3 Things the Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Do This Season

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third period goal at 16:54 with Morgan Rielly #44 and William Nylander #88 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third period goal at 16:54 with Morgan Rielly #44 and William Nylander #88 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA – MAY 26: #4 Mikko Lehtonen of Finland  (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images) /

#2. Give Mikko Lehtonen a Ton of Minutes

Mikko Lehtonen is currently slotted on the third defensive pair alongside Zach Bogosian. I know it’s a small sample size, but after one team scrimmage, Lehtonen showed why he was the KHL Defenseman of the Year last season.

The Leafs left-side of their defense is as talented as ever, so it makes sense as to why Lehtonen was slotted on the third-pairing to start the season. There’s no way that he’s going to get more minutes than Morgan Rielly or Jake Muzzin, as those two are the team’s best defensemen.

However, Lehtonen is a special case. Although he’s a left-handed shot, he’s comfortable playing on the right-side. I’m not saying that Lehtonen should immediately move up the line-up and take Justin Holl’s spot on the second-pairing, but I do think that when the game’s get tight, Sheldon Keefe should lean on Lehtonen a little more.

A top-four of Morgan Rielly-T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin-Justin Holl is nice, but in crunch time, a Jake Muzzin-Mikko Lehtonen duo could be even better. During the team scrimmage, he seemed poised with the puck and even scored a goal. Although the goal wasn’t a highlight-reel tally, it was still a smart shot to get the puck on net and hope for the best.

After watching one game, it’s easy to see why Lehtonen was so highly touted. Slotted on the second power-play, Lehtonen should continue to stay in that role for the rest of the season. It’s no fluke that Lehtonen scored 17 goals and 49 points in 60 KHL games last season, so the Leafs should continue to play him as often as possible. In my opinion, he’ll end up being the best signing of the off-season, once this year is over.