At 6’5”, 217 pounds, very few people will ever accuse Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Keith Aulie of being invisible. Yet, that’s exactly what Aulie has been in his eight game stint with the Maple Leafs—and we mean that in a good way!
Many saw Aulie as a decent prospect who, with a little seasoning, might just make a decent stay-at-home defenseman someday.
Well, at just 21 years of age, Aulie is taking full advantage of his early season call-up (which coincided with Phaneuf’s injury), quickly making a name for himself, playing confident, disciplined hockey and looking NHL ready.
Through eight games Aulie has been a consistent presence on an otherwise inconsistent team, making hits, playing tough defense and using his strong hockey sense and compete level to his advantage.
With Aulie playing as well as he has, head coach Ron Wilson rewarded the Saskatchewan native with 21:07 of icetime against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, taking away many of the minutes that normally would have been afforded to veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek—who has been unimpressive this season.
With Komisarek and Carl Gunnarsson struggling to find their consistency there will be plenty of support from the fans to keep Aulie and his simple style of play on the roster.
While many fans would love to see general manager Brian Burke trade Komisarek, the more likely candidate to lose minutes and/or his roster spot is Gunnarsson—who, while more versatile than Aulie, has struggled with his defense zone coverage and has looked unimpressive on the power play this season.
Phaneuf is expected to be back in the lineup in the next 10 to 15 days. That gives Brian Burke and Co. plenty of time to make a decision on Aulie, a decision that Aulie has made easy thus far.
No question, from what we have seen thus far, Aulie needs to stay in the lineup, it’s just that simple.
Until next time,