Heading into the weekend, the Toronto Maple Leafs are finishing off a successful season. They currently hold a 44-20-10 record with 98 points and a points percentage of .662.
Barring a crater, which would include both a significant decline in their own play and a huge uptick in the play of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Maple Leafs will secure the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division. This means another first-round playoff matchup with the Lightning. While the Lightning are also having a strong season, they will have to flip a switch to successfully return to the Stanley Cup Final.
Latest News & Highlights
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at what news is emerging from the team as they prepare to face the playoff-starved Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Item One: Goalie Prospect Dennis Hildeby Heads to Toronto
Dennis Hildeby, a goalie prospect for the Maple Leafs, has been reassigned to the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Toronto Marlies from the Swedish Hockey League’s Farjestad. He had been playing in Sweden this season, where he recorded a 2.26 goals-against-average with a .918 save percentage in 21 games.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Prospect Hildeby Rising Among Swedish Goalies
The Maple Leafs drafted Hildeby with the 122nd overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the team in July. How he will spend his time with the Marlies is up in the air as they prepare for their own postseason; however, the organization is high on his potential.
Item Two: Jake McCabe Has Landed Well in Toronto
Defenseman Jake McCabe has scored only one goal and one assist in 14 games with the Maple Leafs this season. However, he’s become one of the team’s top shutdown defenders when partnering with T.J. Brodie.
This season, he’s taken on a new role, different from the one he had with the Chicago Blackhawks. While McCabe has matched his career-high in points with 22 in 69 games, he’s only registered two points with Toronto, which suggests he’s focusing more on defence and has proven to be valuable.
Item Three: Zach Aston-Reese Scores Rare Goal Against the Panthers
In Wednesday’s game against the Florida Panthers, Zach Aston-Reese scored a rare goal when he deflected a point shot from Brodie early in the second period to tie the game at 1-1. However, he could have had two goals during the game.
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He missed a chance to give his team the lead later in the period when he was stopped by Panthers goalie Alex Lyon on a penalty shot. Still, Aston-Reese has developed on the team’s fourth line, with eight goals and three assists (for 11 points) on the season.
He also has 143 hits, which leads the team. No surprise – Justin Holl is second in hits on the team with 135. However, now that Rasmus Sandin has gone to the Washington Capitals, John Tavares ranks third on the list. I would not have guessed that.
Item Four: William Nylander Is on a Cold Streak
William Nylander has suddenly gone cold, with only two points over his last eight games. This slump came out of nowhere, and about a week ago, he sounded off on his lack of offence.
Nylander said, “I haven’t been happy about my game. I’ve been pissed off about it. It happens, and you just have to dig yourself out of it.”
However, before this slump, Nylander had points in 12 of his previous 13 games, with 20 points, including seven goals and 13 assists. Look for him to break out on Saturday against the Senators.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Those who follow the Maple Leafs will recall the deadline deal that sent Dryden Hunt to the Calgary Flames for Radim Zohorna. Zohorna is a 6-foot-6 center from the Czech Republic.
Related: Ex-Maple Leafs’ Defenseman Jake Gardiner: Where Is He Now?
Earlier today, Zohorna was recalled to the Maple Leafs on an emergency basis. In eight NHL games this season, he has yet to register a point, but he had scored a goal and an assist in six games with the Marlies. Before the trade, he had 10 goals and 29 points in 40 AHL games with the Flames’ AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat.
Because the Maple Leafs recently moved goalie Joseph Woll to the AHL, and because Bobby McMann has been injured and might miss some time, the Maple Leafs decided to bring Zohorna up until Ryan O’Reilly returns after the weekend.
Zohorna might partner with his Czech countryman David Kampf on the team’s fourth line.