There’s a bodily gap on the Maple Leafs blue line with the departure of Roman Polak, and Andreas Borgman is aware of simply the man who can tackle the position.
“The crew wants a little bit little bit of grit, so hopefully I can fill in that spot,” Borgman mentioned on Friday after the Leafs’ first on-ice classes on the Gale Centre. “I simply really feel extra ready this 12 months than final 12 months.”
The Leafs are set on the roster the place the spots are probably the most essential, whether or not it’s the top-six forwards, in addition to third-line centre Nazem Kadri, and the top-four defencemen. That’s to not say intriguing battles received’t unfold underneath the watchful eye of coach Mike Babcock, and one will contain the need to be a member of the Leafs’ third defence pair.
Pencil in Travis Dermott for a kind of jobs, leaving Borgman, Calle Rosen, Justin Holl, Connor Carrick and Igor Ozighanov to compete for the sixth and seventh spots.
Carrick is probably the most skilled of the group with 167 Nationwide Hockey League video games on his resume, however that cements nothing with camp underway. Borgman performed in 48 video games for the Leafs final season, however not after Feb. 1, whereas Rosen cracked the crew out of camp and performed in 4 video games in October earlier than being despatched to the Toronto Marlies. Holl made a novel impression by scoring in his solely two video games as a Leaf, and like Rosen, was instrumental within the playoff run within the minors because the Marlies received their first American Hockey League Calder Cup.
The tip result’s precisely what Babcock desires in camp and as soon as the common season begins: A stage of competitors that may serve to drive every participant to be higher than these round him.
Holl is judged by some to be probably the most NHL-ready defenceman among the many Marlies hopefuls. At 6-foot-Three and 205 kilos, the 26-year-old is assured of his probabilities, although the others consider in themselves as a lot.
“Everybody is aware of we’re in a aggressive setting and everybody is aware of it’s important to carry out,” Holl mentioned. “You’re not going to root for anybody’s failure. You’re simply going to deal with being nearly as good as you might be.
“That’s the trick, is discovering a method to keep for your complete 12 months. I feel these (two) video games have been massive for getting a style of the motion and realizing what will be requested of me and what I’ve to do to assist the crew have success at that stage, so I feel it’s simply one thing I can construct on.”
Rosen mentioned he started to really feel snug within the North America recreation after Christmas, and as soon as that occurred, he grew to become a workhorse for the Marlies.
“I performed with confidence within the playoffs final 12 months and that’s what I attempt to convey right here, is being assured in my recreation,” Rosen mentioned. “I do know I’m a great participant and I simply have to indicate it.”
Like Rosen, Borgman was ready to make use of his first 12 months in North America as a worthwhile studying device.
“I feel it’s important to be awake always, each second on each shift,” Borgman mentioned, “in any other case you get slammed on the ass. In order that’s one thing I’m going to convey with me.”
The defencemen on the bubble who greatest present the power to effectively transfer the puck throughout the pre-season and be sensible of their choices are sure to be those who stay with the Leafs on opening evening. As a lot because the Leafs’ gifted group of forwards must be concerned in tightening up defensively, the younger defencemen should be up to the mark from the opening faceoff.
“The easiest way to defend lately is to maintain the opposite crew out of your zone with possession of the puck and the deal with the impartial zone turns into so vital,” veteran Ron Hainsey mentioned. “So far as separating groups from the puck, there may be a lot talent amongst forwards across the league that in the event that they get in your zone with possession, they’re going to make performs. Doesn’t matter who they’re. In order that can be a spotlight.”
Babcock, naturally, will declare no favourites but.
“The large factor for these guys is simply confidence,” Babcock mentioned. “They’ve been round, they’ve seen it.
“Now we’ve got numerous gamers, although. That’s not going to be sorted out in these first three days. Over this subsequent three weeks, we’ll get a fairly good deal with on who these gamers are.”
QUITE THE STRIP SHOW
That Auston Matthews, fairly the stripper.
Simply ask his new Maple Leafs teammate, John Tavares.
Matthews has possessed a sound defensive consciousness since his first recreation within the Nationwide Hockey League, and within the thoughts of Tavares, Matthews’ expertise for looking down the puck and getting it again will solely enhance.
“What makes him actually good is his capability to strip pucks and the puck simply sort of follows him,” Tavares mentioned on Friday. “And that’s whether or not it’s within the offensive zone or by way of different components of the ice. Catching guys without warning and knocking pucks out of the air, he has such nice timing for that and sort of sneaky.
“I feel he’s going to be actually good at that for a very long time – his capability to take pucks away and transition the opposite approach. When he will get the puck, we all know what he can do with it.”
The evening he scored 4 targets in his NHL debut in Ottawa in October 2016, Matthews, as Leafs followers know properly, obtained one when he stripped Erik Karlsson of the puck within the Senators’ finish.
Final season, Matthews was third amongst Leafs with 59 takeaways. Mitch Marner led Toronto with 85 (good for fourth within the NHL) and William Nylander was second with 59.