Maple Leafs select Topi Niemela with the 64th overall pick

Through a well calculated move to trade down from the 44th pick, Kyle Dubas added an early third round pick which he used to select Finnish defenceman Topi Niemela. The right handed defender was ranked in the middle of the second round by most major scouting outlets, with some listing him at the back end of the first round. Niemela played 43 games for Karpat in Liiga last season, picking up one goal and six assists as a 17 year old blue liner in Finland’s top professional league.

Solid hit from Topi Niemela.. Hugo Styf was not styf enough.
*I still like Hugo Styf. He had a few very solid games when I was watching Wallinder. One of the youngest player in the draft too. Could be a decent late 3rd, 4th round pick. pic.twitter.com/jHxEBpH6gp
— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) February 8, 2020

Niemela is an outstanding skater who plays a very mature defensive game for his age and makes smart plays with the puck on his stick. He has good edges, as well as top speed, allowing him to maintain tight gaps and attack opposing puck carriers. Niemela isn’t a flashy player but he does a great job of …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays grind out an extra-innings win despite Nate Pearson’ struggles

We’re one-third of the way through the 2020 season and the Blue Jays have finally won a series. Better late than never! Thank you, Trash Birds.

Things worth mentioning…

A big theme of this season has been the Blue Jays’ frequent fundamental failures leading to frustrating losses. On Tuesday, it was refreshing to be reminded that other teams have game-altering fuck ups too. After blowing a 7-3 lead, the Jays ended up in extra innings, and, honestly, given the way things have gone thus far, nobody would have blamed you for expecting this one to wind up being another heartbreaker. But, the Trash Birds! They’re still trash! In the Jays’ half of the 10th, Lourdes Gurriel slapped a ball on the ground to Chris Davis who somehow wasn’t able to make a throw to catch the glacial drift that was Travis Shaw running home from third. Then, in Baltimore’s half, with the game on the line, Dwight Smith Jr. got caught up between third and home after Cedric Mullens hit a single. Boy oh boy, it’s refreshing to be on the other side of that kind of thing …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

News and Notes as the Blue Jays head to Baltimore to face the inexplicably good Orioles

We’re one-third of the way through the season and the Baltimore Orioles — yes, the Trash Birds — are in a playoff spot. Let that sink in.

The Orioles doing as well as they are is pretty much exactly why I had optimism for the Blue Jays during this 60-game sprint. Baltimore has a fairly similar roster to the one they trotted out last season when they won like 40 games, yet, here we are. They’ve somehow bullshitted their way to a 12-9 start, which is the sixth-best record in the American League.
The key for the O’s has been scoring runs. They’ve won seven of their last nine games and only once have they scored fewer than five runs in a game during that stretch. The pitching has been so-so, but Baltimore is scoring the fifth-most runs-per-game in baseball, behind only the Yankees, Rockies, A’s, and Dodgers. Just like we all expected!

This year, the Orioles have faced:
Gerrit ColeBlake SnellTyler GlasnowZack WheelerJake ArrietaStephen StrasburgPatrick Corbin
They have a combined $1.06 billion in guaranteed contracts between them. And a 6.82 ERA against Baltimore.
— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) August 16, 2020

Anyways, after a wildly …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

News and Notes as the Blue Jays host the Rays in Buffalo

We’re already one-quarter of the way through this miniature season.

Amazingly, despite having the fewest wins in the American League (tied with Boston with six) the Blue Jays are very much so still hilariously in the playoff hunt. That’s what happens when you double the playoff field.
The Jays are 6-9 and that record, as we know, could easily be much better if not for some ugly, heartbreaking losses. But, maybe we have to accept that’s just who these Blue Jays are. They’re a young, mistake-prone team and frustrating, avoidable losses comes with the territory.
Regardless, the Jays will host the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend for a difficult American League East series. Tampa just finished kicking the everloving shit out of the Red Sox this weekend and they’ve won six straight, putting them at 12-8 after a slowish start to the season.
Taking two of three against a red-hot Rays team would go a long way in helping forget about some of those losses we’ve seen recently. It won’t be easy to cool off this offence, though!

The Rays outscored the Red Sox 42-22 in …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: Are the Raptors Legitimate Title Contenders?

