Toronto Maple Leafs: A difficult decision with Kasperi Kapanen

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Kasperi Kapanen
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Kasperi Kapanen /

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to make some difficult decisions during training camp, one of which may be leaving Kasperi Kapanem off the team.

It was a great day for Toronto Maple Leafs fans when it was announced that they would commit to a full rebuild. There’s been tanks and turnovers, but the benefits of the decision are coming out. The team enters the upcoming 2017-2018 season with legitimate expectations to make the playoffs.

One thing that was always brought up during the rebuild was the Detroit Red Wings. The team was always known for giving their prospects extra time in the minors, and not calling them up until they were 100% ready.

The Leafs have adopted the same philosophy, and it’s seemed to pay off. You could make the case the William Nylander and Mitch Marner could’ve made the team for the 2015-2016 season. However, the Leafs sent them back to their respective teams to dominate, and in Marner’s case another year to get stronger.

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With the excellent drafting from Mark Hunter over the past three years, the  Leafs have a lot of exciting prospects. The difference between this regime and previous’, is that we don’t know exactly when they’ll be up. Some could even make the team now.

Which brings us to a bittersweet problem the Leafs will have in October.

Where Does Kapanen Start?

Kasperi Kapanen‘s first NHL stint in the 2015-2016 season was pretty underwhelming. However he was a great addition to the line-up when he was called up at the end of last season. He made the best use of his time on the fourth line and was also relied on to penalty kill.

No one will forget his first NHL goal. Who knows if the Leafs would’ve won that game and clinched a playoff spot if Kapanen wasn’t in the line-up.

Additionally, he was still on the team during the first round series against the Washington Capitals and excelled in pressured situations.

Many roster projections for next season have Kapanen penciled in on the fourth line again. If that happens he’ll get his 9-12 mins a night and perhaps some time on the penalty kill. For that reason alone, Kapanen will not make the team next season.

It’s not because he isn’t good enough. Leafs fans have seen that he can keep up and contribute at the NHL level. It’s that Kapanen is a capable top six forward that will be playing bottom nine minutes. There’s no point in having him in the NHL if he can’t be used to his full potential. Additionally, sending him down to the minors is an easier because he doesn’t need to clear waivers.

The Leafs will give Kapanen more time to dominate with the Toronto Marlies until he can be in the NHL full-time. However, if there is an injury or a trade, he will definitely be the first one to be called up.

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Will Kapanen make the Toronto Maple Leafs, or be send down? Would it make sense for him to be in the NHL if it’s only a bottom nine role? Let us know your thoughts in the comments