The Toronto Maple Leafs may be getting some extra help when play resumes.
On May 26th, Gary Bettman announced when the NHL season resumes, rosters will be expanded to 28 skaters and as many goalies as wanted. It has long been cited the Toronto Maple Leafs spend more resources and capital on developing their farm system than any other team in the NHL.
With the deep pockets of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the fanbase to generate a ton of revenue shares, there is no denying the Toronto Maple Leafs flex their financial muscle when it comes to pouring cash into the Marlies organization.
Such investments at the AHL level net Toronto with incredible depth and that is about to show very solid returns when the NHL resumes.
Toronto Maple Leafs Expanded Roster
With the announcement of the extended rosters, once again Toronto’s financial might is going to draw hate from opposing teams as Toronto now has the unique ability to be able to carry several extra NHL players without having to compromise their salary cap situation.
Sheldon Keefe is going to have a ton of flexibility when it comes to preparing his game time roster and I believe the forward-thinking rookie head coach is going to be extremely creative with his lineup combinations.
Before we get to the extended roster candidates, we must first establish the players who are locks to be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen, Kyle Clifford, Jason Spezza, and Pierre Engvall.
Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barrie, Justin Holl, Travis Dermott, and Cody Ceci.
Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell.
This group of players consists of 11 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies. While the defense pairings and goalie tandem are locked in, there is still a spot as the 12th forward left to be filled by two players: Nick Robertson or Frederik Gauthier.
While it remains to be seen if Nick Robertson can handle NHL minutes at such a young age, without a question he will at least be in the lineup for one of the two exhibition games before the Columbus series. It is possible, with a good showing in one of those two games, Robertson will claim the 12th forward spot, leaving Gauthier as the 13th forward.
I believe Robertson is ready to be a fulltime NHLer and will prove that to us in the exhibition games, leading the rookie to claim the final spot and Gauthier becoming the extra forward.
Those two players give us 13 forwards and 6 defensemen for a total of 19 skaters, leaving 9 spots left to be filled by the extended roster.
Extended Roster Forwards
With regards to the extended roster forwards, Luke Fox of Sportsnet previously mentioned Kenny Agostino is preparing to leave New Jersey and head to Toronto as he has been informed he will be part of the extended roster.
Joining Agostino will almost certainly be Denis Malgin. Malgin, the third line right winger versus Tampa in Toronto’s last game, impressed some in his limited stint with the team and it appears Keefe is quite a fan of the undersized Swiss.
Adam Brooks’ hockey IQ and NHL readiness will force Kyle Dubas to include him among the extra forwards. Similarly, Yegor Korshkov’s big body will provide a huge boost for Toronto if they look for more size on the fourth line during the playoff stretch.
Agostino, Malgin, Brooks, and Korshkov, along with Gauthier, give Toronto added flexibility with their positional diverseness and all bring something different to the table.
These five players bring Toronto’s total to 23 skaters.
Extended Roster Defense
Martin Marincin and Calle Rosen are near locks to be the 7th and 8th defensemen for Sheldon Keefe. Both have some NHL experience and seem to have the trust of Toronto’s head coach to be counted on when a spot on defense is needed to be filled for a couple of games.
Two of the remaining spots will almost be guaranteed to go to rookies Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Both are near NHL-ready, and it would be important for their development to be around NHL veterans during their playoff run.
Plus, these two Swedes are undoubtedly the most skilled defensemen Toronto has outside of their current NHL roster.
Marincin, Rosen, Sandin, and Liljegren bring Toronto’s total to 27 skaters, leaving one spot remaining.
The Last Spot
Kyle Dubas has an interesting decision to make when it comes to the 28th roster spot. For one, already Toronto has an equal number of forwards as defensemen.
While the 28th skater is the least likely to receive any playoff action, it is still an important decision for Dubas to make, one that will come down to two players: Nic Petan or Teemu Kivihalme.
Nic Petan could end up taking the last spot as he has previous NHL experience, he has familiarity with this current Leaf team, and can play any forward position.
Teemu Kivihalme, outside of Sandin and Liljegren, is probably the Marlies next best defensemen. Marlies head coach Greg Moore mentioned Kivihalme as one of four players who really impressed him with their development this season. He was called up earlier this year, indicating Toronto management sees something in the 24-year old.
I suspect Toronto goes with Kivihalme, mostly because the Leafs are better off upfront and would likely need the help on the backend should it come to that.
Any goalie other than Frederik Andersen or Jack Campbell does not have a chance of seeing playoff action which makes it entirely possible Toronto elects to only carry two goaltenders.
However, with the addition of extra bodies to the playoff roster, and the extra skaters on the ice during practice, it may help to bring a spare goalie for the ride.
In that case, almost guaranteed to take that spot is Kasimir Kaskisuo. The Marlies starting goaltender is undisputed the third goalie in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and him getting into game action this season when Michael Hutchinson fell out of favour with Keefe, shows Kaskisuo has a certain level of trust in his game from the Toronto office.
Kyle Dubas is going to have a wealth of depth options he could opt for to fill out his extended roster. All have their own skill-sets and it is going to be hard to make a wrong decision here.