Leafs Nation are a passionate bunch! We wear our hearts on our sleeves and aren’t afraid to fight to make a point so it’s always an exciting time when a new trade rumour, free agent signing, or other Toronto Maple Leafs news hits the web. Every week, I’ll break down what’s “in the news” and give you my perspective. You know what they say about opinions – everybody has one, some just stink more than others! This is how I see it…in my VIEW FROM THE BLUES!
Boyes Signs 1-Year Deal
The club announced on Sunday that they had signed Toronto-born Brad Boyes to a 1-year contract worth $700,000. Boyes was in camp on a PTO after being bought out by the Florida Panthers back on July 1. The 33-year old winger was originally drafted by Toronto in the 1st-round (24th-overall) but was dealt to San Jose in the deal that brought Owen Nolan to the Leafs.
The Latest Cuts
The Leafs announced that they had cut 4 more players on Sunday afternoon, sending 1st-round pick Mitch Marner back to the OHL’s London Knights, goaltender Rob Madore to the Marlies, and releasing Curtis Glencross and Devin Setoguchi from their PTO’s.
Marner took the news well and should pick up where he left off last season with the Knights. He worked hard during the summer and managed to put on an extra 5 pounds in the past few months. He was also outstanding at the World Junior summer camp last month and attended his first Leafs rookie tournament a couple of weeks ago. He played in two games with the Leafs in the pre-season and certainly wasn’t a liability. We tend to always be looking for the “wow” factor when it comes to skilled players like Marner. We haven’t seen it as of yet but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’ll dominate in junior once again with the Knights, while leading Canada in the march for World Junior Gold. This will be a year of growth for Mitch.
Glencross and Setoguchi were given the chance to impress in camp but the great performance by fellow PTO Brad Boyes completely overshadowed them.
Fraser Signs With Sens
Defenseman Mark Fraser was also released from his PTO but not for the same reason as the aforementioned Glencross and Setoguchi. It seems that the 28-year old from Ottawa impressed his hometown Senators enough to be offered a 1-year, two-way contract by the club.
The Sens were seeking depth on the backend after prospect Mikael Wikstrand decided to head back to Sweden. It’s assumed that the Leafs themselves were not prepared to offer Fraser a contract though he didn’t look out of place in two pre-season games with the club.
Who’s Left in Camp?
Sunday’s cuts and Fraser’s release bring the number of players in camp down to 41 with just nine days left until the start of the season. The team will most likely carry 14 forwards, 7 defenseman, and 2 goaltenders on their 23-man roster. Let’s take a close up look at the bodies that remain.
Forwards (23 left in camp)
- Tyler Bozak
- James Van Riemsdyk
- Nazem Kadri
- Joffrey Lupul
- Leo Komarov
- Peter Holland
- Michael Grabner
- Nick Spaling
- Daniel Winnik
- P.A Parenteau
- Shawn Matthias
- Mark Arcobello
- Brad Boyes
- Richard Panik
Of course, this is just speculation but that seems to be where things are headed. If I had to pick one guy out of that 14 that may fall out of a spot it would have to be the 24-year old Panik or the 27-year old Arcobello. Neither have impressed up to this point but both will have to clear waivers to be sent to the Marlies. It’s always hard when you risk losing a player on waivers for nothing, but if they are surpassed in the lineup then the Leafs surely won’t hesitate. So who are the biggest threats to take jobs at forward on the Leafs’ main roster?
Matt Frattin- This is a make or break camp for the 27-year old winger from Edmonton, Alberta. “He’s not an AHL player,” claimed Marlies play by play man Todd Crocker on a recent episode of the Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast.
Crocker also raved about Frattin’s shot which he used to score in this past Friday’s pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres. This may be his last chance at a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs and will have to clear waivers should they choose to send him back to the AHL.
Sam Carrick- Carrick is now in his 4th year as a pro and like Frattin, will have to clear waivers if sent to the Marlies. Say what you want about this kid but you can’t say he doesn’t work hard. Unfortunately, hard work will only get you so far, especially when the new coach “loves skilled players!” As much as I like him, I’m thinking that if Carrick has a future as an NHL player, it won’t be in Toronto.
Zach Hyman- This has been one of most intriguing players for me since they traded for him back in June. Babcock was impressed with his performance against the Montreal Canadiens this past Saturday night.
“I liked Hyman tonight… I thought he played good. There’s a guy who’s in good condition and hasn’t faded. He just kept coming. I thought he had his best night.”
