Toronto Maple Leafs: Still Some Uncertainty with Roster Ahead of Opening Night

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Still Some Uncertainty with Roster Ahead of Opening Night

Another training camp is coming to an end but a lot of questions still remain within the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. Injuries and the surprising play of some of the younger have left some uncertainty as to what the opening night roster will look like. The final preseason game will be major test for those players and one other player that is set to make his Toronto Maple Leafs debut.

Sep 29, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle looks on in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Forwards

Toronto Maple Leafs fans know for sure that Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul will be a part of the top-six forward group. Look for David Clarkson to join that group on the second line, but that will be up to the severity of the fractured orbital bone in his cheek. The only player that I saw as a threat to take Clarkson’s spot on the second line was David Booth but he is out with a broken foot for four weeks.

Now the only question about the top six forward group is where JVR and Lupul will be slotted. Is Randy Carlyle prepared to break up Phil Kessel and JVR or is it more beneficial to keep them together. Personally I think it would be a good idea to start the season with the two on separate lines and if that does not work you put them back together. The second line is still a concern for me in terms of consistent scoring so I believe that if James Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri can develop some chemistry it will alleviate some pressure off of Phil Kessel.

Sep 24, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Daniel Winnik (26) speaks with defensemen Morgan Rielly (44) and Tom Nilsson (63) during a break in action in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The bottom six forward group was supposed to be the teams biggest strength because of the players brought in to play depth roles. Peter Holland looks like a nice complementary 3rd line center to Bozak and Kadri and having a chance to play with talented wingers might open up a chance to contribute more offensively. Leo Komarov returns the energizer bunny hitting machine mentality that the team did not have last season. Daniel Winnik looks like solid third/fourth line player that can kill penalties and provide some offence. Mike Santorelli like Winnik has a chance to play a larger role as an important penalty killer and eat up minutes on the fourth line, something the Leafs missed last season.

The surprising play of Brandon Kozun and Josh Leivo have afforded the two young prospects an extended tryout to make the opening night roster.

Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Brandon Kozun (67) falls on top of Ottawa Senators goaltender Robin Lehner (40) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Kozun has shown the ability to be an effective penalty killer even with his small size. A former 6th round pick of the Los Angeles Kings was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs last season for Andrew Crescenzi. Read all about He has represented Team Canada at the World Juniors and was a great goal scorer in the WHL. Unable to crack the Kings roster Kozun will have to battle the odds and try to make the Leafs as a part of the bottom six forward group. Andrew Millichamp wrote a nice preview about Kozun in our Marlies Roster Preview series.

Skip to 7:35 of this video to see Kozun’s shorthanded goal against the Philadelphia Flyers this pre-season:

Sep 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Josh Leivo (32) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Leivo is a more familiar face with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played seven games for the Leafs last season scoring one goal adding an assist in his first taste of NHL action. He put up respectable numbers in the AHL with the Marlies last season with 42 in 59 games including 23 goals. Read Andrew Millichamp’s article about Josh Leivo to find out more about Leivo. Leivo has been given a good chance to earn his spot on the Leafs after Petri Kontiola was demoted to the Marlies but the numbers game may for the Leafs to send down Leivo. If he is sent down to the Marlies, Leivo will probably be the front line winger along with the Marlies. Also Leivo does not have to clear waivers before being sent down to the Marlies something the Leafs have to consider when preparing their roster.

Sep 24, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) makes a save on a shot from Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Matt Frattin (39) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Frattin has struggled to cement a role in the lineup and at the moment so it looks like he will be in the press box to start the season. Carter Ashton is in the same situation that Joe Colborne was in last season, as reported by Elliote Friedman, the Leafs do not want to put him on waivers and avoid losing him for nothing so they are trying to get a draft pick out of Ashton before the season starts.

Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr (28) fights with defenseman Mike Weber (6)in the second period at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Now the bigger debate for the Toronto Maple Leafs; what does the future hold for William Nylander, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren? Yes I know it is frustrating that we have to have this conversation but there is a possibility that either Colton Orr or Frazer McLaren or both could make the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Everyone thought that the team did not have room to carry two enforcers this season and they probably do not, however Carlyle is not set on leaving the enforcers off the roster. If one of the enforces does make the roster it will probably be Orr and honestly I do not care at this point if he does make the team because it will be in a fourth line role, nothing more than 25 games. I suggest you read James Mirtle’s article about this situation and how the Leafs should handle it.

Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips (4) defends against Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (62) at the Air Canada Centre. Ottawa defeated Toronto 4-3 in an overtime shoot-out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The real debate that has to happen is with William Nylander. Where does he go? Toronto? Sweden? or the Marlies? He is a highly skilled forward that is exciting to watch but it would serve him best to either return to Sweden or go to the Marlies. The concern with him going to the Marlies is that the temptation to call him up will be too easy. If the Leafs want him to develop his game then it should be in Sweden where the Leafs are not able to call him when they feel like it.