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Maple Leafs season preview: Keefe must in finding team over dash

The 2021-22 NHL season begins Oct. 12. With practising camps initiating, NHL.com is having a appreciate at the three keys, the internal scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for every of the 32 teams. At the present time, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Coach:  Sheldon Keefe (third season)

Final season: 35-14-7; first dwelling in Scotia North Division, misplaced to Montreal Canadiens in Stanley Cup First Round

3 KEYS

1. Balance below Keefe

Even supposing Sheldon Keefe is entering his third season as coach, this would possibly perchance be his first valid practising camp and his first time guiding Toronto via a paunchy 82-recreation schedule since replacing Mike Babcock on Nov. 20, 2019. The 41-year-outmoded is 62-29-12 via two shortened seasons, however the stress is on to in finding the Maple Leafs previous the major spherical of the postseason for the major time since 2004. Alternatively, Toronto believes in the route Keefe is taking the team, evidenced by the two-year contract extension he agreed to Friday, which runs via the 2023-24 season.

2. Goaltending

The Maple Leafs made up our minds to lunge on from goalie Frederik Andersen, who signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 28, and in its place will depend upon Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, who signed a 3-year contract the identical day Andersen left for Carolina. Campbell modified into 17-3-2 with a 2.15 targets-in opposition to average, .921 assign share and two shutouts in 22 video games with the Maple Leafs final season, lacking time thanks to a leg damage. Mrazek, who made handiest 12 routine-season begins thanks to thumb surgical draw, modified into 6-2-3 with a 2.06 GAA, .923 assign share and three shutouts with the Hurricanes final season. Successfully being will seemingly be a key for every.

3. Erasing the previous

The Maple Leafs must procure a strategy to conquer their recent postseason screw ups, including final season, once they let a 3-1 series lead trek away earlier than being eliminated by the Canadiens in the major spherical. Regarding their lack of postseason success since 2004, overall manager Kyle Dubas acknowledged, “I don’t deem we will cloak from it and flee from it. I honest deem now we must in any respect times defend out the entirety we will as a firm to be willing.”

Video: Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 Season Preview

ROSTER RUNDOWN

House battles

With Zach Hyman signing a seven-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 28, there is an initiating location on the pause line with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. The leading candidate via the major half of of practising camp is Slit Ritchie, who space up Marner for the outlet draw in the team’s Blue & White recreation Oct. 1. Ritchie signed a two-year contract with the Maple Leafs on July 31 after scoring 26 aspects (15 targets, 11 assists) in 56 video games with the Boston Bruins final season, and he gives the form of sandpaper that will perchance initiating space for his linemates. There is also a location initiating on the second line with John Tavares and William NylanderMichael Bunting is getting a protracted appreciate there, along with Ilya Mikheyev and Alexander Kerfoot, who can play heart or hover. It is not seemingly a No. 1 goalie will seemingly be named to initiating the season; Keefe acknowledged he’ll seemingly lunge along with the original hand between Campbell and Mrazek in the early going.

Most interesting addition

Bunting, a Toronto native, is an admitted gradual bloomer. He had handiest played five NHL video games sooner than final season, however the 26-year-outmoded took earnings of his change with the Arizona Coyotes by scoring 13 aspects (10 targets, three assists) in 23 video games. Bunting played for Keefe with Sault St. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League, and the coach loves his ruggedness and intensity. That familiarity modified into a suppose in Bunting signing a two-year contract July 28, and he wasted miniature time making a splash at practising camp, scoring a hat trick in a 4-0 ranking in opposition to the Ottawa Senators in a preseason recreation Sept. 29.

Very best doable shock

Ondrej Kase modified into restricted to three video games final season with the Bruins thanks to a concussion and different damage-connected considerations, so the Maple Leafs realize there is a chance here. What intrigues them, despite the incontrovertible truth that, is the elite urge of the 25-year-outmoded ahead, who scored 38 aspects (20 targets, 18 assists) in 66 video games with the Anaheim Ducks in 2017-18. He got here to camp proclaiming himself wholesome and scored two aspects (one draw, one relief) in his first two preseason video games.

Ready to interrupt via

Rasmus Sandin, who modified into selected with the No. 29 decide in the 2018 NHL Draft, has the change for a paunchy-time feature this season after Zach Bogosian signed a 3-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 28. The 21-year-outmoded defenseman also would possibly perchance perchance perchance in finding time on the pause energy-play unit with Marner, Matthews, Tavares and Nylander.

Tale sleeper

Bunting (undrafted on average in fantasy) is a doable hidden gem who would possibly perchance perchance perchance land a top-six feature with the Maple Leafs following the departure of Hyman. He ranked eighth in the NHL in targets per 60 minutes (1.42; minimal 20 video games) final season and scored more than one aspects in two of his first four video games, including a hat trick in opposition to the Los Angeles Kings on April 5. Bunting would possibly perchance perchance perchance invent an affect either on the pause line with elite forwards Matthews and Marner, or on the second line with treasured scorers Tavares and Nylander. — Pete Jensen

Projected lineup

Slit Ritchie — Auston Matthews — Mitchell Marner

Michael Bunting — John Tavares — William Nylander

Ilya Mikheyev — Alexander Kerfoot — Ondrej Kase

Wayne SimmondsDavid KampfJason Spezza

Morgan RiellyTJ Brodie

Jake MuzzinJustin Holl

Rasmus Sandin — Travis Dermott

Jack Campbell 

Petr Mrazek

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