Although the Maple Leafs finished the preseason with a 5-3-0 winning record, it didn’t start off very well. The first two games were back to back losses against their rivals the Ottawa Senators. The next two games against the Buffalo Sabres ended in a series split with one win each. As for the following two game series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Maple Leafs shut the door completely and won both games with 3-0 shutouts. The last preseason series was against the Detroit Red Wings. The Maple Leafs won both games of the series. A shootout was needed to decide the first game and the final preseason game was a dominating 5-0 shutout win.
Every preseason starts with a team looking to fill certain spots on their roster. This year the Maple Leafs were looking to fill almost every depth position. Two extra spots were up for grabs due to the injuries of both Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott. The spot for backup goaltender was also up for grabs, but Michael Hutchinson won that job due to a good camp and the injury to Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth was trying to make the team while on a Professional Tryout (PTO).
The Maple Leafs were looking to fill the bottom three defense positions. Here are the players who stood out the most.
Rasmus Sandin: Sandin had a very good training camp and preseason. The 19 year old never looked out of place and showed great hockey IQ. His great skating and passing were on full display during the four games in which he played. Sandin finished the preseason with four points and an average ice time of just over 20 minutes a game.
Justin Holl: Holl spent most of last season as a healthy scratch for the Maple Leafs and was limited to just 11 games played. Holl will most likely start in a similar position this season as the teams seventh defenseman. Holl displayed once again his ability to play a physical game by landing big hits and blocking shots. The problem for Holl will be once Travis Dermott returns from injury in late October or early November. Holl will either be traded or sent down to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL) if he clears waivers.
Martin Marincin: Marincin has often looked out of place during his time with the Maple Leafs. This preseason was a chance for him to take that next step and I believe he has. Marincin spent a couple games this preseason paired with prospect Rasmus Sandin and the pair worked well together. Marincin will most likely start the season on the third defense pairing with Sandin, but once Travis Dermott returns from injury it is likely that Marincin will become the team’s seventh defenseman and only get used sparingly.
Other defensemen who were fighting for a spot on the roster were Timothy Liljegren, Ben Harpur, Jordan Schmaltz and Kevin Gravel. Last week both Harpur and Schmaltz were assigned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Today the Maple Leafs placed Gravel on waivers with the intention of sending him down to the Toronto Marlies as well. As of right now Liljegren is still with the team, but for how long is unknown.
Just like their defense, the Maple Leafs were looking to fill the bottom portion of their forward group. Alexander Kerfoot was the only bottom six forward to be considered a lock to start the season with the team. That left five spots open for the third and fourth lines. Here’s who stood out for me.
Trevor Moore: Moore had a really good training camp and preseason. He’s fast, hard on the puck and for a small guy he’s not afraid to hit. Moore scored three goals this preseason and finished with four points. I expect Moore to be a regular in the lineup playing mostly on the fourth line.
Frederik Gauthier: Going into training camp Gauthier was looking to keep the roster spot he earned last season and he did just that. Gauthier played well in all four games he took part in. He looked stronger and showed a bit more physicality than we’re used to seeing from him. He plays very well along the boards and in the corners protecting the puck.
Ilya Mikheyev: Mikheyev didn’t register any points during preseason, but given more time on North American ice and the points will come. Mikheyev had a very strong training camp and preseason playing well on the third line with Kerfoot.
Matt Read: Just like goaltender Michal Neuvirth, Read was brought into training camp on a PTO and trying to earn a job. Read played well enough to survive two roster cuts and put up 3 points in the preseason. Read has been rewarded for his hard work with an AHL contract this morning.
Jason Spezza: Spezza was signed back on July 1st for the league minimum of $700,000. Spezza is a faceoff specialist and at this stage of his career the Maple Leafs are not expecting a ton of points. He will split most his time between center and right wing on the fourth line with Gauthier. The fourth line of Spezza, Gauthier and Moore looked really good during preseason play. It’s expected that he’ll also get some time on both the power play and penalty kill. He’ll be looked at to win key faceoffs especially in the defensive end.
Nic Petan: Petan had a really good second half to his preseason, but was singled out by coach Mike Babcock early on for not working hard enough. I thought that Petan might earn a spot on the team, but he was placed on waivers this morning. If he clears waivers he’ll report to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
It’s safe to assume that the Maple Leafs will get more than enough production from their top six forwards and their top four defensemen. What will be interesting to see, is if all the new depth players can do a better job of shutting down the opposing team.
Another thing to remember is that injuries are a part of the game and when those injuries happen, the Maple Leafs have plenty of talented guys waiting for their opportunity.
Discuss this article and more in the Overtime Heroics Forums!