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Leafs predictions

Another NHL hockey season is approaching quickly, which means it is time for me to make some predictions regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As longtime readers of this column will remember, in the past, I’ve made predictions about what players will make the team out of training camp, potential player-specific accomplishments, as well as team accomplishments. For full disclosure, last year, one out of my three predictions ended up coming true. I may not always have the most success with them, but making these predictions is always fun.

I’ll start off where a lot of fans have found the most controversy, the current goaltending situation. For those who don’t know, in the offseason, the team entirely changed their goaltending tandem by trading Petr Mrazek and letting Jack Campbell leave for the Oilers. They brought in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov to be their goaltenders for this season. I think Samsonov will end up playing the most games of this tandem by the season’s end. Samsonov is three years younger than Murray and doesn’t have the recent injury history Murray has. In his draft year, Samsonov was also a first-round pick, showing his potential ceiling as a starting goaltender and how highly he’s been viewed by managers and scouts since he entered the league. While I remain optimistic both goalies will play well this season, I think Samsonov, over time, will end up taking over the starting goalie spot.

Next, I predict this will be the season forward Nick Robertson will finally make the team full-time out of training camp. Since being drafted by the Leafs, Robertson’s development has faced setbacks such as injury issues and the COVID-19 pandemic cancellations. But, with Ilya Mikheyev leaving for free agency to Vancouver, there is a spot open in the team’s first two forward lines which Robertson could take.

I will also bring back my prediction, which turned out to be true last year. I think Auston Matthews will win the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s top goal scorer again. He’s done it twice in a row. Plus, he came off a 60-goal performance last year, so I’m pretty confident in this prediction.

Lastly, I think this year the team will finish in first place in the Atlantic Division. After a number of first-round playoff defeats in past years, there is a lot more pressure on this team to succeed this season. The best way for this team to find playoff success is ensuring they get the best first-round matchup they can, which would be facing a wild-card team with a home-ice advantage.

As with every year, feel free to call me on any of these predictions if they don’t come true. I’m looking forward to the return of NHL hockey.

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