The players are back in town and with Toronto being named one of the NHL’s two hub cities, they’re getting ready to play host to half of the half of the NHL’s play-in series when the game does return.
But even before getting to puck drop, teams were required to submit their Phase 3 training camp rosters – thanks in large part to the NHL Board of Governors and NHLPA agreeing to the Return to Play protocol and MOU.
With camps opening, players had until 5 p.m ET on Monday, July 13 to announce whether or not they would opt out – without facing penalty – from the NHL 2019-20 Return to Play.
On Sunday, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced their Phase 3 Return to Play roster and we’re here to look at some of the takeaways from the list of players who will be vying for a chance to play for the team as they enter their play-in series with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Robertson Joins Exclusive Company
While he hasn’t played a game yet for the team that drafted him in the second round, 53rd overall, in 2019, Nicholas Robertson seems to already be joining exclusive company when it comes to the Maple Leafs franchise.
According to the team’s released list of players for camp, Robertson will be wearing the number 89 when he hits the ice for the Maple Leafs. With that, he’ll become just the second player in franchise history to wear the number 89 – joining should-be-Hall-of-Famer Alexander Mogilny, who wore it from 2002 to 2004.
Mogilny played parts of three seasons with the Maple Leafs, suiting up for 176 regular season games and notching 65 goals and 166 points. He added another 15 goals and 24 points in 39 playoff games with the team.
Unlike Mogilny, Robertson could get his first taste of NHL hockey with the Maple Leafs in a playoff situation if he earns a spot on the team’s Phase 4 roster. Number aside, however, Robertson’s game will be quite different from that of his predecessor.
After a scary injury suffered during his rookie season, Ilya Mikheyev is back and looking to earn his spot amongst the Maple Leafs’ top six heading into the play-in series. While he only played 39 games in his rookie season, he had already notched 8 goals and 15 assists – averaging 0.59 points per game and on pace for a 48-point rookie campaign had he played all 82 games.
The 25-year-old Russian they call Souperman will be in tough for a top-six role with the Maple Leafs with the firepower that they have up front, but his speed and skill should make some noise as the Maple Leafs finalize their Phase 4 roster.
That said, on the first day of camp, Mikheyev was lined up on the wing with John Tavares and Mitch Marner, a testament to what he was able to show in his shortened rookie season.
Johnsson Remains Out
While some players will be returning for the Maple Leafs, others will remain out of the lineup – at least for the play-in series. That includes forward Andreas Johnsson who had an injury-riddled season that allowed him to play just 43 games for the Maple Leafs.
During that time, he did tally eight goals and 21 point for his club, a pace that would leave him slightly shy of his career-high 43 points set back in 2018-19 – his first full season in the NHL.
While he won’t be available for the play-in series against the Blue Jackets, the 25-year-old could still make a return if the Maple Leafs have a strong playoff run, according to Maple Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas.
In fact, depending on how the first round goes and how Johnsson’s recovery goes, he could be back as early as the start of the second round.
Late Addition: Nic Petan?
Finally, there was an interesting moment just one day after the Maple Leafs released their Phase 3 roster. After being left off the team’s originally announced roster, forward Nic Petan was named as a replacement for defenceman Mac Hollowell.
Petan suited up for 16 games for the Maple Leafs this season with just three assists to show for it. He spent most of his time with the AHL’s Marlies where he recored 10 goals and 31 points in 25 games.
While there was no reason given for the change, the substitution could be a chance at revival for the 25-year-old Petan who hasn’t been able to get his footing under him at the NHL level.
As for the rest of the Maple Leafs, camp got under way with the team broken up into two groups on Monday and with no players opting out from their roster, it’ll come down to what they do in scrimmage for who ends up making the cut for their first-round play-in series that opens up August 2.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.