Maple Leafs News: Preseason Notes and the Fourth Line Center

The preseason is officially in full swing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. After dropping a pair of games to the Ottawa Senators, the Leafs rebounded with a couple solid efforts as they won both games against the Buffalo Sabres.

Next up on the docket is two games with the Montreal Canadiens and two with the Detroit Red Wings.

After that, it’s all about waiting for opening night when the Leafs will travel to Winnipeg to take on the Patrick Laine and the Jets. The preseason has seen some great moments from a bevy of players. Most of the team is locked in, but there are open spots on both forward and defense that are currently being highly contested.

Preseason Defenseman Notes

A lot of the preseason hype has been centered around the Swedish defensemen that the Leafs signed back in May. Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman have made their presence felt throughout the exhibition games.

Borgman is a swift skater who makes an excellent first pass. The reigning SHL rookie of the year also brings a physical edge to his game which was on full display against the Sabres. He lined up Evan Rodrigues with a perfectly clean hit that left the forward lying in a heap on the ice. Mike Babcock, the Leafs head coach, is always appreciative of a bit of physical play from his defenseman.

Borgman also looked a little lost during some of the preseason games. It helped when he was paired with Travis Dermott, who is a vocal leader on the ice and not was not afraid to guide the young Swede.

Rosen has also really impressed whenever he’s hit the ice. He’s a few years older than Borgman and has more pro experience playing n the SHL. He’s stood out in the preseason for a variety of reasons.

He’s an excellent and fluid skater. That’s something the Leafs have tried to build a team out of and Rosen fits the mold perfectly. He makes an intelligent first pass, has a bullet of a shot and isn’t afraid to jump into the rush and get a shot off. The Swede joined the attack numerous times against Buffalo and looked calm and collected each time.

As of Monday morning, Rosen is skating with a group of Leafs regulars, while Borgman and Dermott are not. It’s too early to call who makes the team, but if you’re Rosen, this is surely a good sign.

The Battle for the Fourth Line Center

Miro Aaltonen
(Miro Aaltonen taking the draw. Photo: Sergei Manzheleyev,

When the Leafs went and signed Dominic Moore over the summer, many thought it was a foregone conclusion that he would anchor the fourth line. He was an NHL veteran, a good faceoff man and could provide a crucial bit of leadership to the Leafs young superstars.

Enter Miro Aaltonen. The Leafs scouting overseas has been on point the last few years and the feisty Finn was signed out of the KHL after a 44 point season. Babcock loves hardworking players and Aaltonen has impressed many with his play thus far.

There’s also Eric Fehr to consider. Another veteran presence, Fehr is the epitome of a good pro. He works hard and does all the little things right. The fourth line center spot is Moore’s to lose, either through his own error or he’s forced out by either Aaltonen or Fehr.

It will be interesting to see what direction Babcock goes with the fourth line this year. He could want a solid group that is able to eat some minutes and play a regular shift. He could want defensive specialists with some scoring touch. The third option would be a scoring line with the likes of Aaltonen, Kasperi Kapanen and Connor Brown.

For my money’s worth, I think the Leafs bottom line with will be Moore, Brown and Matt Martin to start the year. Anything can happen in the NHL, so don’t be surprised to see a rotating cast of characters throughout the year.