Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Holmberg, Hunt & Aube-Kubel

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at news emerging from the team as they prepare to play the Winnipeg Jets tonight. The Jets have had a tough start to their five-game road trip, losing 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

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The Maple Leafs had a stirring comeback to beat the Florida Panthers 5-4 in overtime on home ice Tuesday. Ilya Samsonov, who relieved Matt Murray in goal, and William Nylander, who scored two goals in the game, were the team’s heroes in the win.

Item One: Pontus Holmberg Moves Back to the AHL

Pontus Holmberg was sent back to the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Toronto Marlies on Wednesday. He missed his last two games with an undisclosed illness, but he’s healthy enough now. 

Pontus Holmberg Toronto Maple Leafs
Pontus Holmberg, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s been a solid season for the 23-year-old Swedish winger who, in a bottom-six role with the Maple Leafs, has gained a reputation for not making many mistakes and providing secondary scoring. Holmberg has scored four goals and seven assists (for 11 points) in 28 NHL games this season.

His return to the Marlies is a bit of a mystery; however, there are several possible reasons, including a combination of allowing the big club to see how either Bobby McMann or Dryden Hunt might do with more playing time or a chance to give Alex Kerfoot a chance to play center, which seems to be in the cards. Kerfoot will slot in as the fourth-line center against the Jets. Finally, it might also be a chance to give Holmberg a lot of playing time in the Marlies’ top six. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Holmberg: Shining Example of Organizational Depth

Latest News & Highlights

Despite his success, Holmberg is averaging just over 10 minutes a game (10:28 TOI). It could simply be that the organization believes he would get a jolt from playing heavier minutes in the AHL. He scored a goal in the Marlies’ shootout win against the Belleville Senators on Wednesday.

Item Two: Dryden Hunt: Three Goals, Three Teams

Dryden Hunt is now a trivia question. He became the first NHLer since Ilya Kovalchuk in 2019-20 (with the Los Angeles Kings, Canadiens, and Washington Capitals) to score a goal for three different teams in one season. 

Hunt only has three goals on the season in three games with the New York Rangers, 25 games with the Colorado Avalanche, and now eight games with the Maple Leafs. 

Item Three:: Projected Lineup for Tonight’s Game Against the Jets

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines


Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

Calle Jarnkrok – John Tavares – Mitchell Marner

Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Zach Aston-Reese

Dryden Hunt – Alexander Kerfoot – Bobby McMann


Timothy Liljegren – Morgan Rielly

Justin Holl – Mark Giordano

Conor Timmins – Jordie Benn

Starting Goalie

Matt Murray

Item Five: What’s Happening with Nicolas Aube-Kubel?

One player who just couldn’t make it work with the Maple Leafs is Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Aube-Kubel signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Maple Leafs in July 2022 after spending most of the 2021-2022 season with the Avalanche, where he scored 11 goals and 11 assists (for 22 points).

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He was brought to the Maple Leafs because of his physical play after he had totaled 123 hits in 67 games, playing in a bottom-six role last season. However, after only six games with the Maple Leafs, it was clear the experiment was not going to work, and he was placed on waivers – and immediately claimed by the Capitals. 

On Nov. 11, Aube-Kubel showed his physical side when he checked Tampa Bay Lightning Cal Foote to the head. He was suspended for three games (until Nov. 19) by the NHL Department of Player Safety, who ruled that Foote’s head was his main point of contact and that the contact was avoidable.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel Colorado Avalanche
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, when he was with the Colorado Avalanche.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Aube-Kubel was then a healthy scratch for 10 games, but after an upper-body injury to Lars Eller, he was put into the lineup. He registered two assists in a 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 14, his first two points of the season. 

On Jan. 6, Aube-Kubel scored his first goal of the season in a 6-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets after being a healthy scratch in the previous two games. He now has two goals and four assists in 15 games on the season, as well as 25 penalty minutes.

It’s been a bit of a down season for Aube-Kubel. He’s playing in a spotty role with the Capitals, sometimes in the lineup and sometimes out.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Depth defenceman Victor Mete, who suffered a lower-body injury against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 5 after getting hit into the boards, traveled with the team on their most recent road trip. 

He’s back skating, but there’s no word yet on his possible return date.

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