With the Toronto Maple Leafs heading to training camp on Friday, here are five points to watch as 70 players attempt to win 23 jobs:
1. Nazem Kadri v. Matt Frattin: Leafs head coach Ron Wilson had already set out the likely top six forwards before camp started, leaving mostly jobs on the third and fourth lines to be determined. Kadri has the inside track on a third-line spot given he’s a former first-round pick (2009) with 30 NHL games experience, but Frattin, who led the NCAA in goals last season, could surprise.
2. For minutes on the blueline: There should also be more competition on defence than in any recent season in Toronto, with off-season pickup Cody Franson likely to earn a role in the top six and bump someone else. Where that leaves struggling veteran Mike Komisarek depends on whether he can show any life in camp.
3. Jonas Gustavsson vs. himself: The Monster certainly had some scary performances last season and hasn’t played in an NHL game since falling apart in a 7-0 blowout in January. But because he’s on a one-way deal and making $1.4-million (U.S.), the backup job is his if he proves competent in preseason. If he struggles? Ben Scrivens was excellent in the minors last season and is talented enough to take his spot.
4. The Lombardi factor: The other half of the trade that landed Franson was injured centre Matt Lombardi, who won’t be ready for the start of training camp because of postconcussion issues. If he can play in the next two weeks, he may slip into the third-line centre role ahead of Tyler Bozak.
5. Fourth line centre: With Tim Brent gone, it’ll fall to newcomer Philippe Dupuis – signed as a free agent after spending last season with the Colorado Avalanche – and Darryl Boyce to battle it out for one of the last open forward spots. They could ultimately end up splitting those duties all season.
PROJECTED OPENING DAY ROSTER
Lupul - Connolly - Kessel
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
Kadri - Bozak - Armstrong
Orr - Dupuis - Brown
ex: Boyce, Lombardi (inj.)
Aulie - Phaneuf
Liles - Schenn
Gunnarsson - Franson