I feel like we’ve been saying this cliché for years, but Josh Leivo will make the team out of camp and join the fourth line.
That might not sound like a surprise but when you realize Leivo has only played 55 games over the last 5 seasons, it is. Leivo can play in the NHL, he’s proven that at this point. Last year he played in only 16 games (The most in his NHL career) and scored 4 points, or about a 20 point pace in 82 games. For reference, Matt Martin had 21 points in 132 games for the Leafs on the fourth line while Komarov had 51 points in 156 games, so Leivo could produce similar numbers if he keeps the same pace.
More importantly, Leivo is a more versatile player than Martin or Komarov were. He’s younger (Leivo is shockingly only 25-years old) and has better possession (2.7% relative Corsi) statistics over his short career than Martin (-2.7% relative Corsi with the Leafs) and Komarov (-1.7% relative Corsi).
With Martin gone Mike Babcock should look to Leivo to fill his slot. He may have some competition from Tyler Ennis who the Leafs signed over the summer, but I think Leivo will take it as he knows this may be his last chance to crack the team.
His contract is up next summer and while he may re-sign as an RFA, he knows if he doesn’t make the team this year, he never will, and I feel like that will drive him to make the team and create a fourth line of Leivo-Lindholm-Brown.