Will it be enough to take the spot of a more experienced player who has to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL? That remains to be seen but the next 8 days will be the most important of Hyman’s career up until this point.
Nikita Soshnikov- Soshnikov has surprised since his first game in the Leafs’ rookie tournament. The kind of player who never stops skating and doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything. With that being said, my money is on him starting in the AHL this season.
William Nylander- The 19-year old Swede has looked impressive at times during camp before pulling his best disappearing act this past Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens. I wasn’t the only one to notice…
Babcock pulled Nylander aside after practice today. Said later that Nylander has to learn to “do it every day…bring it every game.”
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) September 28, 2015
Nylander bounced back with a solid performance against the Sabres on Tuesday but the two center spots in the Top 6 seemed to be once again locked up between Bozak and Kadri. Do you want a player with this kind of talent playing in your bottom 6? I think not. Unless a trade comes, expected him to be centering the first line with the Marlies.
Connor Brown- Brown impressed in his first pro season winning the rookie scoring title and earning a spot in the AHL all-star game. He has looked good in this camp but it’s become a numbers game at this point. Another year in the AHL will only help his development, especially if he uses his new stronger and larger frame to his advantage.
Kasperi Kapanen- He has struggled to find his offensive touch thus far in the main camp and has shown that he has some developing to do. He will be with the Marlies and will more than likely spend lots of time on the power play with Nylander and Brown.
Byron Froese- In less than a year, Froese has gone from being a player “on loan” to the Marlies to now competing for a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not bad for a kid that the Chicago organization gave up on. He’ll start with the Marlies but if he keeps producing at that level, a call-up won’t be far away.
Rich Clune- This is a player who has fought back from addiction to earn an AHL contract with the organization. However, I don’t see them using a precious NHL contract (they only have 4 open ones) on him just yet. He’ll go to the Marlies but if the big club begins to show signs of being intimidated by other teams, he may get the call.
Defence (14 left in camp)
- Morgan Rielly
- Dion Phaneuf
- Jake Gardiner
- Roman Polak
- Martin Marincin
- Stephane Robidas
- Matt Hunwick
So we’re left looking at the same players that seemed to have a lock on the seven NHL jobs coming into camp. Or are we? Would Babcock dare to try to send a Stephane Robidas down to the minors? Or maybe Martin Marincin? You better believe he would. If so, which player’s performance would leave him no choice but to do that?
Stuart Percy- Percy started last season with the Leafs and played 9 games before being sent back to the farm. The 22-year old has impressed once again this season, but will the Leafs make the same mistake they made last year? Would that even be a mistake? Percy has been one of the best defencemen in camp. I expect him to log big minutes with the Marlies but will be one of the first callups if injuries or trades happen.
T.J Brennan- Brennan doesn’t offer anything that we don’t already know he has. He’s an offensive defenseman with a bullet shot. With names like Phaneuf, Rielly, and Gardiner already on this team, there doesn’t seem to be room for another blueliner with offence on his mind.
Scott Harrington- As Paul Hendrick said on last week’s episode of the Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast, Harrington has been a standout in camp so far and hasn’t been afraid to be aggressive with the veterans in camp. He could be the one young player that the Leafs consider bringing into the fold if they decide to demote one of their veterans.
Viktor Loov- He’s big, aggressive, and skates well so what’s not to like about the big Swede? He tends to wander a bit which won’t please Babcock or Keefe. He has looked great in the pre-season games so far but will it be enough to grab an NHL job?
Rinat Valiev- This is one of the players that helped the organization pull the trigger on last week’s trade in which they traded away two young defencemen in Matt Finn and Tom Nilsson. Valiev was impressive in the Leafs’ rookie tournament and has carried that momentum into main camp. Regardless, he’ll play a full season with the Marlies before they even consider putting him in the NHL.
Petter Granberg- Granberg played 9 games last season for the Leafs but has not played a pre-season game this camp due to his recovery from surgery on his achilles. He’ll be a factor at some point this season, but not right now.
Andrew Campbell- The Caledonia, Ontario native was signed to an AHL contract by the organization in July after playing 33 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. That contract was upgraded on Tuesday to a 2-way NHL contract meaning that the Leafs can bring him up if needed as a fill-in.
Goalies (4 left in camp)
- Jonathan Bernier
- James Reimer
Antoine Bibeau- Looked great last week in Montreal and more than likely has the “upper hand” for the starting job with the Marlies this season due to the fact that he was there all of last season. Even with the departure of Christopher Gibson, he’ll get some stiff competition for playing time from Garret Sparks.