With the Toronto Raptors already halfway through their seeding games with the NBA’s restart, the playoffs are set to begin on August 17th and fans can not wait any longer. The Toronto Raptors have shown they aren’t a team to mess around with during the regular season and even through their seeding games in Orlando. […]
Toronto Raptors: Are the Raptors Legitimate Title Contenders? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Joseph Zita / Raptors HQ

Diversity and Representation in Maple Leafs Organization: A Halfhearted Reality

We are living through a strange and unique time, not only because of the global pandemic but also because of all that is going on in the world when it comes to racism and police brutality, particularly in the US and Canada. As hockey fans, It’s hard not to think about how this intersects with the world of sports. On July 13th, day one of Phase Three of the Return to Play plan, the entirety of the Maple Leafs roster came to practice in Black Lives Matter t-shirts. When asked about it captain John Tavares said, “On a day when everyone wants to talk about hockey and was excited to get back to playing, it’s important to have the Black Lives Matter movement be prevalent, and we want to make sure that’s not lost in all of this.”

“On a day when everyone wants to talk about hockey and was excited to get back to playing, it’s important to have that #BlackLivesMatter movement be prevalent, and we want to make sure that’s not lost in all of this.” pic.twitter.com/y9w1yxjzV2
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 14, 2020

In my …

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Author: Marsha Joseph / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: Ibaka’s style of play is why he shouldn’t be re-signed

When looking through a scope, Ibaka has been the better center for the Toronto Raptors when compared to Gasol. But when you look at the whole picture, you’d notice Ibaka’s impact is not nearly as close to Gasol’s. It is an understatement to say that Serge Ibaka has been playing well. He has exceeded everyone’s […]
Toronto Raptors: Ibaka’s style of play is why he shouldn’t be re-signed – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Alexandro Fidanza / Raptors HQ

How Much Will Morgan Rielly’s Next Contract Cost the Maple Leafs?

Between Sportsnet and TSN us Leafs fans are put through constant worry about our cap situation. Well, allow this article to maybe act as a calm amidst the storm we’re currently in (Leafs and life related). 
Today, I’d like to take some time to talk about Morgan Rielly. What specifically about him? Well, the new contract he’ll be needing in two years. I know there are lots of variables and uncertainty at the moment with the NHL salary cap, but there are a few tools and comparisons that we can use to help us determine what a fair cost for Rielly would be. Things to consider are the salary cap, his age, team situation, and his comps. 
But before we do that I think it’s important to review just how good Rielly has been for the Leafs over the last three seasons (17/18 – 19/20).
 

Year
GP
G
A
PTS
P/G
EVP
PPP
ZS%
xGF% Rel
xGAR

17/18
76
6
46
52
0.68
27
25
48/52
-0.20
8

18/19
82
20
52
72
0.88
51
21
56/44
-0.56
20.7

19/20
47
3
24
27
0.57
20
7
50/50
-0.43
0.4

 
It’s no secret that Rielly struggled this season. He never really looked right out there and admitted to playing injured earlier in the year. Also, Connor McDavid …

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Author: Stephen Brown / The Leafs Nation

Top Leafs Outside the NHL: #2 Nick Robertson

Well, after a run of Marlies players through most of the top 10, we return to junior hockey and take a look at Nick Robertson. Of all the players in the rankings, no one scored higher on potential upside and talent than Nick Robertson. If this was a straight up prospect ranking there is a very good chance that we would be considering Robertson the number one guy, but as much as he’s answered a lot of questions about what he can do this year, the one question remains, “Is Nick Robertson NHL ready?”

The @NHL extends Player Development Agreements for the 2020-21 season. pic.twitter.com/ttigXvENjZ
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 28, 2020
The NHL’s decision yesterday complicates things for Nick Robertson a little more. The Leafs don’t have an AHL option for him next season, and it largely comes down to if he’s not a Leaf, he’s going to be returning to the OHL, and another question comes from that, “what more can he accomplish there?”
Let’s look at some of those accomplishments…

SEASON
TEAM
LEAGUE
GP
G
A
TP
PIM

2017 …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Re-signing Spezza would be nice but far from necessary

As we’ve gone through the countdown of the top Leafs outside the NHL, it’s become abundantly clear that the Leafs have no shortage of secondary offensive talent that can fit into their lineup next season. This is probably a good thing as if we are going to see summer playoff hockey followed by an immediate start of a season, followed by another possible pause, followed by hockey that will likely continue into late next summer, depth will be good. Spezza is some of that depth and if his salary remains controlled that would be a huge advantage for the Leafs.
The positives to bringing Spezza back are fairly obvious…
A) Offense is good, and Spezza provides that with bottom six players. Kapanen is the most skilled player that Spezza played with this year, and to an overwhelming amount compared the rest of the team, seeing 235 minutes with him and 124 minutes with his second most frequent linemate, Freddie Gauthier. Engvall, Petan, Clifford, Timashov, Moore, and Mikheyev were Spezza’s other linemates with over 50 minutes played together last season, and when you consider Spezza was playing 10 minutes a night without offensive juggernauts, his 25 points in 58 games …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation