We are 100% in the downtime of hockey and that kind sucks, since there’s snow outside, we’re locked down(-ish, if you’re in Alberta like me), and December is normally around the quarter mark for the season when we’d be jumping into hockey analysis mode. Dealing with hockey downtime is a lot more tolerable in August, but fingers remain crossed for season starting soon.
Until then, here are some of the scraps of news out of Leafs land.
Nick Robertson is on the preliminary US roster for the World Juniors
Introducing #TeamUSA’s preliminary roster for the 2021 World Junior Championship. 🇺🇸
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) November 30, 2020
So yeah, he probably should be there. He’s really good and if he’s able to play, there’s a good chance he’ll play a pretty big role for Team USA, the catch is…
Nick Robertson is among those named to Team USA’s preliminary world junior roster, but his participation will hinge on when (or if?) NHL training camps get going.
I’d expect him to remain with the #leafs if there’s a camp in December. https://t.co/ptqSIXndj6
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 30, 2020
So if NHL training camps are open, or opening during the start of the World Junior tournament, that’s going to pull Robertson back towards the Leafs, which is great because based on what we’ve seen from Robertson, he’s absolutely ready to push for a full time job on the Leafs, but also seems like it might be unnecessary, given the fact that the Leafs are quite deep on the wing at the moment, and if there isn’t a clear path to the NHL it might be a more worthwhile experience to put Robertson in a best on best tournament.
Given that Robertson had some success with Kerfoot, there’s probably an appetite to reunite them, and given that Robertson has had the World Junior experience before, the Leafs and Robertson might be comfortable in him sitting this one out.
Time will tell, and it will likely all come down to whether or not the NHL can get its season off the ground soon.
Rielly selflessly gives up powerplay time for Barrie
An interesting quote from the Coaches Open House featuring Kyle Dubas :
Last November, after Toronto’s coaching change, Rielly approached Keefe and suggested switching power-play units with the struggling Tyson Barrie, understanding it would be best for team as a whole to get Barrie’s offensive game and confidence going.
“He did one of the most selfless things that I’ve seen,” Dubas said.
“That spoke so much the character of Morgan Reilly and everything that he’s about. Because as everybody knows, as a defenceman, if you’re on the first power play — especially with the core group that we had there with Tavares, Marner, Nylander and Matthews — you’re probably going to accumulate a lot of points.”
Barrie would end up putting up 12 points on the power play last season and interestingly enough Rielly would put up 7 points with the reduced icetime, fewer games, and secondary unit. So while there is something to appreciate about Rielly giving Barrie a chance to do what Barrie does best, there is also a strong case that can be made that the Leafs would have been better off with Morgan Rielly continuing to be the top unit power play defenseman.
That’s fine because that’s exactly what we’ll get this year, unless Mikko Lehtonen is truly the offensive dynamo we’ve been lead to believe he is, but while this speaks to Morgan Rielly’s character, I think it also speaks to the Tyson Barrie experiment being an unfortunate one that only looks more tolerable in hindsight when looking at cherry picked data.
Out: 2F3D, In: 11F7D
From the same Kyle Dubas availability, we now know the Leafs are exploring the idea of a lineup with 7 defensemen, which isn’t a bad thing when you look at a forward group that should be relying on their big four eating minutes, and a blueline that could benefit from some situational usage.
Kyle Dubas via Sportsnet:
“Our feeling is that, whether it’s in (Rasmus) Sandin or (Timothy) Liljegren as they continue to come up and get worked in, and the depth of our D lends itself to this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us use it from time to time,” Dubas said. “In the end, it will be Sheldon’s call.”
The approach gets the kids into the NHL more, it also allows for Bogosian to be used as a penalty killer, and defensive zone start player, while also giving a player like Lehtonen a chance to ease into the NHL.
Projecting what that lineup could look like:
Considering that lineup still doesn’t include Robertson, Barabanov, Sandin, or Liljegren the Leafs certainly have an abundance of depth, but following an injury plagued 2019-20, and with a condensed schedule during a pandemic, perhaps depth will reign supreme this year.
Given the depth situation both on the blueline and the forward group, I can’t think of a training camp I’ve looked forward to more. Hopefully we’ll hear something about it actually happening soon.