The Leafs have a truckload of young talent, ready to make their mark on the NHL and in your hockey pool, but are they going to fit the model that the team's coaching staff and management have laid out for themselves in the 2017 season. This will be more a question of how will this season affect the development of these players, rather than making the playoffs, as their biggest priority.
Where will some of these players develop better? There's no question that Auston Matthews will be an everyday guy in their lineup, he will develop to be a top level superstar at the top level right away, but you look at a kid like Mitch Marner and he's either got to be with the big club or back in junior, as the rules state, he won't be eligible for AHL development, like William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen.
The projection list I am offering now likely isn't going to be the final list I would take into the draft, nor should it be yours. I am very curious to see where a lot of these guys end up, once the hockey pool draft takes place on October 8th, by then, we'll know who is staying, who is going and who may only get a small tryout before heading back.
|James Van Riemsdyk||F||65||N|
Table last updated on August 6th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Some may not acknowledge it, but there is a lot of pressure on Frederik Andersen heading into the 2017 season, as he is now being paid as the team's number one goalie and there will be a lot of immediate pressure from the fan base and media to help right the ship. Acquired in the week before the entry draft, Andersen will have some competition from his crease mate and we'll get to see if the Leafs improved their defense enough to help their goalies win enough games.
The most intriguing part about Andersen is how much value the Leafs had put into him, when the Ducks knew full well that they were going with John Gibson and easily pulled the trigger to rid themselves of a goalie that may have only been 'good enough.'
First Round Picks
Since the playoffs are not in the cards, I don't see a 1st round pick in the cards from the centre of the universe. Auston Matthews has 1st round potential, but that may still be a year or two away, especially given the team around him to start his career.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
James Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri return for another spin for the Maple Leafs and both will get their ice-time to be pool worthy, for sure. This will be the year that the youth starts to take over and it will be guys like William Nylander and Peter Holland that will be looked upon for that extra bit of draftable offense. I believe they'll get it. Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak are also in the mix, I would think.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The pair of Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner may not have got to the elevated heights yet, but if you've been watching these two, you know that they are pretty close and that's pretty exciting for the Maple Leafs. These two will be big pieces and could end up being some higher picks this season, but that's about where the worthiness ends. All or nothing with these two right now.
The design is for Frederik Andersen to be the number one for Toronto and as of this blog post, the projected back-up is last year's surprise, Garret Sparks, who did a lot to impress everyone around Toronto. Sparks may not have won every game he started, but he sure did play well in most of those starts, keeping the Leafs in games and if they are going to be getting better, he'll be a big part of that down the line.
Team To Pick From?
The Maple Leafs were likely trying to move some of their overpriced talent in this off-season, something they might able to wait through this season and let unrestricted free agency take them away. This is the sort of talent you might consider to take late, but I would certainly advise against it, since that talent may sit, as the Leafs audition their promising youth before too long.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The only players the Leafs have left unsigned were the very, very deep veterans that are unrestricted free agents and some have already taken deals in Europe for the coming season.
The Leafs don't have a lot of cap concerns, as they are still in their rebuilding phase, but they have contracts that are still running, even with injuries attached to them. This will likely make for some LTIR relief, but they'll cross that bridge when they get there. I have a 25-man projected roster, which includes Nathan Horton and Stephane Robidas, both injured, coming in $535,000 over the ceiling.
Neither Horton or Robidas are playing in the 2017 season and that was a given, while Jared Cowen may have been cleared of his injury, but is citing that he isn't good to go and that had kept the Leafs from buying him out this year. His $3.1 million is a pretty big lump, but one way or another, the Leafs should be able to restrict it from being too much of a burden.