Predicting the 2021-22 Toronto Maple Leafs Opening Night Roster

Zach Hyman, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
Zach Hyman, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have built their team into a contender in the five years since they drafted Auston Matthews first overall.

After completing the first five seasons of this NHL career, Auston Matthews has accomplished several incredible things, chief among them is becoming the best player in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In addition, Matthews has become the best goal scorer in the NHL, he scored four goals in his first game, won a Rocket Richard Trophy, flirted with a goal per game over the course of one pandemic shortened season, and finished second in Hart Trophy votes.

What he has not done yet, is win a playoff series.

With regard to getting over that one extremely huge hump, I present to you my predictions for next season’ opening night Toronto Maple Leafs lineup. (all cap info from

Toronto Maple Leafs Opening Night Roster 2021-22

This summer, I predict that the Leafs will make a number of interesting and excellent moves, but will ultimately disappoint anyone looking for big changes.

The Leafs will work out a deal with Seattle that sees them select Justin Holl, while protecting the far more valuable Travis Dermott. The Leafs will trade Alex Kerfoot, and they will not bring back Zach Hyman.

Joe Thornton, Zach Bogosian, Nick Foligno and Ben Hutton will all be looking elsewhere for work.

Here are some highlights of the upcoming Leafs summer:

  • Re-sign Morgan Rielly to an eight-year contract extension with a $4.5 million cap-hit.
  • Trade Alex Kerfoot for picks.
  • They will acquire Vince Dunn from the St. Louis Blues for a second round pick and a prospect.  They will sign him for five years with a $4 million cap-hit.
  • Jake Muzzin will waive his no-trade clause and get traded back to LA.
  • The Leafs will sign Mikael Grandlund to a one-year $1.5 million dollar contract.
  • Freddie Andersen will sign a one-year $3 million dollar contract.
  • The  Leafs will sign a one-year, league minimum deal with Riley Nash.
  • They will sign Nikita Gusev to a one-year deal.
  • They will sign Mikko Lehtenon to a two-year deal with a $2 million dollar cap hit.

The Leafs lineup will look like this on opening night:

Nick Robertson – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner 

Mikael Granlund – John Tavaers – William Nylander

Nikita Gusev – Pierre Engvall – Ilya Mikheyev 

Jason Spezza – Riley Nash – Wayne Simmonds 

Morgan Rielly – T.J Brodie

Vince Dunn – Rasmus Sandin 

Travis Dermott – Mikko Lehtenon 

Andersen / Campbell 

I think this lineup would be in line with the team making no major changes, but at the same time, making some much needed adjustments.  For two years in a row Muzzin has ended up injured at the worst time.  His body has  a lot of miles on it, and the team can’t pass up a chance to add a player like Vince Dunn who should not even be available.

The promotion of Sandin  makes Holl expendable, and Dunn wouldn’t be much of a downgrade on Muzzin, while providing a much higher ceiling and a lower chance of being injured.  Dermott is the king of crushing third pairing minutes and is invaluable at a low price, while bringing back Lehtonen, and actually giving him a chance, gives the Leafs huge upside on the third pairing.

Depth on the blue-line will have to come from Marlies like Timothy Liljegren pushing for playing time. I wouldn’t mind brining back Bogosian or even Hutton as longs it’s 100% clear they are seventh on the depth chart, otherwise, the Leafs need more upside that either player can provide.

On forward you are promoting Engvall, while getting a cheaper, higher-ceiling player with more offensive potential in Gusev than you had in Kerfoot.  Granlund is a piece the Leafs have tried to acquire for years and who would be great in the top six on the right deal.

Nick Robertson should earn an NHL job next season and finally provide the Leafs with a home-grown player who can score on an ELC.  Teamed with Matthews on the power-play, he will ether get a ridiculous amount of open looks, or create room for Matthews.

In my opinion, this is a team with a slightly lower floor than what they had this year (due to Muzzin and Hyman leaving) but with a much higher ceiling.   There is room for rookies to break in if they earn it, and the team would be playing into their puck-movement, puck-control style.

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Now, I’d rather be 100% wrong here and see the Leafs do something crazy like sign Dougie Hamilton, but these are my predictions.