The signing of Calle Jarnkrok definitely helps add to the middle-six of the forwards and Adam Gaudette could be a reliable depth piece that could provide a major impact with the Maple Leafs. But as always, there is going to be competition in regards to some names that have thrived in the minors. While Nick Robertson and Joey Anderson are poised to be the front runners, here are four names to keep an eye on that may earn a spot on the Maple Leafs for next season.
Probably one of the front runners behind Robertson and Anderson to battle for a spot, Steeves had an impressive rookie campaign with the Toronto Marlies last season. After finishing with 32 points in 29 games with Notre Dame in 2020-21, he earned a three-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs and he did not disappoint.
Steeves finished in 10th in rookie scoring in the American League with 46 points in 58 games, while finishing sixth overall in goals. Even though the 22-year-old missed the start of last season because of a shoulder injury he sustained in development camp, when he was healthy, he definitely made his mark at the professional level.
Steeves brings an energetic presence to the ice along with a strong and high compete level. His goal scoring abilities were on full display as well as his creativity with the puck. He has a great release and accuracy with his shot and is always battling in all three zones. He has great speed and skating mechanics to break away from his opponents. He was used in all situations and displayed great awareness in his own end to break up a play and quickly transition to offense.
Steeves has a great chance to earn a roster spot after he got a small taste of the NHL last season, as he recorded one assist in three games with the Maple Leafs. While his underlying numbers don’t show it as the fourth line struggled at times when Steeves was present, he did a lot of great things that showed that he can make an impact when he has the puck. He has a better chance to earn more minutes this time around as he can even battle for a spot on the third line.
The Maple Leafs sixth-round pick in 2018, Holmberg is another obvious candidates but there’s some uncertainty given his time in North America is very limited. But the potential is there as he already has experience against older competition.
Holmberg had a decent primary point per game average of 0.67 with Växjö Lakers HC in the SHL this season, while just under a point per game with 41 in 46 games. The 2020-21 SHL playoff MVP also looked great at the Olympics for Sweden recording two assists in six games. While it’s a small sample, he definitely didn’t look out of place with the Marlies in six games when he made the jump to North America.
Holmberg possesses great speed and playmaking abilities that makes him extremely effective in the offensive zone. It’s his smarts with his positioning and awareness that stands out every time that he’s on the ice. The Maple Leafs value players that read the game very well and Holmberg does just that as he’s always in the right spot at the right time. I previously wrote that he would be a viable option for a spot on the second line as he can play both centre and wing.
While he may be more suited in a depth role and may start the season off with the Marlies, he does have the potential to be a factor in a top-six role if he can work on his shot. He could be what the Maple Leafs need in their middle-six with his energy and the way he thinks the game.
At 26 years old, McMann basically came out of nowhere and flew under the radar during last season with the Marlies. He started off the season with the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL and after averaging a point per game, he was then called up to the AHL and had a breakout season.
McMann would then set a Marlies record in goals by a rookie forward with 24 which was previously held by Josh Leivo. McMann would finish the season with 35 points in 61 games (fifth in goals scored) and eventually signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs in April. Despite not being a name that many were watching, he definitely garnered a lot of attention as the season went on. Now, he’s looking to make his way onto the Maple Leafs roster.
The Maple Leafs need energy in their bottom-six and McMann brings a lot of that to the table. He has decent speed and mobility for his size to get in on the attack, establish a forecheck and maintain great body positioning. He plays with a power forward mentality, has a powerful shot and is always attacking the net hard. His attitude and compete level is always noticeable whether he’s on or off the ice. With his play style, he’s a player that would thrive in any situation.
McMann has worked his way up to earn a contract with the Maple Leafs. He’s put in the effort and he isn’t done until he makes it to the NHL. He has a great opportunity to push others down and earn a spot.
While he may be more of a long shot to make the roster, I’m a big fan of Curtis Douglas’ game after I saw his play at the Maple Leafs development camp and rookie tournament.
Initially a fourth-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars in 2018, Douglas is a hulking winger at 6-foot-9, 238 pounds, being a very physical force and menacing player when he’s on the ice. That aspect alone is what the Maple Leafs lack, but he’s an underrated name as he brings much more to the table than just his size and physicality.
Douglas possesses a steady offensive game as he was a great secondary point producer for the Marlies last season with 34 points in 67 games. He has great speed for his size and the ability battle and gain the inside edge to separate the opponent from the puck. He has a great work ethic and is constantly battling no matter what situation he’s in. As a result of his strong season, he earned a two-year, entry-level contract from the Maple Leafs back in March.
Douglas certainly brings an element that’ll make the Maple Leafs tougher to play against. His strength and physicality will be a major factor in a fourth line role. There’s the enforcer mentality that he can step in for his teammates if he needs to, but also has some skill. He may need another year or two to develop, but if there’s a spot to be had, Douglas will battle for it.
Who do you think has a chance to make the roster come October? Have your say in the comment section.
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Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.