The Toronto Maple Leafs play their last preseason game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, which means the 2021-22 roster will be set by the end of the weekend.
As we sit right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have 27 players on the roster, however they’ll need to get to 21 to stay under the salary cap. As a result, there will be six cuts made after the game on Saturday night.
William Nylander was absent for practice earlier this week but here is a look at how the roster sits ahead of their last preseason game, via TSN’s Kristen Shilton:
We can use this as a guide towards the opening night roster but it doesn’t mean everything. With Nylander being absent from practice, it does change things tremendously.
However, here are my thoughts towards the opening night roster:
Who Will Be The Odd Men Looking In?
After a few preseason games, it’s safe to say that Nick Ritchie will be the new Zach Hyman beside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to begin this year. Ritchie’s size could actually end up making him more impactful than Hyman and don’t be shocked if he ends up scoring between 20-25 goals on that line.
Here’s how I see the forwards playing out:
- Nick Ritchie – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
- Ilya Mikheyev – John Tavares – William Nylander
- Alex Kerfoot – David Kampf – Ondrej Kase
- Michael Bunting – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds
- Cut: Adam Brooks, Kirill Semyonov, Kurtis Gabriel, Michael Amadio and Pierre Engvall
Of the five forwards, Engvall and Gabriel are the only two who would have to clear waivers. Gabriel, more than likely, won’t get claimed, but Engvall very well could. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs tried to trade Engvall immediately after the game if they fear him getting claimed for free.
The team will never cut Spezza or Simmonds, unless something drastic happens, so I unfortunately can’t see any of the five forwards I said who were getting cut, actually staying with the team to start the year
- Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie
- Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
- Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren
- Travis Dermott
This is an easy decision for the Leafs, as they currently have seven NHL defensemen on the roster. However, the biggest question is between Liljegren and Dermott.
Based on everything that Kyle Dubas has said during the offseason, I feel like Liljegren is going to be given the first opportunity to play and see how he does. The Toronto Maple Leafs know what Dermott is, but they still don’t know who Liljegren is. As a result, they will keep him as the sixth defenseman and play him for the first few weeks before making a bigger decision on him.
The goaltender duo is already set, so we won’t go into that, but in terms of big news out of training camp this weekend, expect Liljegren to make the roster and play opening night, and don’t be surprised if Engvall gets cut and/or traded.