The Caped Cearnsader
It’s finally that time of year again. Toronto Maple Leafs training camp is open, and this my last column in September 2019, so I will make predictions for the 2019-2020 Leafs NHL season. For those who don’t know, every year around this time I take a risk by trying my hand at predicting such things as what fringe players may make the team, certain things an individual player may accomplish in a season, and how the team itself will do that season. It’s become an annual tradition of mine since I started at The Standard in 2015. Now, just to note, if any of these things I predict don’t end up happening, feel free to call me on it. There seems to be a plethora of storylines I could analyze this season, so without further ado, let me begin my prediction. To start, I believe the Toronto Maple Leafs will name a captain for this season and I predict it will be Morgan Rielly. The Leafs have been without a captain since they traded Dion Phaneuf in 2016. Rielly to me is the obvious choice. He is the player on the roster that has been a Maple Leaf for the longest amount of time. He has also served as an alternate captain for a few seasons, so he is due for a promotion. With the Leafs focusing on improving their defence in the offseason for the upcoming season, it would also make sense to name the team’s best defenceman the captain. Now that I’ve mentioned defence, let me next talk about who will make up the third defenceman pair on the Leafs out of camp. In a recent press conference, Leafs coach Mike Babcock told reporters the top two pairs are basically set with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci. He stated there will be a battle in camp for the last two defenceman spots. I believe Rasmus Sandin and Jordan Schmaltz will fill those spots. Sandin had a great season with the Toronto Marlies last season, producing 28 points, including six goals, in 44 games. He is only 19 years old, but he has shown the Marlies coaching staff and fans he is very calm and composed while handling the puck. The Leafs have a recent history of promoting Toronto Marlies standouts, such as Trevor Moore, Travis Dermott, Garret Sparks, and Andreas Johnsson. I think Sandin could be the next one to join that list. Schmaltz, meanwhile, was acquired by the Leafs this offseason from the St. Louis Blues. While he had trouble sticking in the Blues lineup, I think he will have a great chance to be a part of the Leafs moving forward. Leafs coach Babcock loves to have the defence comprise an even amount of left and right-handed defencemen. Schmaltz is right-handed. As a righty, his closest competition is prospect Timothy Liljegren. However, Schmaltz has the advantages over Liljegren in that he is five years older than him, and he is a little taller than him. He also has a history of being coached by now Leafs assistant coach Dave Hakstol. I believe this is the year Toronto advances past the first round of the playoffs. I know I made a similar prediction last year, but the Leafs have made several improvements in the offseason by adding Barrie, Ceci, Alexander Kerfoot and Jason Spezza, so I’m optimistic the new players will make a difference this season and in the playoffs, along with a motivated core of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. I’m looking forward to seeing how this Leafs season and my prediction goes.