Thanks for joining us for our August 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at each team and diving into their prospect depth charts, risers and fallers, graduating prospects, and top ten prospects in the system.
Let’s start with the big one. John Tavares coming in means there is only one center-ice spot available, but it’s unlikely that two would have been filled from within anyways. New signing Par Lindholm will get a fair chance to hold on to the 4C role, Frederik Gauthier will fight for it once again out of camp but is an unlikely candidate. The current AHL centermen aren’t knocking on the NHL’s door for the time being.
Signing Tyler Ennis for a potential 4LW spot is bad news once again for Josh Leivo, who gets blocked out unless he gets tried on the RW side. He can still earn that spot with a solid showing in camp and pre-season (as could Engvall or Marchment in theory, but they would have to take big steps over the summer to beat out the more experienced options).
The team also signed KHL standout Igor Ozhiganov to add some depth at RHD – this means Connor Carrick still wont have a guaranteed spot despite a new deal in place, and Justin Holl will have a bit more competition if he wants to make the jump.
They’re still featured as prospects in this article since they haven’t played full NHL seasons, but after their tryout periods in 2017-18 Travis Dermott, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson can effectively be called NHLers at this point. They will be in the lineup from day-one.
Par Lindholm looks like a good bet to see at the very least a few chances as 4C, and if he doesn’t “graduate” successfully he may do the same as Aaltonen and return to Europe rather than spend time in the AHL. So despite the excellent shot at a spot, he is a risky fantasy pickup.
The right side of the Leafs defense is relatively weak, making this a position where prospects who stand out in camp or pre-season may get a few looks. I wouldn’t bet on them graduating to the NHL this year, but seeing guys like Justin Holl or Timothy Liljegren in a few games throughout the year as injuries hit wouldn’t surprise me. If they’re brought in due to struggles, they may very well hold down a spot for a while, just like Dermott did in 2017-18 after initially being an injury fill-in.
- Andreas Johnsson – NHL tryout looked good and AHL Playoffs MVP sealed the deal. Will be a full-time NHLer in 2018-19.
- Travis Dermott – Was outstanding in 37 NHL games last year, accelerating his timeline dramatically.
- Justin Holl – Jumped up the depth chart thanks to a strong AHL campaign and 2G in 2 NHL games.
- Josh Leivo – Got leapfrogged by Johnsson on the left-wing and still hasn’t got a fair shot.
- Frederik Gauthier – Has had a few tryout periods, and just doesn’t look good in the NHL.