The long wait for hockey is nearly over. The Toronto Maple Leafs will be taking to the ice for training camp in the very near future. The excitement for this Leafs team has grown as the summer has progressed and the signings of veterans like Patrick Marleau, Dominic Moore and Ron Hainsey has fans over the moon with excitement.
There are many questions with regards to some of the Leafs younger players entering camp. This will be a good opportunity for a few of them to separate themselves from the pack and potentially make that leap into the NHL this season. Keep a close eye on each of the following skaters as camp and preseason commence.
The Speedy Rookie
The Maple Leafs were able to acquire Kasperi Kapanen a couple of years ago as part of the package that sent Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh.
Kapanen has not been able to get into many NHL games just yet, but the limited looks he got, determined that he is a special talent. The kid can flat out fly and in the NHL today, speed kills. He’s able to use his skating to keep opponents off balance offensively or when he’s back and killing penalties.
Kapanen hasn’t been a goal scoring machine in his limited time with the Maple Leafs, but the goals he has scored have been extremely important. The biggest is easily the double overtime winner against the Washington Capitals in game two of their first round series.
There’s a logjam of talented wingers already up with the Leafs this coming year. Kapanen is going to be a player to watch in camp as he attempts to force the Leafs into giving him a spot. Even skating on the fourth line and having a timeshare with someone like Matt Martin would be a nice little boost for Kapanen.
The Steady Defenseman
Travis Dermott is perhaps the most NHL ready defenseman that the Maple Leafs have in their system. Drafted back in 2015, the former Erie Otter spent last season with the Marlies of the AHL.
He became a leader on the squad and was consistently one of their best players. He’s a steady defender who’s vocal on the ice. He sets the tone with his passing and vision and isn’t afraid to mix it up physically.
There is going to be an open spot on the blueline for the Leafs this coming season. It’s tough to tell exactly who has the inside track, but Dermott knows the system and has a year of AHL experience under his belt. A big camp and a good preseason from him could see the young Canadian in the opening night Toronto lineup.
I’m going to cheat here and lump two players into the same category. This would include the Swedish defensemen the Leafs signed back in May. Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman are both smooth-skating defenseman who spent the previous year playing over in Sweden.
Rosen has some excellent tools. He’s highly mobile, which is essentially a must in today’s NHL. He has good passing and a dangerous shot, particularly his one-timer. He’s spent the last couple of seasons playing for the Vaxjo Lakers and has put up 33 points over the span.
"Calle is probably the best skater I’ve played with, even among the guys in the NHL."- Ville Leino, speaking about leafs d man Calle Rosen
— Gnome Chompsky (@Gnome_Chompsky_) August 8, 2017
Andreas Borgman is another interesting case. The reigning SHL rookie of the year, Borgman is a couple of years younger than Rosen and is coming off of a league championship with HV71. He’s an excellent skater who loves to jump up and join the rush. He also has a quick and elusive shot that he uses to great effect.
Borgman was a force last year and was arguably the best defenseman on his championship winning team. He put up 10 points in 14 playoff games and was an asset every time he hit the ice.
These players both have a unique opportunity to make the Maple Leafs this coming season. There is space on the blueline and it’s not impossible that both of them make it opening night if they have a good training camp and preseason. Toronto finally has competition and it will be interesting to see which players the brass and coaching staff decide to pick for opening night.