Maple Leafs Commentary: Projected Lineup If Season Began Now

Although there remains an uneasy sense that Toronto Maple Leafs’ dealing is far from done, it seemed like a good time to review what has happened with the team to date and speculate what the team’s opening game lineup might look like. 

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If the Maple Leafs began the 2022-23 season right now, what would the starting lineup look like? A lot of questions remain. For example, will Rasmus Sandin be signed by the opening game? Will a player be moved so that might occur? Which goalie might emerge quickly out of the gate?

Two Caveats to Ground This Speculation

Obviously, in an odd sense, there’s not really much time remaining – about five weeks – between now and the beginning of the regular season on October 12 against the Montreal Canadiens. However, in preseason time, there’s a space where a lot can happen over the next month. 

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Given that the first preseason game is scheduled for September 24, which is just over two weeks away, what might the Maple Leafs’ starting lineup look like? 

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Will Alex Kerfoot be with the Maple Leafs when the season begins?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In creating this projected lineup, I’ve engaged two caveats. The first caveat is that players who make my projected starting lineup must be those currently signed by the Maple Leafs. That means that Sandin will not be projected into this starting roster. 

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The second caveat is that even players who might be on a list to be moved before the start of the regular season, such as Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl, will be part of the lineup because they’re still on the roster.

Projected Lineups, If the Season Began Right Now

Looking at what lineup might be iced by the Maple Leafs if the puck were to be dropped to begin the 2022-23 regular season, who would be in the team’s lineup?

Projected Lineup: Forward Lines

Maple Leafs First-Line: Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Mitchell Marner

Maple Leafs Second-Line: Alex Kerfoot – John Tavares – William Nylander

Maple Leafs Third-Line:: Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Calle Jarnkrok

Maple Leafs Fourth-Line: Joey Anderson – Adam Gaudette – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Notes and Comments: Actually, when I look at the makeup of the first three Maple Leafs’ lines, they seem pretty set to me. Sure, Kerfoot has been thought to be on the move before the regular season began; but, for now, he’s still here. Obviously, Nick Robertson might jump to the second line. But, it seems to me that Kerfoot gets the second-line left-wing spot, and Robertson does not.

The Maple Leafs are noted to be seeking a stronger option at the left-wing spot, but the longer the preseason goes by without movement the more I wonder if a move will be made. 

I can see the logic of the third line remaining as solid in its makeup as the first line. While other Maple Leafs’ fans might disagree with that line, and it might change, I like it.

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The fun for me is on the fourth line. The team has a number of players who might make this fourth line. I’d like to see Joey Anderson jump up from the Toronto Marlies to start the season, but I can see Nick Robertson as a wild card. I just don’t know where Robertson fits into the lineup right now. So, for me, I have left him out for now.

Projected Lineup: Defensive Pairings

Maple Leafs First Pairing: Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie

Maple Leafs Second Pairing: Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl

Maple Leafs Third Pairing: Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren

Comments: Given how well the first pairing of Rielly and Brodie works, it seems to me to be set. Muzzin and Holl played well together two seasons ago; however, both struggled last season. For some reason, Muzzin came back during the postseason and had a strong showing. If his variety of injuries (especially his concussions) are behind him, it’s hard not to pencil him into this spot with his old partner Holl. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Can Jake Muzzin have a rebound season with the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Holl was a healthy scratch toward the end of the season, but he’s still here and I believe head coach Sheldon Keefe will rely on history to try that pairing one more time. 

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Liljegren played well with Giordano; and, at least for the beginning of the season, using those two together seems like a no-brainer. I see Liljegren moving up this season, but probably not at the beginning of the season.

Projected Lineup: Goalies

Maple Leafs Goalie 1A: Matt Murray

Maple Leafs Goalie 1B: Ilya Samsonov

Comments: At the start of the season, I think Murray gets the nod simply because of the optics of the situation. It should be his job to lose and watching to see how the goalie situation plays out should be interesting. 

Ilya Samsonov Washington Capitals
Ilya Samsonov when he was with the Washington Capitals
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The question about who might be the new Michael Bunting might end up as a surprise. Could it be Samsonov in goal? He seems to have had the potential and the athleticism, but can he seize the starting role? If he does, it might be as the season progresses.

Right now, despite the space of seasons between Murray’s success with the Pittsburgh Penguins and right now, he has the strongest pedigree. For me, that gives him the nod as the team’s starter when the regular season begins.

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

As the regular season progresses, it seems pretty lame to say that things will happen. But, they will. Players will surprise, for both good and bad. Injuries will necessitate movements. 

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But, for now, as it stands this seems like a reasonable lineup projection. I’m certain readers will have their own thoughts. I’m anxious to read them.