Garret Sparks- Spent last season paying with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL and responded with a .936 save percentage and a spot in league’s All-Star Game. He will battle Bibeau for the starting job with the Marlies this season.
Pre-Season Game Notes…
Fri, Sept 25- Air Canada Centre- Buffalo- 6 Toronto- 4
- The Leafs had a horrible night killing penalties and were scored on 3 of the 4 times they went short-handed.
- Nick Spaling, Daniel Winnik, and P.A Parenteau played together on a line for the second straight game and looked great.
- Babcock’s experiment pairing Dion Phaneuf with Matt Hunwick could be over as the two had a rough night against the Sabres. Hunwick was the Rangers’ 6 or 7 guy last season and should not be playing Top 4 minutes anywhere, including in Toronto.
- Viktor Loov and Stuart Percy played together in this game and showed exactly why they will log Top 4 minutes with the Marlies this season. Expect both to push for spots on next year’s Leafs squad.
- Leafs goals were scored by Stuart Percy, Daniel Winnik, Matt Frattin, and Nazem Kadri.
- Mitch Marner looked much more comfortable in this game on a line with Marc Arcobello and Connor Brown.
- Jonathan Bernier played the full game for the Leafs and had a much rougher start than his first game against the Senators.
Sat, Sept 26- Air Canada Centre- Montreal- 1 Toronto- 0
- James Reimer was sharp in goal on this night after a shaky first night against the Senators.
- Jake Gardiner continues to have a good camp and may actually thrive under new coach Mike Babcock.
- Leafs best forward line was Peter Holland between Shawn Matthias and Brad Boyes who’s in camp on a PTO. This was the second game in which Babcock played them together.
- PTO Mark Fraser played a decent game and won a fight against the Hab’s Zack Kassian.
- Curtis Glencross and Devon Setoguchi, both in camp on PTO’s, played in this game and were pretty much invisible.
- Zach Hyman was effective in his second pre-season game playing the body often and showing a tenacious forecheck.
- Leo Komarov was aggressive on the forecheck and also ran the Habs’ goaltender on a couple of occasions.
Tues, Sept 29- First Niagara Center- Buffalo- 4 Toronto- 0
- Connor Brown and William Nylander played together on a line with Rich Clune and were singled out as the team’s best players by Babcock.
- Morgan Rielly was back with Jake Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf with Matt Hunwick in a possible look at the Leafs Top 4 defencemen.
- Phaneuf drew boos from the crowd every time he touched the puck after laying out 18-year old rookie Brendan Guhle with an open ice hit.
- Rich Clune challenged Buffalo’s Mike Weber to a fight after the latter fought Toronto forward James Van Riemsdyk.
- Brad Boyes found himself playing on the “top line” along with James Van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak.
- The lineup included veteran forwards Bozak, Van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, and Joffrey Lupul. Babcock singled out the veterans for not stepping up.
The Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast
In the six weeks since we started recording this show, we have managed to line up some truly unbelievable guests. “The Voice of the Marlies” Todd Crocker in Episode 2, former Maple Leaf Greg Terrion in Episode 3, Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV in Episode 5, and of course Leafs Hub’s own Jude MacDonald in Episode 4. This week, we bring in a true legend and a staple in the lives of all Toronto Maple Leafs fans for the past 30+ years… (The Voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs) Joe Bowen!
On October 4, we will record show number 7 just three days before the Leafs open the season against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre. Will the final cuts be made by that time or will a few battles for spots still be happening? We’ll get all the inside scoops when we’re joined by Chris Johnston, Senior Hockey Writer at Rogers Sportsnet.
The Official Website…
This past Friday, we unleashed the official BNWT website. Everything you ever needed to know about the show is right there at bnwtpodcast.com!
Where To Find the Show…
To All iTunes Listeners…
Are you listening to the show on iTunes? Please take the time to subscribe and leave us a review! iTunes offers some rewards to the more popular podcasts and uses the reviews as a “measuring stick” so to speak. Thanks in advance to all that help us out with that.
Mystery Leaf Contest…
We are now exactly half way through the contest as Mystery Leaf #6 was unveiled this past week. Six more weeks to go until we give away this awesome framed print featuring Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour.
Check out the Contest Rules HERE!
Please send all comments, opinions, and hate mail to: email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter: @robb_ellis
I’ll catch ya next week… FROM THE BLUES!!!