Line combos, defensive pairings, and other news and notes from the Leafs first day on ice

The Leafs are finally back on the ice, and with that comes the first line combinations we’ve had to dissect in four months. With the acknowledgement that it’s day one, and while these are destined to change especially due to the notable absence of Auston Matthews, there was presumably some thought given to the combinations that we saw, and for that reason they warrant sharing and at least a couple of quick thoughts.

#Leafs lines from group 1 working on drills (Auston Matthews took the early skating drills, but is not participating in 5-on-5 drills) pic.twitter.com/OttTQeZrtq
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) September 23, 2021

Leafs afternoon combos pic.twitter.com/TjnTSKPEnI
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) September 23, 2021

It’s worth noting that Nylander swapped in for Douglas shortly after, and the one true additional absence for the day beyond Matthews and Steeves was Wayne Simmonds.
Rather than go line by line, and drive you and I crazy in the process, there are probably some interesting truths to what we’re seeing here, and we’ll take a look at what’s happening.
First thing that stands out to me are the main defensive pairings:
Rielly-Dermott
Sandin-Brodie
Muzzin-Liljegren
Dahlstrom-Holl
Rubins-Menell
We’ …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Mitch Marner’s new mindset could change the Leafs outcome

“It’s time to get back to work, get my body ready, and try to be a better person or better player than I was this year, and make sure I come ready to do that.”
That was Mitch Marner almost four months ago when everything fell apart.
Three-straight losses to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, and Marner was at the forefront. He was the player that everyone went after.
The biggest question was whether the ‘big four’ could conquer their quest for glory. Could Marner be one of the players who led them on that journey? Everyone was questioning whether this Leafs team could win something meaningful. Everything in the regular season suggested so, yet nothing following that.
Being on the Toronto Maple Leafs can be a daunting task at times. For Marner, it was about discovering his path through the pressure. Growing up, he wanted to play for this team, and the 24-year-old still does now.
How will Marner fight through the pressure? Well, he’ll attack it head-on.
“You want pressure.” Said Marner during the Leafs’ first media availability of the 2021-22 season. “You don’t want to be playing in a …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Ep. 48: The Trop Sucks & That Series Didn’t Go Well

We are back with another episode of BJN Radio to recap the Blue Jays tough three-game series at Tropicana Field.

Things did not go well. A questionable, if not terrible, strike zone cost them in game one and while they were able to squeak out a win in game two thanks to a gutsy performance from ‘The Big Man’ Alek Manoah, they couldn’t get the win in the rubber match. Ross Stripling was terrible, there was drama surrounding Kevin Keirmaier and a dropped piece of paper, and it was just all around a bad time at The Trop, which it usually is.
Cam & Tyler recapped the series, look at the wild card standings, and got set for a massive four-game series against the Twins today on the pod.

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Author: Tyler Yaremchuk / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: This fun lineup combo could close out games in 2021

Toronto Raptors: This fun lineup combo could close out games in 2021

The Toronto Raptors decided to run back a good chunk of the starters from last year, as the re-signings of Gary Trent Jr. and Khem Birch will assuredly put them back in the preferred opening lineup this season alongside Fred VanVleet at point guard, Pascal Siakam at power forward, and OG Anunoby at small forward. […]
Toronto Raptors: This fun lineup combo could close out games in 2021 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Maple Leafs announce 2021 development camp roster

Hockey is back, kind of.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced the 2021 development camp roster, which begins on September 9th.

The 2021 Development Camp roster has been announced.
Details » https://t.co/b9i3Idsbpc#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/H23Hy5qSKq
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 7, 2021

Invited to the camp are some names we already know such as Nick Robertson, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Pavel Gogolev, Jeremy McKenna, Joseph Duszak, and even Ian Scott. Others who’ve seen games within the Maple Leafs organization are Filip Kral, William Villeneuve, Noel Hoefenmayer and Riley McCourt.
With the start of camp being on September 9th, players will arrive and begin with both medicals and on-ice testing. On Friday, September 10th, the players will have their first on-ice session as a team and will meet with the media.
From the media release, this is the schedule for their development camp:
Friday, September 10
On-Ice Development: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 11
On-Ice Development/ Morning Skate: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Scrimmage: 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 12
On-Ice Development: 10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Monday, September 13
Scrimmage: 10:00 a.m.
The Leafs Senior Director of Player Development, Hayley Wickenheiser, will run the the camp along with her staff. Others who will …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

