The city of Toronto is currently caught up in the throws of October baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays have made their way into the American League Championship Series where they will play the Cleveland Indians. The entire city has had many reasons to celebrate a winning team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking at the Jays and will be aiming to emulate them in the coming years. The NHL season officially opens on October 12th and the Leafs will be taking on the Ottawa Senators on the road before returning to Toronto on Saturday to host the Boston Bruins in their home opener.
It’s a big season for the Maple Leafs. It’s their Centennial year and there is a number of reasons for optimism regarding the club. Morgan Rielly, who was drafted fifth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is looking more and more like a superstar with every season. He will be tasked with anchoring the blueline now and in the future. The Maple Leafs also have a trio of young and very talented forwards who have officially made the team.
Latest Leafs – Maple Leafs News: Matthews, Marner and Nylander
The Roster Is Nearly Set
The most exciting part of being a Maple Leafs fan is seeing the organization amass a stable of talented prospects. Fans got their first taste last year when William Nylander was called up from the Toronto Marlies for the latter part of the season. His speed, skill and vision made him a treat to watch.
William Nylander on why his line (w Matthews) is effective: "Everyone wants the puck & everyone wants to score & everyone's working hard"
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 9, 2016
The Maple Leafs then won the draft lottery and subsequently selected Auston Matthews first overall in 2016. The big center impressed many with his poise during his tenure with Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.
— NHL EXPERT PICKS (@NHLexpertpicks) October 7, 2016
Head coach Mike Babcock made some fans extremely happy by announcing that Matthews and Nylander will start the season on the same line. It will be a chance for the two to develop some chemistry and learn what it means to be an NHL player.
One big question mark heading into this season is Mitch Marner and whether he would make the Maple Leafs or be sent back to the London Knights of the OHL. There were strong arguments for both sides. On one hand, Marner is still young. He was drafted fourth overall in 2015 and has another year of Junior eligibility. More development is never a bad thing, especially for a prospect like Marner.
On the flip side, Marner absolutely ripped up the OHL last season. He had 116 points in 57 regular season games before going on an incredible playoff run that saw him put up 44 points in 18 games. He capped off that incredible season by winning a bevy of awards and capturing the Memorial Cup.
Mitch Marner Made It
Marner has now officially made the Maple Leafs roster. It’s a huge moment for the young forward, who has had an impressive camp and preseason. He’s made the most of his chances and has shown both the coaching staff and management that he belongs in the NHL this season.
He’s shown flashes of brilliance on the ice. His skating is top notch and when he finds space, there are great moments of creativity. On the defensive side of the puck, there is still some work to be done. However, whenever he has lost the puck or committed a turnover, he is tenacious with his backchecking in an attempt to steal the puck back.
The Leafs will also have the option of loaning him to Team Canada for the World Juniors this upcoming holiday season. The tournament is taking place in Toronto and Montreal, which will make it easier to keep an eye on him should the Leafs agree.
Having these three players all suiting up at the same time is new territory for the Blue and White. If the Maple Leafs are smart, they will develop all three at the same pace. The trio of young guns is extremely talented and will be pushing each other to get better and find their way in the NHL.
Mitch Marner on Leafs youth: "This could be a group that's together for a long time so I think it's just the beginning of something good."
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 10, 2016
The Maple Leafs have made other roster moves, including placing Brooks Laich on waivers. He joins Colin Greening, Byron Froese and Andrew Campbell as they head to the Marlies, which, in turn, opens up space for Connor Brown, Josh Leivo and Zach Hyman to begin the year.
The Leafs also claimed former Bruins prospect Seth Griffith off waivers on Tuesday. The skilled forward had 24 goals and 77 points in 57 games last year in the AHL. Brandon Prust, whom the Leafs brought into camp on a PTO, was also released.
The youth movement is well underway in Toronto, and you can expect the Buds to shed some veteran contracts at the trade deadline as well. It’s all about planning for the future. Short-term pain will equal long-term gain.
It’s going to be an exciting year for Leafs fans as they see the fruits of Brendan Shanahan’s plan start to blossom and become viable and extremely exciting options.