Based on the personnel on offer, preseason could become at least a little more interesting tonight.
Randy Carlyle will be icing a few line combinations of intrigue, including a potential “shut down line” combination of Dave Bolland, Mason Raymond and Nikolai Kulemin. How Raymond fares on that unit will be a worthwhile talking point; this seems to be, based on the projected opening night lineup, the spot he is vying for. The line looks good on paper, with a nice balance of two-way acumen, speed, and some grit between Kulemin and Bolland.
The other line of interest presents an opportunity for Joe Colborne to make an impression and prove he’s deserving of a lower roster spot to open the season. He will be playing between James van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson in what represents a potentially beastly cycle line. Playing alongside two other big bodies who are both effective down low, we’ll see if Colborne acquits himself well alongside two of the team’s top 6 forwards.
Nazem Kadri meanwhile will center Spencer Abbott and David Broll. Abbott must have done enough in camp and his firs preseason appearance for Leafs brass to reward him with another look, but it’s tough to foresee a spot he could even take. It’s likely the team is assessing a potential call-up option here. The undrafted Abbott, who was signed out of college, is a pretty skilled player so we’ll see if he can get anything done working alongside Kadri tonight. On the other flank is David Broll. With Frazer McLaren and his broken pinky cursing Carter Asthon from the press box, there is potentially a 4th line wing spot up for grabs come opening night. If he can prove he’s responsible out there and make smart decisions while bringing his physical edge, Broll has a shot. It doesn’t hurt his cause that his cap hit is below $600,000.
Rounding out the lines, Jay McClement will get his first taste of preseason action tonight playing in between Jamie Devane and Carter Ashton, who is looking to build on an impressive camp. As for Ashton’s prospects for making the team, whether or not Mason Raymond receives a contract beyond his PTO will impact his chances. If the Leafs end up giving Raymond a contract, Ashton would still have a shot at grabbing a 4th line wing spot (should McLaren be out) or the 13th forward slot; he’s in competition with Broll, but may be hindered by the million dollar hit he carries as a former 1st round draft pick on an entry level contract.
I’m, of course, assuming a cap crunch is imminent due to Franson re-signing sooner than later. That may be reaching at this stage.
Stuart Percy, arguably the team’s best defenceman in the rookie tournament, makes his preseason debut on the blueline, expected to play alongside the Captain. Can Percy put himself in the conversation alongside MacWilliam and Brennan for the 7th/8th spots in the depth chart?
Phaneuf and Gunnarsson will play their first competitive action of the season as well. As expected, Rielly will play his third consecutive preseason game as the brass thoroughly test the kid in the buildup to one of their most important preseason decisions: should he stay or should he go?
Between the pipes, Jonathan Bernier will reportedly play the first 40 minutes.
Maple Leafs Pre-Season LinesMaple Leafs Pre-Season Lines vs Ottawa Senators
Here’s what we know of Ottawa’s lineup:
Here’s the full lineup card for the Sens. Sounds like Craig Anderson will start. Overall, there are quite a few regulars featuring on both sides. Should be a good one.