Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Where Do Bunting, Kampf & Kase Stand?

After the Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ offseason moves, a number of the Maple Leafs acquisitions seemed destined to make the team. Those players were Michael Bunting, Nick Ritchie, and David Kampf. Ondrej Kase was a bit of a special case because of his recent history with concussions. 

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After a week of training camp and three preseason games, nothing much seems to have changed with those players. That is, with the exception that Kase. He’s been playing big minutes during the preseason (more than 19 minutes in last night’s game). So far, so good. He’s shown no issues with those concussions. Maple Leafs’ fans can only hope that continues and he stays concussion free.

A Quick Recap of the Maple Leafs Preseason Game 3

Last night, it was the Ottawa Senators against the Maple Leafs for Toronto’s third preseason game. Because both teams sat a large number of their veteran players, that gave the players fighting for roster positions a chance to show they belonged. The final 4-0 score must have made the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff happy; however, it couldn’t be fun being on the other end of that score if you were the Senators.

Tracking the game, after the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Maple Leafs dominated. In the end, the Maple Leafs had almost twice as many shots (36-19) as the Senators. And that seemed about right as a reflection of the game. 

The Maple Leafs played good defense all over the ice and really didn’t give up much – no breakaways or clean two-on-ones the entire game. That too has to be heartening for the coaching staff. In net, goalie Petr Mrazek played well but really had to make only two or three really good saves throughout the game. 

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll make some assessments about where the new players stand after these three preseason games. However, because Ritchie hasn’t played outside of the second game, I’ll leave his status alone for now. He seems to be settled into a top-six role. 

Item One: Assessment of Michael Bunting 

If you wanted to come in and impress your new bosses, Michael Bunting couldn’t have done much better. He scored a hat trick in last night’s win. After Kampf’s second goal of the preseason in the first period, it was all Bunting all the time. 

Bunting’s first goal came on the power play 15:41 into the second. Not much more than two minutes later, he scored another power play goal to give his team a 3-0 lead. During the final period, with under two minutes left in the game, he finished off his hat trick with his third power-play goal of the night.  

Bunting solidified his place on the team and, in fact, seems to be a lock on the top six. He shares so many characteristics of the Departed One (Zach Hyman); and, if he continues to bang home or deflect in shots in front of the net, it will take the sting out of that departure in a hurry. 

Item Two: Assessment of David Kampf 

Kampf looks so good out there and seems exquisitely happy to play in his shutdown role. After the game, head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that Kampf helps the team’s depth at center and reported that having a player like Kampf was “something I think our team has really needed the last couple of seasons: that extra depth at center ice. He is a guy whose strength is on the penalty kill and he welcomes defensive assignments.”

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Keefe went on to add that “Alex Kerfoot has done a lot of that work for us. To have the extra support here now with Kampf not only helps Kerf but also helps Matthews and Tavares as well. They have taken on really the bulk of the responsibility. That just gives us extra options and allows us to spread ice time around a little bit better.” 

Keefe’s final comment was that, “If we ever want to put Kerfoot on the wing, we have the support there. A lot of really good things come from that addition.”

David Kampf Chicago Blackhawks
David Kampf, when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Reading between the lines, there might be two thoughts grounding Keefe’s comments. First, is Keefe suggesting that he might cut Matthews’ ice time? When he says that Matthews and Tavares have carried the “bulk of the responsibility,” does he see the possibility of balancing that responsibility out a bit more? If so, that seems like a sagacious move. Having the top lines more rested for the playoffs never seems to be a bad thing.

Second, although Keefe noted it this way – “if we ever want to put Kerfoot on the wing” – it’s on his mind to do so. That move (putting Kerfoot at wing) could happen more often this season. Kerfoot was strong in the playoffs and that flexibility could help the team.

Item Three: Assessment of Ondrej Kase

Kase has now played in the last two preseason games. He scored a goal in his first game and added an assist last night. I’ve been surprised Kase has played, and I just hope he’s not one hit away from another concussion. My sense is that will be the feeling of many Maple Leafs’ fans for most of the season. 

Kase obviously brings a strong offensive skill set to the Maple Leafs and I hope he’s able to continue. If so, what a find. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Blue and White game will be played on Friday night. From what I hear, the team will make its first cuts following that game. 

Two thoughts. This team is going to be faster than last season’s team. On the defensive side, it will also be more mobile. Dubas seems to have added players who not only bring a physical hardworking type of game but who, for the most part, can skate well.  

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My frequent co-writer Stan Smith emailed me to say that, although it depends on who does and doesn’t clear waivers, he believes the Marlies are going to have a really good team as well. He’s considering buying a subscription to the AHL games so he can watch all the Marlies games.

I get it that, for so many Maple Leafs’ fans, it will be hard to be anything but cynical about the team’s chances this season. Let’s hope that the mood changes during the regular season. 

Of course, no matter what happens during the regular season, the Maple Leafs will never win during the playoffs. Will they?

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