The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced their training camp roster as the NHL gears up to start the 2020-21 season.
The team brought a total of 40 players to camp. 36 skaters (the max), and four goalies (teams were allowed to invite as many goalies as they wanted).
Although the camp is shorter than those from previous years (the Leafs generally invite 70+ players, which covers all players on NHL deals, AHL deals, some Newfoundland Growlers and camp invites), it still provides a few interesting takeaways. Let’s get into it!
It wasn’t an incredible shock, but it came as a surprise when the Leafs revealed their camp roster with zero players on professional tryouts. For reference, the Leafs invited four players on tryouts last year (Matt Read, Marc-Antoine Pépin, Michal Neuvirth, and Brandon Halverson), and invited 14 players in 2016 (and then proceeded to not sign any of them to NHL deals).
Due to protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s likely difficult to get players to attend camp on PTOs. Most of the Leafs’ camp attendees arrived in Toronto at least a couple of weeks ago. However, the Leafs reportedly expressed interest in Trevor Lewis, meaning they were definitely open to inviting at least one extra player. Also, a number of Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg) invited players on PTOs, so it wasn’t too difficult for Canadian teams to find players.
Four Marlies Invited to Camp
Although he’s on an AHL deal, Brazeau is a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect. The 6’6 forward signed a two-year deal with the Marlies after dropping 60 goals in the OHL in his final season. There were doubts about how he would carry over to the pros, but he definitely dispelled that, scoring 55 points in 57 games. He made the ECHL All-Rookie Team and just looked amazing with the Newfoundland Growlers. It’s been confirmed that Brazeau will spend this season with the Marlies, and it’s clear that they see Brazeau as a piece of the Leafs’ future.
Rourke Chartier is a prospect I’ve wanted the Leafs to sign for over a year, and after a year away from hockey, he’s signed with the Marlies. I wrote a much more in-depth look at him here. I’ll say this, though. When he last played professional hockey, he was a budding prospect with the San Jose Sharks and on his way to earning a full-time spot at the age of 22. Now that he’s 100% after being plagued by concussions throughout his professional career, I wouldn’t even be shocked if the 24-year-old is given an NHL contract midway through the season.
Tyler Gaudet is another player that is good enough to be on an NHL deal. I wrote a better look at his game here, but Gaudet has ties with coach Sheldon Keefe and GM Kyle Dubas stemming from ages ago. It’s clear that the team sees something in the 27-year-old. Gaudet will likely resume his duties as the Marlies’ 3C as he did last year, but he’s good enough to be a depth forward at the NHL level.
As for Scott Sabourin, he’s definitely a guy who Auston Matthews needs to recognize now. Although Sabourin will likely just be a role player for the Marlies, there’s a special twist of irony in the fact that, after a well-known interaction with Auston Matthews (and after scoring on the Leafs for his first NHL goal), he’ll now be attending Leafs camp. He’s another player with NHL pedigree that the Marlies have picked up, but I doubt his signing has any on-ice implications for the Leafs.
As mentioned before, the Leafs were unable to invite as many players as they would ahead of a normal season. As a result, there were a few guys who weren’t invited to camp.
Although players like Mac Hollowell, Joe Thornton, and Kristians Rubins came to Toronto, the Leafs left a few players in Europe. Guys like Denis Malgin (NL) and Yegor Korshkov (KHL) were expected to contend for NHL spots, but will instead remain in their respective home countries, where both have found success.
Lastly, Kalle Kossila, who was loaned to the DEL in December, will likely remain there until the AHL season starts (currently expected to start on February 5th).
The team was also unable to invite many notable AHLers.
Prospects such as Joseph Duszak, Joseph Woll, and Ian Scott will have to wait for the AHL training camps to start.
Duszak’s omission makes some sense. The Leafs invited 13 defensemen, and they gave preference to guys who were closer to making the NHL (Teemu Kivihalme, Calle Rosen) and prospects they rank higher than Duszak (Mac Hollowell).
However, the Leafs also opted not to carry Woll and Scott, even though the NHL didn’t implement a set training camp cap for goaltenders. Instead, they’ll roll with their four proven pros: Frederik Andersen (projected starter), Jack Campbell (projected backup), Aaron Dell (projected taxi squad goalie), and Michael Hutchinson (projected to split time with Woll in the AHL).
Many other teams decided to carry up to six goalies, inviting some on PTOs, but this gives the Leafs just enough to ice two full teams.
One player who I thought would’ve been invited was the recently re-signed Rich Clune. However, it looks like Clune has already been working with the Leafs that were already in Toronto for the past couple of months, so he might just unofficially be there.
Obviously, during a pandemic, it doesn’t make much sense to just invite prospects from all over the world to camp with the knowledge that they won’t be playing pro this season.
The Leafs have six players currently at the 2021 World Junior Championship (Rodion Amirov, Mikhail Abramov, Roni Hirvonen, Topi Niemela, Mikko Kokkonen, and Artur Akhtyamov). They held Nick Robertson back as he wouldn’t be able to attend camp if he were to play with Team USA.
In other years, we’d see a number of CHL and European prospects attend camp, but that won’t be the case this year.
I found a few things interesting:
- Lots of Leafs gained (what I’m assuming is) muscle over the offseason. One player who caught my eye? William Nylander. Nylander is now 200 pounds. He’s definitely working on becoming stronger, and I bet it’ll show.
- Auston Matthews is leaner. An important offseason goal of his was to become faster, and it’ll be exciting to see how he manages to improve on what was a spectacular season last year.
- An absolute mountain of a man, Justin Brazeau appears to be adding even more to his frame. A big part of his success will lie in how he develops his skating (it’s going pretty well), but it’s great to see that he’s improving his frame for the professional level.
- I’m also looking at guys like Teemu Kivihalme and Jake Muzzin. Both saw double-digit gains, and I’m particularly excited to see how Kivihalme does in his second North American season.
- Last but not least, the “Short Kings” have lost Mitch Marner, who is now listed at 6 feet tall, but gain Rasmus Sandin, now listed at 5’11.
Keefe’s Line Blender
This might need its own article, but Sheldon Keefe revealed the lines that he will open with for training camp.
Quick notes for what jumped out for me:
- Thornton on the first line, surprising decision but Keefe likely wants to see how Auston Matthews fares with two amazing playmakers on his line.
- Jimmy Vesey on the second line is interesting. It shows how highly the Leafs already think of him.
- All the expected candidates for those two LW roles are on the 3rd line. Ilya Mikheyev and Alexander Kerfoot have shown chemistry before, but I didn’t expect Zach Hyman to draw out of the top-six.
- After a long few months in Toronto, Alexander Barabanov draws into the projected lineup.
- It’s clear that the likes of Nick Robertson and Pierre Engvall will have to fight their way into the lineup, nothing guaranteed for the youngsters.
- Going to be a rough go for Nic Petan, who has been taken over in the race for a depth spot by prospect Josh Anderson, another player who will try to fight his way in.
After almost five months away, it’s almost time for Maple Leafs hockey! This is a team that has something to prove, and it looks like they’re in the best position that they’ve ever been in to do just that!
The lines likely aren’t permanent, there’s going to be a lot of adjusting and line blending. Lots of spots to fight for and nothing’s guaranteed.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to hold their season opener against the Montreal Canadiens on January 13th, 2020.
Full Maple Leafs Training Camp Roster
Full Toronto Maple Leafs Training Camp roster sorted by alphabetical order and position.
Featured Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images