This is my projected Toronto Maple Leafs, opening day roster.
LW - C - RW
Jason Blake - Matt Stajan - Niklas Hagman
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Viktor Stalberg - Tyler Bozak - John Mitchell
Jamal Mayers - Wayne Primeau - Colton Orr
The Leafs have a lot of forwards, and not all of them can obviously make the team, but I think these guys will. The only player that I have out of position is John Mitchell, who is a natural centre, but the Leafs have too many centres. The top line has been playing together all preseason and finished off the season together last season, this line will be depended on a lot, especially until Kessel is ready to play. The three players I have together on the top line, were the Leafs three best forwards last season. The second line has also played all preseason together and most of the end of last season. This line was called the Euro line, and was dominate last night. My third line has two college players, Viktor Stalberg who is super fast, maybe the fastest guys in hockey, and has 5 goals in 7 preseason games. Bozak was the top college player last season, and in preseason he has played every where, 5on5, on the point on the powerplay, and the penalty kill, he is a great playmaker and should make this team. John Mitchell is a solid player, and still young and I think a lock for the team. My fourth line is Burke's fighting line. This leaves these notable forwards off:
Nazim Kadri- I think he is still too small, send him back to London, and let him put on some more weight and muscle.
Christian Hanson- The worst of the College players.
Jiri Tlusty- A dominate prospect, but not enough roster spots, look for him to tear up the AHL again.
Rickard Wallin- Is an okay player, but again not enough roster spots
Lee Stempniak- Gets paid a lot, and Cliff Fletcher gave up a lot to get him last season, but he just isn't good enough.
Tomas Kaberle - Michael Komisarek
Francois Beauchemin - Luke Schenn
Ian White - Garnet Exelby
The first two pairings are locks, they are the Leafs best defenseman, all having great camps, and the pairings have played together all preseason. Kaberle has looked especially good, and looks better than ever, and when Ron Wilson was asked why does Kaberle look better this season? Wilson replied, "It's easy, last year he was fat." So it sounds like Kaberle is in great shape, and the results are showing. I think that the 3rd pairing will be who I said, because White is a solid puck moving defenseman, and played great last season, while Exelby is the type of player that Burke loves, very physical. This mean the following players wont make the cut:
Jeff Finger- Finger gets paid a lot, and I think he will be waived and sent to the Marlies, so his salary wont count against the cap, as he gets paid $3.5 million each of the next three seasons. He had a terrible season last year, and just aint good enough.
Mike Van Ryn- He is a very good pucking moving defenseman, but always gets injured, the Leafs can probably trade him and get something solid in return. Don't expect him to be waived and sent to the Marlies, he is too good and someone will claim him, and the Leafs wont get anything.
Phil Oreskovic- The hometown boy, is still young, and the Leafs don't have space for him. He is very physical, but needs to work on his offense, as he is terrible at moving the puck.
Jonas Frogren- He is a solid defenseman, but not good enough to crack the roster, should have a great year with the Marlies.
Carl Gunnarsson- Gunnarsson is still only 22, and Burke signed him after spending last season in Sweden. Ron Wilson in his press conferences seems to be in love with Gunnarsson. Gunnarsson is a very good offensive defenseman, and has a bright future ahead of him, but he needs some work in his own end.
Starter- Vesa Toskala
Backup- Jonas "Monster" Gustavsson
Remeber I said this would be the opening day roster, so Toskala will get the nod against the Canadiens on Thursday, since Gustavsson has only played 3 periods in preseason. But I do believe that Gustavsson will steal the starting job from Toskala early into the season, as he has been great, and was unbelievably good in Sweden and in the WC. Gustavsson has three shutout periods in preseason against the Wings, and has looked good. Either way, the Leafs goaltending will be better with a healthy Toskala in a contract year, and of course the Monster. Also, the Leafs have a better defense, and the God-Father of goalie coaches, Francois Allaire, who is considered the greatest goaltending coach ever, and was the goaltending coach in Anaheim the past few years and had success with Jonas Hiller, Giguere, and Bryzgalov. The Leafs also have Joey MacDonald, who has had a really good preseason so far, and was good last year for the Islanders.
In my other Blog, I predicted the Leafs to finish in 11th, but this was before preseason, and the Leafs have gone 6-2 in preseason, with numerous players looking great, like Bozak, Gustavsson and Stalberg. Also I predicted that before the Kessel deal, but after all of that, I believe the Leafs are good enough to make the postseason and will finish in the 7th or 8th spot.
Also, for those who follow the AHL, and the Leafs minors, expect the Marlies to bounce back and be a top team in the league, like they were two seasons ago. They have a really good goalie in Joey MacDonald, solid forwards including Tlusty, Hanson, and Wallin, and a great defense with Frogen, Oreskovic, and Gunnarsson, expect postseason from both the Marlies and Leafs, and maybe a championship, Calder Cup, for the Marlies.