In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a last look at some of the events of the Maple Leafs Development Camp. Two of the young prospects – Fraser Minten and Matt Knies – spent considerable time playing together. Could this be a foreshadowing of what might be coming in a few years with the team?
Second, last night’s trade between the Calgary Flames and the Florida Panthers is interesting in several ways. I’ll look at one of the things it might suggest is happening in the NHL – star players leaning toward playing in the United States. Of course, this might have an impact on Auston Matthews’ relationship with the organization. I’ll explore that briefly.
Item One: Fraser Minten Looks Solid at Development Camp
Fraser Minten, the Maple Leafs’ first choice in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft (round-two, 38th overall) had a strong camp. When the camp was breaking and the players and coaches were getting ready to disperse, Hayley Wickenheiser (the team’s Assistant General Manager and head of player development) shared that Minten was a “Great kid, very smooth on the ice. He’s very young and physically, obviously, his explosive power and strength are going to come with time.”
She then looked into Minten’s future and suggested “But you can see that he thinks the game really well. We’re just trying to encourage him to play the game, not over-think situations because he’s so cerebral on the ice. But those are the skills that he has are very projectable into the way I think he can become an NHL player.”
For much of the development camp, Minten and Matt Knies were paired together on the ice. Perhaps, a quick look into the Maple Leafs’ future? Minten is a center now playing with the WHL’s (Western Hockey League) Kamloops Blazers; and, Knies is a left-winger from the University of Minnesota who will finish off his second season before he reports to the Maple Leafs in the Spring.
The twosome played together much the time. Knies had good things to say about his young center. “He obviously is an incredible player. Super smart, skates well, two-way guy. Was fun to play with him.”
When Minten was asked if he’d like to be on a line with Knies in the future, of course he said he would. But his response suggests that he knows that time is probably a ways away. He noted, “It’d be a cool thing to dream about for sure.”
However, Minten realistically added, “Long way to go for both of us, though. But I think he’s a really good guy. I got to know him this week and playing with him was really fun.” (from “Leafs prospects Fraser Minten, Matt Knies get a glimpse of a possible future together,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 22/07/2022)
Item Two: Does the Matthew Tkachuk Move Suggest Players Are Going South?
The Matthew Tkachuk trade to the Florida Panthers last night for what seems like a good return is interesting for a number of reasons. It raises two quick questions for me. First, do more US-born NHL players want to leave Canada for the USA? Second, does this mean anything for the Auston Matthews and Maple Leafs’ future?
Perhaps it’s too soon to suggest a pattern and too random to suggest it might impact Matthews’ future with the Maple Leafs, but it does suggest possibilities. There does seem to be an exodus of elite American players to the United States.
The Calgary Flames lost both Johnny Gaudreau (born in New Jersey) and last night Tkachuk (born of all places in Phoenix when his father played with the Coyotes). The Winnipeg Jets also seem to be losing American players.
Is playing in the United States preferred over playing in Canada? The weather might be seen as better. Who doesn’t want to get out of the snow and cold? The income tax is less on high incomes (like NHL hockey players). Who doesn’t want to keep more of his money?
Item Three: Three Reasons Why Auston Matthews Might Choose to Move
Two days ago, I wrote a small section of my News & Rumors post about the possibility of Matthews pulling a Tkachuk and telling the Maple Leafs’ organization he would rather play at home in Arizona rather than in Toronto. At that time, a THW reader suggested that I was engaging in a practice called “click baiting.” It isn’t a happy thought that Matthews could be leaving.
Unlike Tkachuk, who was rumored to want to move to five US-based teams all in warmer climates and all who have been successful recently in the playoffs, I don’t think it’s anywhere else but Toronto for Matthews. I think Matthews likes the pressure and the microscope that players in Toronto face daily. He seems to have a mental toughness and a huge confidence that says “Bring it on!”
Still, I see at least three reasons why Matthews might want to move home to Phoenix. First, he just might want to be home. If John Tavares dreamed of playing in Toronto, why wouldn’t Matthews dream of playing with the Coyotes?
Second, he might want to take charge of the hockey situation in Arizona and be the captain of the ship that once and for all firmly establishes hockey in his home city. In that, I see him as being different from Tkachuk. Tkachuk, from what the rumors suggested, wanted to go to a winner already. Matthews, I believe, has enough confidence and fire in his belly to believe he can be the single leader who can lift a team from the basement to the top of the NHL.
Third, Matthews might want to set up his financial future. From a very generalized estimate of how Arizona’s state income taxes work, it could be that Matthews would take home almost an extra $1 million on a base salary of $11 million.
I’m just saying that he might be interested in moving.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
With the player development camp over, the young prospects move on to wherever they’ll be for the coming season. It will be interesting to see how they perform. They looked good during the camp, but they’re amongst their peers – players about the same level.
It’s a huge jump from where they were in junior hockey to professional hockey. Some will falter and some will shine. Who’s who in the organization will be great to track.
Let me give a shoutout to two of our young Maple Leafs’ writers with The Hockey Writers – Alex Hobson and Peter Baracchini. If you don’t read their posts regularly, I encourage you to do so. They are far more on top of the young players in the organization than I am.