Maple Leafs Have 3 Inner Choices for a 2nd Line Left Winger


Whereas it might not seem to be an enormous deal as there are extra urgent issues, the Toronto Maple Leafs ought to look to bolster their depth within the top-six this offseason. The second line appeared to have gone chilly at factors through the second half of the 2021-22 season. Whereas there are potential free brokers they’ll look to attempt to herald some assistance on the second line, the choice of selling from inside stays. 

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Normal supervisor Kyle Dubas mentioned in his finish of season convention mentioned that the Maple Leafs may look to advertise gamers of their system and provides their prime prospects an opportunity to battle for roster spots. If the worth is excessive for gamers in free company, and even to re-sign gamers like Ilya Mikheyev– who may command $4-5 million– this might very effectively be possibility A. 

Bringing in gamers on their entry-level contracts to offer a spark on a staff with their prime prospects within the pipeline could possibly be what they want for the staff and a lift of confidence for his or her prime prospects. 

Nick Robertson

This has been the apparent alternative for a while and it stays that method.It’s been a tough begin to Nick Robertson’s professional profession.

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Chosen 53rd general within the 2019 draft, Robertson is an brisk and aggressive participant on the forecheck with pace and a sniper’s launch. Robertson is hoping to stay wholesome and compete for a roster spot as he’s had a tough path on account of accidents. He sustained a knee harm minutes into his season debut in 2020-21 and to begin the 2021-22 season with the Toronto Marlies, he sustained a fractured proper fibula that pressured him to overlook near 10 weeks.  

The harm issues have began to creep in with one of many Maple Leafs’ prime prospects as he’s had two important illnesses earlier than seeing common NHL minutes. Regardless of the setbacks, Robertson has remained a essential piece for this staff’s future. The manufacturing has been there with the Marlies within the American Hockey League as he’s slightly below a degree per sport at 0.90 with 44 factors in 49 video games. He’s going to be given each likelihood to attempt to earn that spot on the second line left aspect with John Tavares and William Nylander. 

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photograph by Mark Blinch/NHLI by way of Getty Photographs)

He’s already seen a while with them so the familiarity is already there. In line with Cash Puck with 32.2 minutes performed (a small pattern), Robertson, Tavares and Nylander had a Corsi For share of 57.3 and an anticipated targets share of 58.3%. Regardless of a low conversion charge, they generated high quality possibilities. Robertson’s pace was additionally evident because it was a lift to that line to push the tempo. It could possibly be an enormous purpose why he will get a superb look within the top-six to begin.

Robertson nonetheless has top-six potential written throughout him and he ought to be given each likelihood to succeed. He’s proven to play at a excessive degree within the AHL in addition to the boldness wanted to be within the NHL. He could must dial it again, however he reveals no stop to his sport as he seems able to take that subsequent step ahead for the 2022-23 season. 

Pontus Holmberg

On a Might episode of 32 Ideas: The Podcast, Elliotte Friedman recommended that Tavares be made right into a winger. Whereas he’s been robust within the dot and he would nonetheless have the ability to take faceoffs, the pace seems an excessive amount of for him to be in that position. (27:58 mark)

Whether or not the Maple Leafs undergo with that call or not, they do have a participant who can play centre or be on the wing in the event that they want in Pontus Holmberg. Drafted within the sixth spherical in 2018, Holmberg has proven to play effectively in opposition to males within the SHL. He was playoff MVP in 2020-21 with the Växjö Lakers HC with 14 factors in 14 video games and added 41 factors in 46 video games this season. He confirmed much more promise on the Olympics for Sweden and made a seamless transition to the Marlies with 4 factors in six video games. 

Pontus Holmberg Team Sweden
Pontus Holmberg, Group Sweden (Photograph by Marissa Baecker/Getty Photographs)

Whereas he could not seem to be an apparent alternative as he solely has six video games to his resume in North America, Holmberg isn’t any stranger to taking part in in opposition to more durable competitors and thriving in consequence. He’s 23 years previous and nonetheless rising as a prospect however has proven a powerful dedication and work ethic to taking the subsequent step. It’s rather a lot to ask of from a younger participant to come back and be a top-six ahead with minimal expertise, however he’s impressed up to now. 

With Mikheyev’s beforehand reported asking value, it could be an excessive amount of to maintain him within the fold. Holmberg could possibly be a participant that may present the identical degree of offense and depth at a less expensive cap hit. Whereas the manufacturing will not be there to begin, presumably taking part in with two strong producers in Tavares and Nylander may assist bounce begin his profession, very similar to Mikheyev had a standout season taking part in within the middle-six. 

Holmberg could possibly be that participant with the possibility to get a glance on the second line as he’s an efficient playmaker with the smarts and consciousness that this staff is in search of. If the Maple Leafs do resolve to strive Tavares on the wing, Holmberg could possibly be a centreman that may take over every so often together with Nylander as all three have performed centre earlier than. Whereas he could begin the season within the AHL, Holmberg could possibly be an possibility if he continues to impress.

Matthew Knies

This may fall below the be affected person strategy, wait and see what occurs class. However the upside is excessive with Matthew Knies. After a formidable and dominating freshman season, Knies made the choice to return to the College of Minnesota after there was talks of him going professional. Maple Leafs followers had been giddy with pleasure on the considered him becoming a member of the staff and offering an influence ahead presence on the roster. 

Knies completed his freshman season as a degree per sport participant (33 factors in 33 video games) and second general in staff scoring behind Ben Myers who had 41 factors. Amongst gamers within the NCAA of their draft +1 season, Knies had the fourth greatest main factors per sport of 0.75 and P/G, behind solely Matty Beniers, Matthew Coronato and Kent Johnson in each classes. All three had been taken within the first spherical of the 2021 draft and to have that form of manufacturing with first spherical expertise is extraordinary. 

Matthew Knies University of Minnesota
Matthew Knies, College of Minnesota (Picture courtesy of College of Minnesota Athletics)

What immediately stood out for Knies was his capacity to regulate and translate to the upper degree of competitors. He displayed every little thing you wished in a participant with top-six potential. He has nice pace and mobility for his dimension, he confirmed nice physique positioning and physicality in battles and naturally there’s the shot, offensive presence and consciousness to open the sport up when on the assault.

The Maple Leafs lacked depth and killer intuition on that second line. Knies brings that each time he’s on the ice and he shows nice positioning and smarts. He would offer a presence that may make the second line more durable to play in opposition to along with his work ethic and skill to achieve possession of the puck. He’s simply what they should make them extra aggressive. The transition from faculty to the NHL is way more tough, however Knies has proven to excel it doesn’t matter what degree he’s at. He earned a spot and performed effectively on the Olympics for Group USA, persevering with the idea that he’s capable of compete onerous and sustain in opposition to older gamers. 

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Whereas Knies could not have been on the second line to begin, he simply may’ve labored his method up the lineup if he impressed. With some added time in faculty to battle for a championship within the NCAA on his thoughts, when it’s all mentioned and completed, Knies could possibly be with the Maple Leafs at season’s finish this time round. There’s a superb likelihood that if and when his collegiate profession is over, the second line left wing spot is his. 

Ought to the Maple Leafs look to advertise gamers from inside and handle a possible opening on the left wing aspect on the second line, they’ve choices. Robertson, Holmberg and Knies present the skillset and drive to be elements in a top-six position. Robertson could have the benefit, however the different two are shut behind.

Statistics from Cash Puck and Pick224.

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