The Toronto Maple Leafs recently rang in 2016 by defeating the always tough St. Louis Blues by a score of 4-1. It was a good game for many of the players, including Jonathan Bernier, who was nothing short of spectacular as he made save after save. It was a good start for the Buds, who have made some interesting news over the last few days.
This edition of Maple Leafs News will focus on James Reimer’s nagging injury, the Richard Panik for Jeremy Morin trade and the Leafs prospects at the World Juniors.
Frustrated Reimer Kept Out with Injury
Everything was trending in the the right direction for James Reimer. Jonathan Bernier was having a season to forget, which allowed Reimer to take the starters reins and run with the job. He was the number one goaltender and had posted impressive stats in his short tenure. Then came the injury.
He initially hurt his groin during a Leafs practice on November 24th. Reimer then missed the next nine days while he recuperated and tried to come back strong. He made his return to the Leafs net in early December against the Minnesota Wild. He lost a close game to the Wild by a score of 1-0, but more worrying than the loss was the fact that Reimer re-aggrevated his injury, which placed him on the shelf once again.
The Leafs went on to later play the New York Islanders. After Bernier was shelled, Reimer took to the crease at the start of the third. The Manitoba native felt fine, despite having to play the next night against Pittsburgh. But something felt off the next morning, which caused the Leafs to turn back to Bernier out of necessity once again.
Reimer recently took part in a full Leafs practice, which suggests this latest injury isn’t as bad as many feared. Still, it must be a pain for Reimer, who was having an excellent season, to lose all these games and possibly his starters job due to injury.
Introducing Jeremy Morin
Sunday night saw the Leafs make a minor-league deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. The trade saw the Hawks picking up Marlies forward Richard Panik, while the Maple Leafs came away with Jeremy Morin.
Morin, who was originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, has played in 82 NHL games between the Hawks and Columbus Blue Jackets and has put up 22 points and 69 penalty minutes. He spent much of this season with the Rockford Ice Hogs in the AHL, where he put up 22 points in 28 games.
The Leafs look to be adding more younger bodies with a chance of cracking the lineup in the future. Panik was productive in the AHL, but didn’t appear to be given the chance to move up to the big club. Morin will either have a shot at playing under Mike Babcock’s system, or will be flipped later on as the Leafs continue their rebuild.
It’s another young prospect for the new Toronto regime, which has quietly continued to make smart player development moves.
Maple Leafs Prospects at the Juniors
At the beginning of the tournament the Leafs sent five players to represent them. Canada had Mitch Marner and Travis Dermott, Sweden took William Nylander and Dmytro Timashov while host Finland was given Kasperi Kapanen.
Of the five names listed, there are technically only two left active. Marner and Dermott were both eliminated in the quarterfinals as Finland narrowly edged Canada by a score of 6-5. William Nylander will miss the rest of the tournament with a concussion courtesy of a hit by Swiss forward Chris Egli, who was later ejected for the illegal head check. Egli was also later suspended three games by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Being knocked out of action was a huge disappointment for Nylander, who was expected to dominate the tournament and be a treat to watch. In his place, Timashov has stepped up and put Leafs management on notice.
Host nation Finland will now be playing for the gold on home soil after defeating Sweden by a very close 2-1 margin. Kasperi Kapanen had a couple of assists to help his team reach the finals. They will play the winner of the game between Russia and the United States. Of the five, only one remains with a shot at gold. That experience should serve both Kapanen and the Leafs well as he continues to develop.