Toronto Maple Leafs: Players to watch as Training Camp opens

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 17: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 17: William Nylander /

With training camp opening this week, there is a lot of intrigue with the Toronto Maple Leafs especially with some uncertainty with the roster.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been waiting since Game 6 of the 2016 playoffs for hockey to return and it all begins this week with players making their way for medicals at the MasterCard Centre.

The team will travel to Niagara Falls for training camp on September 15-17 and open their preseason schedule in Ottawa on September 18. They will play three preseason games at the Ricoh Coliseum on September 22nd, 25th and 30th but that is not all. They will play in Little Caesars Arena, the new home of the Detroit Red Wings and the Centre Videotron in Quebec City.

There has been a lot of discussions about the changes made in the offseason especially on the blueline, and whether the team will suffer from the sophomore slump. The expectations have certainly been raised by the team especially general manager Lou Lamoriello who does not hesitate to remind people that the team hasn’t won anything yet.

So as the coaches get the players back into the fold, there are many players to keep an eye on especially a couple that will try to make a full time jump to the NHL.

William Nylander

The 21-year old comes into camp looking to prove himself after a strong end to his season at the World Championship scoring 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 10 games. With the Leafs looking to take the next step, Nylander will be counted on to be among the team leaders in scoring. He also needs a new contract at the end of the season so his performance will dictate the deal he gets.

He will likely play on Auston Matthews’ line this season but with Tyler Bozak’s uncertain future with the team, is it possible to have Nylander play a couple of games at center during the preseason? Considering the chemistry he had with Matthews and Mike Babcock saying he did not see Nylander making the move just yet. His play at camp is certainly something to watch out for especially if Babcock makes any changes.

Travis Dermott

More from Tip of the Tower

After one season in the AHL, Dermott has a legitimate shot at making the team on the third pairing. It is not often that is happens but he has shown enough stability to warrant praise from management. He is mobile, makes smart decisions and is not shy from being physical. He is not a stud offensively but can chip in and make plays from the blueline.

He certainly sees the opportunity right in front of him and was critical about his play during the rookie tournament. Although he only played one game in that weekend, it does give him a slight advantage over the other younger defencemen looking to make an impact.

The likely choice for Dermott to make the NHL is if he is put in a role where he is not in and out of the lineup. If he is seen as the seventh defenceman, it would be better to have him with the Toronto Marlies where he can play top pairing minutes.

Patrick Marleau

Everyone is still wondering where the Leafs new prized free agents plays in the lineup. Does he take Zach Hyman’s spot or does he play with Nazem Kadri, that answer probably won’t be settled until closer to the end of preseason action. It was an expensive addition but one the organization would do a thousand times over. This is not the type of player the Leafs used to overpay in the past. He has a strong track record and will be a valuable player in the locker room.

This also means that there are expectations for him to produce and it would not be surprising to see him improve on last year’s stats especially if he gets a chance on Matthews’ line. His speed and defensive awareness make him a good fit especially with past experience under Babcock at the Olympics.

Kasperi Kapanen

It will not be easy, but the 21-year old will likely get as many chances to make the team but without a clear spot in the lineup, the odds are stacked against Kapanen. He made an impact in key moments despite being stapled to the fourth line and if that is all that is available for him, it might be better off for him to get top line minutes in the minors.

It is unlikely to expect the Leafs to make a trade before the season starts and unless that changes, Kapanen probably won’t see time as a top six forward in the NHL. He found his offensive game in the AHL and after a tough season the year before. The organization is probably looking for consistency at both ends which he has shown but is it enough to take a spot to start the season.

Next: Leafs unveil Arenas jerseys

Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman

After signing the Swedish duo, it is time to see what they can do especially with the Leafs looking to improve their blueline from within. There is no telling where they will play until we see them in the lineup. Will they play together or will Babcock split them up? This is why training camp is something everyone cannot wait for because they want answers and hopefully for Leafs fans, they get some before the season starts on October 4th.