The 2021 Top 20 Leafs Prospects: #5 Topi Niemelä

Back in October 2020, the Maple Leafs traded back from pick 44 to acquire two picks on the virtual draft floor of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The first of those picks, selection number 59, was used on Finnish centreman Roni Hirvonen, who has grown into an intriguing prospect in his own right for the Maple Leafs. The other prospect the Maple Leafs parlayed that 44th pick into, pick 64, ultimately turned into arguably the best defensive prospect in the entire Maple Leafs’ system in Topi Niemela.
Niemela burst onto the scene for Maple Leafs fans with his 2021 World Junior Championship tournament performance, a spectacle that culminated with him winning the tournament’s Best Defenceman honours. In the months that followed, however, as fans turned their attention away from the youngster and towards the NHL club, Niemela continued to grow his game, and now finds himself as a huge part of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future plans.
Position: Right Defence
Age: 19
Height: 5’11
Weight: 165 lbs
Drafted: 64th Overall, 2019 NHL Draft by The Toronto Maple Leafs
2020-21 Teams: Oulun Kärpät, Liiga (15 GP)
2020 Prospect Ranking: #9
 
Overview
Niemela’s past 10 months as a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect have been practically nothing but upward momentum. Even as the …

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Author: Jori Negin-Shecter / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 42: Just scraping by the Trash Birds

We are back after a short hiatus!

The series against the Baltimore “Trash Bird” Orioles was one we’ve all had marked on our calendars for quite some time as three automatic wins. That didn’t happen.
Robbie Ray put up an amazing start and Vladdy hit two homers in the opener, but a sixth-inning meltdown from Hyun Jin Ryu and some limp bats resulted in a loss in the second game. Finally, in the third game, Toronto narrowly squeezed out a victory on what was probably the most 2021 Blue Jays play possible, a go-ahead fly-ball double play. Sexy stuff!
We talked about the limp bats at the bottom of the order, what Nate Pearson can bring to the team, and we also looked ahead to the upcoming series against Oakland, which can ultimately sink or swim the season.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: G League legend Matt Morgan signs in Turkey

Toronto Raptors: G League legend Matt Morgan signs in Turkey

The Toronto Raptors have helped supplement the back end of their roster by promoting players from their excellent Raptors 905 G League team over the last few years. Despite the success he has had in that minor league, Matt Morgan has found it increasingly difficult to get his shot in the NBA. The former Cornell […]
Toronto Raptors: G League legend Matt Morgan signs in Turkey – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Auston Matthews graces NHL cover for second time in three years

Auston Matthews is back on the cover of an NHL game.

Back again @AM34 is your #NHL22 cover athlete!
Pre-order now https://t.co/JF65PnliKE pic.twitter.com/IiTjcZxoSI
— EA SPORTS NHL (@EASPORTSNHL) August 19, 2021

This will be the second time in three years where Matthews has appeared on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL game.
“I grew up playing the game and it’s really special to be on the cover in general, and to be on it again, I’m still just as excited.” Said Matthews in a video from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Twitter account.
Matthews joins Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin as the only players who have been NHL cover stars twice.
“It’s a huge honour.” Said the 23-year-old. “Being on the cover not once, but twice, is truly humbling.”
There have been some fans who are upset about Matthews being on the cover of the game again. But really, who else could you ask for? Sure there have been plenty of players from the Tampa Bay Lightning who are deserving, yet Matthews is different.
Winner of the Rocket, one of the best goal scorers in the world, and if not the best right now, …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Nate Pearson tosses a clean inning in his first rehab outing (and other minor-league notes)

Nate Pearson is back with the Buffalo Bisons. Let’s dive into his rehab outing a whole bunch of other stuff from the minors…

Buffalo Bisons:
Buffalo lost their game 4-0 bringing their record to 53-33. Let’s dive into specific players.
Nate Pearson:
In a move that shocked me, Nate Pearson was reinstated from the IL. He had a pitch limit between 20-25 pitches, however he only needed 13 pitches to finish his one inning of work. The velocity was there and every pitch was near the zone (except for one).

#Bluejays note: Nate Pearson looked mighty good in a 13-pitch 1-2-3 first inning. Nine strikes. He hit 100 on stadium radar gun *4 times* and 98 on another pitch. A K, a popup, a groundout. Could be interesting 1-2 inning bullpen weapon. #Bisons
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) August 14, 2021

Nate’s strikeout. All around the plate.#WeAreBlueJays #BlueJays pic.twitter.com/7mUxXS2kvI
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) August 14, 2021

 
This is a promising development, especially if he can come out of the bullpen for the stretch run.
Thomas Hatch:
Hatch continues to impress at the highest level of the minors. While he was saddled with the loss, he had a fantastic game regardless of …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation