The Toronto Maple Leafs will dress a lineup pretty close to the real thing tonight versus Montreal (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet One).

According to Chris Johnston, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Milan Michalek, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin will all feature among the forwards, with the lines divided up something like this:

The forward pairs we spoke about in our training camp preview are all present here: Kadri – Komarov, JVR-Bozak, Matthews-Nylander, Martin-Laich.

If Gauthier plays in his third game in a row tonight, it could be a sign that Leafs brass is looking at him in the “maybe NHL-ready” category. Management’s development program for The Goat likely means a return to the Marlies to play higher in their lineup, but he’s looked capable of playing 4C for this team in preseason — arguably, he has outplayed Laich over the three games so far —  and he should stick around deep into camp. It’s interesting that everyone else listed in Johnston’s lineup is an NHL regular or on the cusp of breaking through to the NHL full time.

The lead of tonight’s story, of course, belongs to Auston Matthews’ preseason debut and his first game in a Leaf sweater at the ACC. How the dynamic looks between Matthews and Nylander will be a fascinating watch, and so will Mitch Marner playing alongside a skilled veteran center and a legitimate top-line talent on his opposite wing.

On defence, Nikita Zaitsev, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner are all in tonight. These may not be the pairings we see on October 12, but this looks like it could be the opening-night top seven if we drop Valiev:

Lots of intrigue in store for tonight. We’ll update closer to game time with the official lines.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Left Wing
Right Wing
Leo Komarkov Nazem Kadri Milan Michalek
James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Mitch Marner
Zach Hyman Auston Matthews William Nylander
Matt Martin Frederik Gauthier Connor Brown
Left Defense
Right Defense
Martin Marincin Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick Nikita Zaitsev
Rinat Valiev Roman Polak

Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines

A thin Habs lineup tonight.

Left Wing
Right Wing
Artturi Lehkonen David Desharnais Nikita Scherbak
Sven Andrighetto Michael McCarron Daniel Carr
Stefan Matteau Daniel Audette Charles Hudon
Jacob de la Rose Jeremy Gregoire Chris Terry
Left Defense
Right Defense
Nathan Beaulieu Greg Pateryn
Mikhail Sergchev Jeff Petry
Mark Barberio Zach Redmond

Mike Babcock Media Address

Mike Babcock addressed the media ahead of the preseason matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, touching on the team’s youth, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, Frederik Gauthier, and more.

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