The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Coach: Sheldon Keefe (fourth season)
Last season: 54-21-7, second place in Atlantic Division; lost to Tampa Bay Lightning in Eastern Conference First Round
Forward Mitchell Marner said earlier this month the Maple Leafs can expect to be asked repeatedly about their shortcomings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “The past is the past,” he said. “We can only change what’s ahead.” How is that different from the narrative of previous training camps for a team that has been eliminated in the opening round six consecutive times? By keeping the core of Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly together, management has shown it believes these players can finally find success. In the meantime, the reminders of previous postseason failures will be omnipresent.
2. Goalie carousel
With Jack Campbell signing with the Edmonton Oilers, there are questions about Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Murray, 30, battled various injuries the past two seasons with the Ottawa Senators, going 15-25-3 with a 3.23 goals-against average, .899 save percentage and three shutouts in 47 games (45 starts). Samsonov was 23-12-5 with a 3.02 GAA, .896 save percentage and three shutouts in 44 games (39 starts) for the Washington Capitals last season.
3. Rielly’s supporting cast
Rielly signed an eight-year $60 million contract Oct. 29, 2021. The 28-year-old led Toronto defensemen with 68 points (10 goals, 58 assists) in 82 games last season. Then there is a significant drop-off in production with TJ Brodie (28 points; four goals, 24 assists) the next highest scoring defenseman. Someone needs to step up, whether it’s a veteran like Brodie or Mark Giordano or a young player like Timothy Liljegren, a 23-year-old out for at least six weeks after he had hernia surgery Sept. 16.
Video: Top 10 Mitchell Marner Plays from the 2021-22 Season
Making the cut
Health permitting, Murray and Samsonov will be the goalie tandem to start the regular season, but who emerge as the No. 1? General manager Kyle Dubas said in July that there will be an open competition at training camp. Murray’s biggest issue is staying healthy. Samsonov’s is consistency.
Most intriguing addition
The Capitals thought Samsonov was the goalie of their future when they chose him with the No. 22 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. His GAA has regressed in each of his three NHL seasons, from 2.55 in 2019-20 to 2.69 in 2020-21 to 3.02 last season. The goal for the Maple Leafs coaching staff is to get the 25-year-old back on track.
Biggest potential surprise
Is Liljegren ready to become the No. 2 defenseman? The numbers suggest he can once he’s healthy. He had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 65 games last season after one assist in his first 13 NHL games. The development is tangible for a player who showed his ceiling is higher than some may have thought.
Ready to break through
Nicholas Robertson has struggled through a variety of health issues the past two seasons. The 21-year-old forward had knee injury in 2020-21 that sidelined him for four weeks and last season fractured his right fibula and was out four months. When healthy, his talent is obvious. He led the Ontario Hockey League with 55 goals for Peterborough in 2019-20 and has the finishing skills to be a force for the Maple Leafs. With Ilya Mikheyev and Ondrej Kase leaving as free agents, and Jason Spezza retiring, there is room for Robertson to land a regular role up front.
Giordano, D (fantasy average draft position: 169.2) — He had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 20 games (49 points over an 82-game pace) last season after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Kraken on March 20. Giordano had Toronto’s fourth-most power-play points per 60 minutes last season (7.54) despite playing mostly on the second unit. He’s a fantasy bounce-back candidate given his high point ceiling (74 with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19). — Anna Dua
Michael Bunting — Auston Matthews — Mitchell Marner
Alexander Kerfoot — John Tavares — William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson — David Kampf — Calle Jarnkrok
Wayne Simmonds — Adam Gaudette — Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Morgan Rielly — TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin — Justin Holl
Mark Giordano — Victor Mete
Injured: Timothy Liljegren (hernia surgery), Pierre Engvall (ankle/foot)
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