The Toronto Maple Leafs were put through their paces and were back on the ice scrimmaging today for day one of Phase 3 training camp.

The approach from Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff: try to get the team back into the competitive swing of things as quickly as possible with intrasquad games. With the entire Leafs roster present and healthy — save Timothy Liljegren, who we can expect an update on later, and the rehabbing Andreas Johnsson — the Leafs appear to be off and running without a hitch, which can’t be taken for granted in an era where this kind of news is an unfortunate reality around the league and across professional sports.

There is no doubt it is a blessing that the Leafs are in a region of the world where the fight against COVID-19 is on the right trajectory.

At camp, the coaching staff has the Leafs roster split up into two groups, with lines 1 and 3 in one group, and 2 and 4 in the other:

Therefore, Keefe’s initial lines come together like so:

Nylander – Matthews – Hyman
Mikheyev – Tavares – Marner
Engvall – Kerfoot – Kapanen
Clifford – Gauthier – Spezza

Extras: Robertson-Brooks-Korshkov / Petan-Agostino-Malgin

Muzzin – Holl
Rielly – Ceci
Dermott – Barrie

Extras: Sandin-Marincin / Rosen-Kivihalme


A few notes before we compile the clips from today’s scrimmages:

  • The obvious caveat: Much can and likely will change when it comes time to line up against the Blue Jackets for Game 1. It’s a nice comfort entering a series knowing you can fairly argue there are two Leafs forward lines that are better than any one of Columbus’, but these qualifying series could be total wildcards given the circumstances.
  • Not only is he back with Auston Matthews, William Nylander is also on his off wing, which is something Sheldon Keefe experimented with before the pause. Zach Hyman has been switched over onto his strong side. It makes a good amount of sense when you consider the shot threat Nylander offers cutting in off the left as a right-hand shot and the overall skillset required to play on an elite scoring line on the off wing. Hyman’s diligently improved his ability to play the off-wing successfully alongside upper-echelon linemates over the years, but he’s also flashed some nice rushes and playmaking moments in the comforts of his strong side when back there.
  • John Tavares and Mitch Marner have re-united, with Ilya Mikheyev back in the fold and on the left side of the line. Mikheyev and Tavares were a good match before the injury —  in the high 50s in shot attempt, shot, chance, and goal shares (in 138 min TOI at 5v5). As well as Nylander played with him, the captain wasn’t helped by the lack of an ideal fit on the left side of the line between Kasperi Kapanen playing his off wing or Alex Kerfoot moving up during Mikheyev’s absence. Whether it’s Marner next to Matthews or Nylander next to Matthews, depending on the matchups and whatever duo might be going at the time, the top six certainly looks locked and loaded and both of these combinations make sense to start. Souperman even scored the first goal of the training camp scrimmage.
  • Nick Robertson‘s task in order to make this team is to prove he offers more in the bottom six than one of Pierre Engvall or Frederik Gauthier can — we can safely assume Kyle Clifford and Jason Spezza are locks — with the likes of Denis Malgin and Nic Petan, Egor Korshkov, Kenny Agostino, and Adam Brooks competing alongside him looking to prove the same. That’s with a tie favouring the vets with NHL experience. Let’s see what the kid can do. That third line is a situation to keep an eye on as the team needed more from the bottom six and all three players there now were running cold prior to the pause; Kapanen had four points in his last 13 games, Kerfoot had three points in his last 11, and Engvall had two points in his last 20.
  • Cody Ceci slotting in beside Morgan Rielly — that’s how it was paired off when Rielly came back for the final game before the pause vs. Tampa, so it shouldn’t come as a shock — will be met by some consternation within the fan base. We’ve seen Rielly-Barrie together as a somewhat sheltered pairing that can move the puck and push the pace offensively against second and third lines while Muzzin – Holl takes on the toughs, but if Keefe doesn’t feel it can be trusted defensively, it means he’s got two pairings he likely doesn’t fully trust in hard minutes between Rielly – Barrie and Dermott – Ceci. We’ll have to see, but based on Keefe’s lines when Rielly came back vs. Tampa, the trust level in Ceci’s ability to get critical defensive stops against good players might be higher than Barrie’s in the coach’s eyes. We’ve seen plenty of evidence Keefe is not married to any one, though, and camp could change his mind on that front. Does Dermott get a look on his off side if he’s sharp in camp? Do we see Rielly-Barrie again? Does Rasmus Sandin factor in? Lots to keep an eye on.

Day 1 of Phase Training Camp – Scrimmage Clips

Day 1 of Phase Training Camp – Quotes from the Room