Toronto Maple Leafs 3 – Buffalo Sabres 0
Auston Matthews, Zach Hyman, and William Nylander: This trio has been a topic of discussion of late, with folks wondering why Hyman, not newly acquired Patrick Marleau was situated on the left wing of Matthews and Nylander. It took about a minute in this game for Mike Babcock’s point to get across, as Hyman picked the pocket of Zemgus Girgensons and got the puck to Matthews for a scoring chance, which was denied by Linus Ullmark, who was fantastic in goal for the Sabres tonight.
Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey: This pairing made their debut together on Monday night against the Senators, and to be honest, they were not good at all, but they looked much improved tonight. It appears as though it just took some time for the two of them to gel as a unit.
Travis Dermott: Dermott continues to impress during this camp with another solid showing tonight. At this point there’s little room for debate as to whether or not he’s ready for a spot on the Leafs what it really boils down to is if the Leafs think it would be more beneficial for his development to play big minutes in a starring role for the Marlies, instead of playing on the third pairing with the big club.
Andreas Borgman: His defensive game was a bit uneven at times as Borgman continues to adjust to the North American ice surface and the NHL game, however there were flashes that show everyone that he is filled with potential and will eventually be a very good NHL defenseman. Take for example the way he positioned himself to shut down a shorthanded rush by Ryan O’Reilly in the third period, keeping his body between ROR and the net, giving him nothing to shoot at at all, and eventually the puck went the other way. Borgman has also shown that he’s certainly not afraid to throw the body, laying out several players in his two game stint thus far.
Justin Holl: Holl doesn’t really get a ton of credit for just how much he’s improved his game since he struggled a bit a couple of years ago during the Marlies run to the AHL’s Eastern Conference Final, to a guy who is now just very solid. He doesn’t make a ton of spectacular plays, but also rarely makes a mistake, the kind of dependable player that coaches fall in love with. He should have a big roll with the Marlies this year, as well as being one of the first to get the call if someone should go down to injury with the Leafs.
Miro Aaltonen: Aaltonen is a player I knew next to nothing about when the Leafs signed him, but after seeing him in the past two preseason games, it seems as though he’s an NHL forward. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him beat out Dominic Moore for the Leafs fourth line center role. It would also appear that Aaltonen could play up in the lineup if an injury occurred to Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak. Obviously no one could replace Auston Matthews, but Aaltonen seems like a player who could jump into any role and have a positive impact.
Andrew Nielsen: I hesitate to even put Nielsen here, because he wasn’t bad per se, just kind of invisible. What lands him on this list despite his game not really standing out, is an undisciplined hit from behind that sent the Leafs on to the penalty kill in the third period of a one goal game. Thankfully it was only a preseason game and it ended up not mattering in the grand scheme of things, but those are kinds of undisciplined plays that Nielsen will have to learn to keep out of his game once he gets to the NHL level, which he eventually will.
There wasn’t much ugly on the Leafs side of things except perhaps not scoring more on their myriad of power play chances, but the power play was dangerous, and just ended up getting stonewalled by Ullmark, so we’ll give this category a pass for this evening. That’s ok, I’m sure they’ll be plenty of ugly things to discuss tomorrow, after all, Jack Eichel is scheduled to play!