Speculating on the Toronto Maple Leafs Opening Night Lineup
All Luongo news aside, I've been sitting around recently trying to figure out exactly where the Leafs players will fall come January 19, for the opening night roster.
After reading more than my fair share of Leafs news the past 24 hours, this is the one thing that I'm beginning to have trouble piecing together. I've heard from so many different, passionate Toronto fans who keep telling me that without a doubt, players X Y and Z will all be in the lineup.
It makes me wonder how many other players will receive great seats to the press box to watch their teammates play.
Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star wrote today that Randy Carlyle intends to invite no more than 30 players to training camp when it is expected to open within the next week. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for younger players to make their way onto the roster, especially with so many veteran players under contract.
Also the new CBA will no longer allow teams to simply bury contracts in the minors as the Leafs have previously done with players such as Jeff Finger and the New York Rangers have done with Wade Redden.
Left Wing: Joffrey Lupul, Clarke MacArthur, Matt Frattin, Mike Brown, Leo Komarov and Ryan Hamilton
Center: Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, Jay McClement, David Steckel, Joe Colborne and Keith Aucoin
Right Wing: Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Nikolai Kulemin, Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi and Nazem Kadri
Defensemen: Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Mike Komisarek, Korbinian Holzer, Mark Fraser, John-Michael Liles, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson, Michael Kostka and Jesse Blacker
Assuming that Randy Carlyle meant 30 skaters, not including goaltenders, then this would be 28 of that 30. According to multiple reports, Brian Burke has also stated that only two players would be invited to an abbreviated camp from juniors. Those two players are David Broll and Morgan Rielly.
A quick math lesson teaches us that 28 + 2 = 30. Strange.
So, if we take this depth chart from TSN in addition to the two players from juniors, we must now take the job of Randy Carlyle and slice that down to a 23-man roster. Two of those spots will be held by goaltenders, who, for the sake of this article, will be James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Only 18 spots will remain for skaters to suit up while three men will be left to sit in the press box.
This means nine players from the list above will be cut from the final roster.
I do believe Cody Franson will be re-signed. I do no believe Jake Gardiner will be ready to start the season. There's too much to risk with such a promising career ahead of him. It should also be noted that under the Right Wing category, the Leafs have quite a few players that are capable of playing center.
That being said, here is my lineup for opening night and why.
Will Morgan Rielly be with the Leafs for the season opener?
Extras: Connolly, Lombardi, Holzer
So I guess I might as well start by addressing the Morgan Rielly situation. First, I think he should probably go back to juniors and finish up his season there. Second, I think he will finish the season in juniors and then possibly with the Marlies.
To clarify, I believe that he will play a few games with the big club to start the year, especially if Jake Gardiner is still out with concussion-like symptoms. I think the Leafs will use this as a teaching tool for Rielly, and unless he really is spectacular, they will send him back to Moose Jaw.
Next, I believe that Matt Frattin should get an opportunity on the second line. The physical style of game that he plays on a line with a big body like JVR has the potential to really play a hard-nosed game. MacArthur or Kulemin would probably be safer more experienced players to throw on the second line, but I would be willing to give Frattin a shot.
Will Nazem Kadri be with the Leafs for the season opener?
It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone to see Bozak up on the top line with Lupul and Kessel, so that's all I will say about that.
I don't see Connolly or Lombardi seeing much time this season. Unless Komarov doesn't work out and one of them receives fourth-line duty or if McClement is relegated to a fourth-line winger spot and one of the two of them moves up to fill the third-line center role.
Or perhaps someone else.
The only question that I think people might be asking is, "Why not Kadri?" I must admit I wanted to throw him on there. I was trying to figure out a way to get him to finally stick with the big club. And if McClement were moved to a fourth-line winger role then I could see the Leafs trying to get him to work out as the third-line center, but I don't find it all that likely.
Kadri hasn't even been playing center with the Marlies this season and has primarily played the wing when he's had his recent chances with the Leafs. But hey, I've been wrong about plenty of things before and I would love to see Kadri play well enough to make the Leafs keep him.
Only 12 more days until we know for sure. What do you think?
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