Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Key Questions As Preseason Approaches

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 23: Auston Matthews #34 and William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs look on against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 23, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 23: Auston Matthews #34 and William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs look on against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 23, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs, Matthew Knies (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs, Matthew Knies (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Will a Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Shine?

With much of their salary cap allotment devoted to their star players, the Leafs must get production from a player with a low salary.

Michael Bunting provided that during his two years in Toronto, but back-to-back 23-goal seasons increased his value. The Leafs decided to move on.

The salary cap makes it inevitable that player movement will happen. A team can’t keep all of its free agents and pay them.

Successful organizations build their core, don’t overpay in free agency, and replace outgoing players from within the system.

When players such as Zach Hyman, Jack Campbell, or Bunting leave, their roles must be filled, preferably by a younger player on an entry-level contract.

For the Leafs, Matthew Knies and Nick Robertson are the prospects in the best position to take hold of a spot on the roster. They have had a taste of NHL action and now recognize what it takes to be a regular in the lineup.

After a successful two-year stint with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Knies played in ten games for the Leafs last year, including seven in the playoffs.

The Hobey Baker finalist tantalized with his combination of skill and size. He appears destined for a top-six forward role and he looked comfortable during his brief introduction to the NHL.

Despite his size, Knies had a rude “welcome to the NHL” moment, when Sam Bennett of the Panthers got overly physical with him during Game 2 of their second-round series.

That moment outlines one of the biggest challenges Knies will face moving forward. The NHL regular season is an eight-month grind with more physical play against bigger, stronger, and faster competition than he faced in the NCAA.

He has the size and talent but he needs to take advantage of the training resources the Leafs can provide to help him withstand the rigors of professional hockey.

Robertson’s situation is similar. He must prove he can stay healthy and contribute. Through no fault of his own, he has gone through a litany of injuries early in his career.

It feels like he will soon run out of chances with the Leafs. Should he not make a consistent contribution this year, a younger prospect such as Fraser Minten could move past him on the organization’s depth chart.

Look for Knies, being more physically equipped and likely to play up in the lineup, to be the young prospect to step up for the Toronto Maple Leafs.