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Hockey predictions

DAN CEARNS The Standard Well, hockey fans, another Toronto Maple Leafs season is less than a month away, which means it’s the right time for me to bring back my predictions tradition.

Longtime readers of this column will remember every year, I make predictions about things related to the Maple Leafs, such as roster decisions, potential player-specific accomplishments, and how the team will fare during and at the end of the season. Having looked through my predictions from a year ago, only one-quarter of them came to pass, but that success rate won’t stop me from continuing to make these fun predictions.

Let’s start with what’s always a hot-button topic in Toronto, the Leafs’ defence core. I believe new general manager Brad Treliving will make a trade within the first few months of the season, to bolster this unit. So, by the end of December, I think the Leafs should have a new defenceman or defencemen on the roster. At a press conference in July, Treliving called the Leafs’ defence core a “work in progress.” During his introductory remarks in June, he hinted at his desire to “augment” the Leafs’ defence.

However, so far, the biggest acquisition for him in this department has been, offensive-minded defenceman, John Klingberg. Then he followed up by signing Simon Benoit, a guy who likely has a better chance of being a Toronto Marlie than a Maple Leaf. From a fan's perspective, this team’s defence core feels incomplete, and I’m expecting there to be an early trade, once the new GM starts to see his team play games.

Secondly, I think rookie Matthew Knies will be a strong competitor for the Calder Trophy, as the league’s best rookie. Yes, I know that is a swing-for-the-fences kind of prediction, given this year is expected to see the start of the Connor Bedard era, in Chicago, and also could potentially feature rookies like Shane Wright, Leo Carlsson, Adam Fantilli and Logan Cooley. Still, I think there will be an opportunity for Knies to play on one of the team’s top two forward lines, as a result, he will be receiving passes from guys like John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. The Arizona product was also impressive in his first playoff action, putting up four points in seven games. I foresee him having a great season and possibly being the Leafs’ best rookie they’ve had in years.

I’ll also bring back a prediction which has come true in past years. I think Auston Matthews will add to his trophy case with another Rocket Richard trophy, as the league’s top goal scorer.

My last prediction: I think the Leafs will win more than one round in the playoffs. After years of first-round exits, the team took a bit of a step last season, by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs, before losing in the second round to the Florida Panthers. The returning players, from that team, now know what it takes to win a playoff series. They’ve also bulked up with forward additions, who have a bit of snarl to their game, like Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Reaves and Max Domi. With the chance to impress a new general manager and the pressure on this team to win in the Matthews era, I think this team will finally make some headway in the playoffs.

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