Maple Leafs Lounge: Matthews, Second Toronto Team & Prospects

The writers who cover the Toronto Maple Leafs get together once a week in the Maple Leafs Lounge. We discuss hot topics, stories in development and articles we’ve written. This week, we talked about the second appearance for Auston Matthews on the EA Sports NHL video game cover, possible Arizona Coyotes relocation to Toronto and the Leafs’ top prospects.

Is Matthews Public Enemy Number 1?

Auston Matthews is on the EA Sports NHL video game cover for the second time in three years. Suppose you’re not familiar with EA Sports. In that case, it is the leading video game creator for several sports with titles like Madden, FIFA, NBA Live, UFC, F1 and PGA. Not only is it rare for an athlete to get on the EA Sports cover twice, but it’s also the first time a player has done it two times in just three years.

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While some celebrated that Matthews pulled off this feat, many others used it to hate on the Maple Leafs’ franchise player. I admitted that I didn’t believe it when I first saw the announcement. However, I was also surprised by the amount of animosity about the choice. “It makes me think Matthews is public enemy number one out there now. Forget the Tom Wilsons and the Brad Marchands of the world. A lot of people don’t like Toronto as we’ve talked about on the show, and now they’ve got the poster boy in their face again and more hate out there.”

Peter Baracchini admitted he was surprised by the decision too. Still, he wasn’t surprised by the reaction, “I could understand why, because there are other athletes out there like Pasta (David Pasternak) maybe throw in a Leon Driastial. Sidney Crosby hasn’t been on the cover.” However, Barachini said Matthews is marketable and a face of the NHL.

The Toronto Coyotes? And Other Relocation Possibilities

It could be posturing, but at this point, the Arizona Coyotes do not have a home next season. The Coyotes leaving Arizona is an annual discussion, and it raises the debate about possible relocation destinations. Anytime that topic comes up, so does the potential second team in Toronto dream. I’ve always liked the idea of another team in southern Ontario. There have been several attempts to make this a reality in the past two decades. Jim Balsillie, the former head of BlackBerry (Research in Motion), tried three times to get another team in Ontario. Nevertheless, all the attempts are killed for one reason or another.

I told the panel, “The Maple Leafs are still going to sell out. It’s still going to cost hundreds of dollars to go to every game, and guess what? Toronto team number two would still sell out and still cost a lot of money to go to as well. That money then gets funnelled around throughout the rest of the League, and the whole League is healthy as opposed to having teams on life support like the Coyotes for the last two decades.”

Arizona Coyotes Reverse Retro jersey
Arizona Coyotes had a Reverse Retro jersey but can’t reverse the problems plaguing the franchise. (NHL/adidas)

The Old Prof, Jim Parsons, understands the argument but believes a team should go to underrepresented areas. One idea was Milwaukee, “I mean, the Green Bay Packers are sold out. I mean, they are a winter community, and it just strikes me that winter communities support hockey better than the sunshine states.” That said, Parsons would also like to see another Canadian team, “I love eastern Canada, and it strikes me that eastern Canada could have a team, and I really like the idea of Quebec City too; there’s such a history there.”

Maple Leafs Top Ten Prospects

The Hockey Writers’ Head of Prospects and Draft, Peter Baracchini, updated his Maple Leafs prospect rankings. The number one spot is not a surprise. Nick Robertson is seemingly on the brink of making the NHL roster. But, Baracchini divided the top spot, assigning Rodion Amirov with the 1B spot.

Amirov, the Leafs’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, played in the KHL last year and was a leader for Russia at the World Juniors Hockey Championship. While Robertson has been playing with the AHL Marlies and had a few chances at earning NHL ice time.

1A.Nick Robertson
1B.Rodion Amirov
3.Timothy Lilegren
4.Topi Niemela
5.Roni Hirvonen
6.Veeti Mietinnen
7.Matthew Knies
8.Nick Abruzzese
9.Mikhail Abramov
10Mikko Kokkonen
Peter’s Top Ten Leafs Prospects

Baracchini explained that it is just too close to call between the two prospects, “I’ve always gone 1-2-3-4, but in this case, I just had to give it as sort of like a mini tie between both of them because it’s hard to choose.” He reported that Amirov has been developing and will be a force when training camp opens. “He’s got a solid two-way game. He’s great on the forecheck in the backcheck, but his skill and patience and speed. Earlier this week, he had the puck, and he was just dancing around the whole entire team, and he set up his teammate for a goal. That to me right there, that just solidified him as not just a second overall prospect, but he is a first overall or top prospect in this system.”

Team Russia Rodion Amirov
Rodion Amirov of Team Russia (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

Watch for more on Peter’s Prospects list in a story later this week. We value your feedback. Do you think Matthews is public enemy number one? Should Toronto get a second NHL team? What other areas should be considered for a relocation destination? We will be reading the best responses on the next show. Also, if you have a topic you’d like discussed in the Maple Leafs Lounge, please leave it in the comment section.

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