In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at three of the newcomers to the Maple Leafs’ roster. The initial play of Ilya Samsonov, Callie Jarnkrok, and Adam Gaudette had to have been impressive for even some of the most jaded Maple Leafs’ fans. Small sample size aside, it was a good showing for these three newcomers.
Item One: Ilya Samsonov Has Strong Start in First Preseason Game
Given the ire of Maple Leafs’ fans about the team’s goalie situation, it was hard for me to know what to expect. On paper, the bet that one of the new goalies on the roster – either Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov – might have a solid season seemed logical. But I blinked. There had been so much derision tossed at Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ goalie choices that it was hard (at least for me) to expect much.
What I saw was reassuring. Samsonov seemed solid in his first start in the Maple Leafs’ net. I know it was only our initial look at the youngster in goal, but on this small “n” of only two periods of play, he looked good. He seemed calm in the net and made some tough saves when he needed to.
In the end, Samsonov stopped every one of the 16 shots he faced in his two periods of game action. The team lost its second exhibition game to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, but that wasn’t on Samsonov at all.
Reviewing his time in the net, during the first period Samsonov didn’t have much action. His team continued to control the game in front of him as it had during the first game of the doubleheader. In the first game, after a first goal by the Senator’s newly-signed Tim Stutzle, the Maple Leafs simply carried the game the rest of the way.
However, during the second period, Samsonov was tested a few times. He passed and looked sharp doing so. He was solid his entire time in the net.
Item Two: Calle Jarnkrok Seems to Be a Sheldon Keefe Favorite
Yesterday, it was reported that Maple Leafs’ newcomer (but long-time NHL veteran) Calle Jarnkrok had “intrigued” coach Keefe with his skill level. Perhaps that’s why, rather than simply slot Jarnkrok into the vacated third-line spot Ilya Mikheyev handled last season, Keefe began training camp by skating Jarnkrok on the same line as Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting.
Jarnkrok’s two goals in the second preseason game didn’t hurt his cause. Still, it would be tough to see the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff slot Jarnkrok into a first-line spot and move Mitch Marner more permanently onto the second line with John Tavares. If anything, it might mean that Jarnkrok might get a longer look with Tavares and William Nylander.
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As Keefe noted during camp, “I think he (Jarnkrok) has the skill set to be able (to play in the top six).” Keefe added, “Whether it’s (with) Auston or John. He has the ability to do that. He can play anywhere in our lineup.”
Item Three: Adam Gaudette Looks Good on the Team’s Second Line
Again, in a small “n” of one game, the Maple Leafs might have found a player in Adam Gaudette. He looked good skating on the team’s second line during training camp. During his first taste of game action, he didn’t look out of place.
Gaudette added speed to a line with Tavares and Marner. The threesome generated a number of good scoring chances. It was also interesting that Gaudette also was given some time playing on the first power play unit.
What impressed me most was his play without the puck. He was solid in both forechecking and back-checking. That, to me, just showed he was speedy and sound defensively. The offensive chemistry should grow.
In a between-period interview, Gaudette recognized the opportunity that’s been given to him by the Maple Leafs. It will be interesting to see where he lands with the team. But, so far he looks as if he should find a roster spot. Furthermore, it looks as if the team is giving him every chance to compete for a spot. He seems far from a bubble player.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Samsonov was the key goalie who played yesterday. He looked solid in his first start in the blue and white uniform. Wednesday night, Maple Leafs’ fans will be able to see partner Matt Murray play against the Montreal Canadiens.
Thus far, a number of newcomers have not disappointed. Zach Aston-Reese and Nicolas Aube-Kubel also looked as if they would be value-added to the team. So far, so good.
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The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf