Where Does Nick Foligno Fit In the Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup?

Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets (Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets (Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports) /
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COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 7: Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets  . (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 7: Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets  . (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

So, What Should the Leafs Lineup Look Like?

There really is no wrong answer the coaching staff can come up with when it comes to building a competent roster. Dubas has done an excellent job of acquiring flexible forwards and Keefe can use that invaluable advantage come playoff time.

However, oftentimes this season, the Leafs head coach has tipped his hand as to how he would like his lineup to look. Although injuries and several other misfortunes have derailed his plans, a defensive third line to match up against the stars of the North division appears to be a staple of an optimized Toronto Maple Leafs system.

One of the more prominent revelations of the season so far came in the Leafs’ three-game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers in which Keefe loaded up the Leafs’ third line with Zach Hyman anchoring a threesome of him, Pierre Engvall, and Ilya Mikheyev.

This team is incredibly hard to beat either way, but building three excellent lines makes the Leafs that much more dangerous.

Now, as of this writing, we still do not know the extent of Hyman’s knee injury, so let’s operate under the assumption he will be out of the lineup for a little while. In his absence, Keefe may look to continue with the top-six featured in Sunday’s game where we saw Alex Galchenyuk alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and Nick Robertson flanking John Tavares and William Nylander.

Those two trios were excellent against Vancouver and have given Keefe no reason to break them up.

With the top six locked in, Foligno can step right into Hyman’s former role and anchor the Leafs defensive unit alongside Engvall and Mikheyev.

Foligno will be able to use his defensive prowess and forechecking capabilities to be the backbone behind the relentless and speedy skillsets of the 6”5 Engvall and the 6”3 Mikheyev.

Accordingly, the Leafs top 12 would look as such:





Extras: Thornton

Over the next few weeks, finding opportunities to rest the team’s veterans – Thornton, Spezza, and Simmonds specifically – should be a priority for Keefe’s staff, so I would expect a decently fluid rotation in the bottom six in preparation for the playoffs.

The wild card in all of this is Riley Nash. What originally looked like as purely an LTIR move to help facilitate further deadline action may actually be a shrewd pickup by Leafs management.

Nash is quite literally the best defensive forward in the NHL and has been over the past three seasons. The 31-year-old has extensive playoff experience playing center in meaningful games with the Blue Jackets and previously the Bruins, and with Engvall in some hot waters recently, maybe a defensive unit of Foligno-Nash-Mikheyev is in the cards.

However, there are ton of caveats that would go along with this move. Nash would be coming off a knee injury, moving to a new country, a new team, with new systems, and we are expecting him to perform immediately come game one of the playoffs?

That seems like a big ask but nevertheless, the potential of that line is enticing.

Next. Leafs Top 10 Prospects. dark

With April 12th having come and gone, the Toronto Maple Leafs have entered the stretch drive of their season, gearing up for a lengthy postseason run. In the hours after the 3 p.m. EST deadline, assistant captain Morgan Reilly spoke to the media, uttering the following three words – “It’s go time.”

Indeed, Morgan, let’s go.