let’s cut Nick Ritchie some slack

One thing I’d never want to do is take away one of the most fun elements of sports and that is overreacting to things in the moment. And last night while Auston Matthews was buzzing in his return it certainly was noticeable that Nick Ritchie didn’t really seem to have an idea of how to play with a center like Matthews. I think a big part of that was because last night was the first night that Nick Ritchie had the opportunity to play with Matthews. Or really even Tavares for that matter. It’s going to take some time, and putting it together in four games might be a little much.
To understand why Ritchie might be struggling it’s worth looking at who his most common centers were at his last two NHL stops. In Boston Ritchie was primarily playing with David Krejci, much more of a pass first center, and in Anaheim he was playing with Adam Henrique, who was a bit more of a balanced shooter/playmaker center, but on the same skill level as the previously mentioned centers. After Krejci, Coyle was the next most common center for Ritchie, and really it’s …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs return William Villeneuve to the QMJHL

The one thing that has been missing from the Leafs preseason are player cuts and with the stretch between last night’s game and the next preseason game on Monday, it stood to reason that we’d start seeing some cuts and William Villeneuve gets the distinction of being the first.

Defenceman William Villeneuve has been loaned to Saint John (QMJHL)
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) September 30, 2021

With CHL seasons starting up it makes sense to get Villeneuve back competing as quickly as possible now that he’s had a chance to get a feel for the style and pace of a NHL camp. I’m sure he’s been sent off with a very specific development plan for him, but with a Leafs organization eager to see how he does in competitive situations.
Over the course of September Villeneuve also signed his entry level deal with the Leafs, so there’s no doubt the organization wants to see more of him, and more from him, and developing his skating will likely be a big part of that. The Saint John Sea Dogs season starts tomorrow, and I’m sure they’ll have William in their lineup.

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Franchise Hockey Manager 7 predicts the rest of Morgan Rielly’s career

One thing that I both love and hate about the NHL is the ongoing saga of a player in the midst of his contract year. It either gets done rather quickly, drags on for way too long before a deal is reached at the 11th hour, or you get teased of the possibility of an extension only for the player to either be traded or let go at season’s end. It’s stressful, exhausting, and is bound to take up endless hours of debate regarding whether or not said player is worth keeping and what constitutes a fair deal.
This year will once again bring up that never-ending tradition with Morgan Rielly being the main player on the Leafs’ roster whose contract is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2021-22 campaign. It would be foolish to suggest that he won’t be getting paid handsomely since he’s blossomed into a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the half-decade since he signed the six-year deal. Regardless of whether his future remains in Toronto or he moves elsewhere, there’s no denying that he will be highly valued on the open market with many teams vying for his talents.
But …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation