The Toronto Maple Leafs have battled their way to a 5-1 start. With their normal lineup, that would be expected. However, the Leafs have been rather unlucky when it comes to injuries so far this season.
Mark Fraser, Frazer McLaren and Nikolai Kulemin are all on injured reserve and many Leafs have played through minor injuries. The Leafs have also had to deal with the 10-game suspension to David Clarkson. This has led the Leafs to use a lot of young players in their lineup and for the most part, they haven’t disappointed.
It all starts with 2012 fifth-overall pick Morgan Rielly. After sitting out the first two games of the season, Rielly has played every game since then. While there have been rough spots, he has shown that he has the talent to stay with the Maple Leafs past his nine-game mark.
While he has only registered one assist, he hasn’t exactly been a liability on the defensive side of the game. He may be a minus-3 in the plus/minus department, but you could account for most of that in his first game against the Ottawa Senators. As he continues to get acclimated to the NHL game, he should only get better with experience.
Next in line to Rielly, the Leafs have had contributions from Carter Ashton, David Broll and Josh Leivo. While none of them have had had great offensive games so far, they have not looked out of place. They have shown that when they are everyday members of the Leafs’ lineup, they will be valuable pieces.
Ashton has proved his toughness. I remember watching the first game of the season as he stood up and fought Jarred Tinordi. He received a good punch that broke his nose. What did he do afterwards? Stood back up and still was talking back to Tinordi. He now has a fan in me.
While Broll and Leivo haven’t made that much of an impact, the fact that they both stayed with the Leafs for the majority of training camp shows that the Leafs have a lot of faith in them.
Keep in mind that the Leafs still have good prospects developing in Tyler Biggs, Brad Ross, Frederik Gauthier, Carter Verhaeghe, Matt Finn, Petter Granberg and Stuart Percy, and the Leafs future looks like it could be very bright.