Let's Go Leafs Nation

Opening Night Roster: Season Outlook

By MichaelDiana
Oct. 12, 2016

After a long hiatus due to a fairly inactive off-season as well as personal time constraints due to school among other things, we're back at it analyzing the Leafs' opening night roster and providing an outlook on what the season could bring.  I'll also be going over possible line combinations to begin the year as well.  As always, feel free to comment and discuss, and enjoy!

The last couple days have brought on a couple rounds of cuts, along with a surprising waiver claim.  These cuts show the direction the Leafs want to head for this season and how they will do it with a skilled, developing core of players.  The biggest surprise cut was Brooks Laich.  It seemed to me that Laich would make the team out of training camp, and provide a veteran leadership presence and really mentor the young players on how to be leaders at the NHL level.  Laich was loaned to the Marlies for the upcoming season, but an injury here or there and he will likely be one of the first players called up.  The second piece of news is the waiver claim of Seth Griffith.  Griffith spent last season with the Providence Bruins of the AHL and recorded 77 points in 57 games.  He is on the smaller side at 5'9, but can play center or right wing, and is certainly a player that the Leafs' brass is familiar with from his time with the London Knights. 

23-Man Opening Night Roster

Forwards (13)

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews 
Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk
Leo Komarov (A)
Matt Martin
Milan Michalek
Mitch Marner
Nazem Kadri
Peter Holland
Seth Griffith
Tyler Bozak (A)
William Nylander
Zach Hyman

Not a lot of surprise with this forward lineup.  Babcock had said there were a lot of spots open, and the kids certainly delivered and proved they belong with the big club to start the season.  My player to watch other than the three wunderkinds is Connor Brown.  Coming off an injury suffered last season, Brown returned even stronger than before with 29 points in 34 AHL contests, and 6 points in 7 NHL games.  It will be interesting to see where he slots in the lineup and how he'll try to work his way up.

Defenceman (8)

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Carrick
Frank Corrado
Jake Gardiner
Martin Marincin
Matt Hunwick (A)
Morgan Rielly (A)
Nikita Zaitsev
Roman Polak

The defence corps was fairly predictable.  With what was presented, I had hoped players like Viktor Loov or Rinat Valiev would have been given a longer look or a better shot, but there were a few roadblocks in the way.  I believe the Leafs picked eight defenceman in order to properly rotate players like Carrick and Corrado in and out of the lineup, while giving veterans like Polak and Hunwick some possible rest breaks during the season.  My defenceman to watch is Connor Carrick.  He broke out offensively during the 2016 AHL Playoffs and played well during the preseason.  He has some refining to do in terms of his defensive game, but that will come.  I expect him to be noticeably better player over the course of the season.  

Goaltenders

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Frederik Andersen
Jhonas Enroth

Zero surprises.  Andersen may struggle due to shaky defence at times, but he'll be accustomed to facing a lot of high quality shots and playing a large bulk of games.  If he performs well in those situations, one can only imagine how scary the Leafs might be when the youngsters hit their potentials and the defence becomes solid. 

Possible Lines

The Leafs will likely look to balance youth and experience for the most part.  Lines will likely move around until they find what works the best and they will go from there.  This is a season for learning, and most Leafs fans must understand that and be patient with the rookies.

Forward Lines

van Riemsdyk - Bozak - Marner
Michalek - Kadri - Komarov
Hyman - Matthews - Nylander
Martin - Holland - Brown
Extra: Griffiths

One switch I could see is placing Brown with Kadri, and scratching Michalek for Griffiths.  These lines will be played with throughout the season, and all I know is at one point in the future I want to see a Nylander - Matthews - Marner line. 


Defence Lines

Rielly - Zaitsev
Gardiner - Polak
Hunwick - Corrado

Babcock loves the L/R balance, and with these lines he gets it.  This leaves Marincin and Corrado in the pressbox, but it should not be an issue as they will eventually be rotating in and out of the lineup until either Polak is traded again, or they play well enough to secure a spot. 

Season Outlook

The season will be a definite learning experience.  With a lot of rookies in the Leafs lineup, there will be some very bad games.  However, there are also going to be a lot of exciting games and plays we see throughout the year.  This will be a very fun team to watch when all is going well, and we shouldn't be hard on them when things go south for a little bit.  All in all, a better team than last year, but not a playoff team.  This year's Leafs will likely finish with a top 10 draft pick which will lead to a very solid 1st round selection.  Enjoy seeing the potential Leafs fans, there is a lot more to come and a lot of good years on the way.