Following the franchise that is the Toronto Maple Leafs very rarely, if ever, has a dull moment. Take the past few days for example. The Leafs centennial season is fast approaching, so they are getting a new uniform and logo to celebrate. Steven Stamkos liked an article about him coming to Toronto again, which of course sent everyone, myself included, into a mini frenzy. There is always something going on in hockey mad Toronto.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News, we’re going to discuss a couple of very important topics. The first is Jonathan Bernier’s return to the NHL, which will be happening on Tuesday night against the Lightning. We’ll also check out Leaf prospects who are still alive at their respective World Junior training camps.
Jonathan Bernier came into the year as the clear favourite between the pipes. Armed with his new contract, Bernier was ready to take the reigns for good and show why the Leafs invested so much in him. But something went wrong. Bernier fell flat out of the gate, and started the 2015-16 year by going winless in nine starts. He also sported a much less than ideal 3.28 goals-against average and a .888 save percentage.
The Leafs knew they had to do something drastic to help their beleaguered netminder find his confidence. The final decision came down and in a rare move, Bernier was sent to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on a conditioning stint. Bernier was not injured, so this move was made purely for his game mentality and confidence.
Bernier responded in perfect fashion. He played four game with the Marlies and recorded three straight shutouts before being lit up for five goals during his final start. He leaves the Marlies with a stellar .948 save percentage. James Reimer is still hurting, so it was announced today that Bernier will get his first start back in the NHL against the Steven Stamkos led Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bernier went 3-0-1 with the Marlies on conditioning stint (.948 save percentage). Gave up five goals yesterday after 3 straight shutouts.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) December 14, 2015
Bernier is going to be tested early and often, and Leaf fans will truly get to see if the time spent in the AHL helped the former first round pick get his head right.
Maple Leafs Prospects at the World Juniors
The World Junior tournament is a staple of the holidays in Canada. It gives fans a chance to see some of the most exciting young players in the world compete against each other for the right to win a gold medal and bragging rights. The Maple Leafs appear to have some skilled prospects going overseas to represent them, although not all rosters have been finalized.
The most recent news was the Leafs releasing Kasperi Kapanen to play for Finland at the tournament. Kapanen racked up ten points in 17 games for Marlies so far this season. The former 22nd pick of the 2014 NHL Draft was acquired by the Maple Leafs in the trade that sent Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh.
Over to Canada’s camp now. The Buds had two players attempting make the Canadian roster, forward Mitch Marner and defenseman Travis Dermott. Both prospects were selected by the Leafs in the most recent draft. Both have also survived the initial round of cuts but will have to continue impressing through a couple more pre-tournament games over in Finland.
Sweden should feature a couple Maple Leafs draft picks if everything goes according to plan. The Blue and White will make a decision on whether or not to send William Nylander, the AHL’s leading scorer, to Sweden’s camp. The call is expected to come down at the end of the week.
Don’t forget Dmytro Timashov, the forward the Buds selected 125th overall last year. He’s been absolutely ripping it up for the Quebec Remparts, where he has put up 53 points in only 29 games. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Nylander and Timashov would make quite the duo for the Swedes, and would make a strong team even tougher to play against.