The draft is done, and July 1st is four days away. As such, the mailbag was a little more full than usual lately. By a little more full, I mean that after getting rid of questions directly about a certain Unionville-based centre, there was still four mailbags worth of questions to respond to.
But screw it. You’re all fabulous, so let’s tackle as many of these as possible.
@MattHappens51 asked: Can Dave Nonis return to the Leafs solely to trade Morgan Rielly for Andrew MacDonald?
Hey, let’s not completely warp and distort reality for the sake of your benefit when you have different ways to take advantage of Nonis already available. He’s a Ducks employee, the Ducks have a surplus, and the last time the Flyers made a defensive blockbuster with Anaheim, even without Nonis, they turned Sbisa into Pronger. Go get yourself a Lindholm, my son.
@HockeyWithHannah asked: What are Brendan Leipsic’s odds of making the Leafs going into this/next year?
Leipsic finds himself in a weird position right now. He had a pretty good year with the Marlies, was great in the playoffs, and looks like he could theoretically make a jump to the big club if need be. At the same time, the Leafs have an absolute logjam on both wings, and he doesn’t exactly stand out among the prospect list just yet. A year where he ends up as a go-to name on the Marlies could change that, though, so we’ll have to see how things pan out.
@JaredOfLondon asked: How do you feel about Tyler Bozak in a post-Stamkos world?
I still feel they can find a home for him in the next few days or weeks, but if not, he’s going to have a heck of a year playing against lower quality talent in sheltered situations before getting the Phaneuf pump-and-dump treatment. He already looked noticeably better playing in a passable system last year, lowering the level of his opponents should make him look like what his biggest fans think he is. It’s going to be fun.
@DanRiccio590 asked: Who do you pick first overall in an NHL 17 fantasy draft?
If I can make trades: Connor McDavid. He’ll be one of the highest rated players in the game and have the highest potential. Plus, I’ll use my other picks to trade for my actual top player. That person, and the guy I’d select if I were locked into my roster, is Victor Hedman. He’s mobile, he can shoot, and basically dominate any game. Given that he’s been like this for a solid 8 years of the game now, he deserves a spot in the EA Sports Hall of Fame.
@sayerssc1972 asked: Any Auston 4:16 shirts left?
Yep! You can purchase one from the Nation Gear website. They’re the best.
@insanahty asked: What’s the likelihood that the Leafs re-sign Rich Clune?
I have a feeling that they’ll be letting Clune test the market over the next few days, to see if he can find a team that will offer him an NHL deal. If it doesn’t work, I’d expect that he’ll get a similar treatment to last year; a very decent AHL contract to stick with the Marlies, and an upping to an NHL contract if he needs to be called up.
@VorbTre asked: Who doesn’t get a qualifying offer?
I think Peter Holland is a quality player, but I don’t know if there’s room for him moving forward, so he could be passed on. Sam Carrick is a treat to watch at the AHL level, but he might have been eclipsed by other young centres. Stuart Percy and Garret Sparks are also at risk too, not for a lack of talent, but due to their injuries. We’ll find out for sure in six hours.
@haddadchris10 asked: Any real chance that Jimmy Vesey signs with Buffalo?
I think they’ve got a reasonable shot at it. They might not actually do so until shortly after August 15th, as Vesey and his agent seem adamant in talking to other teams, but the Sabres certainly have a good pitch in the sense that they like him enough to acquire his rights and have his good pal Jack Eichel to lead the way. I think Boston is probably their biggest threat; Toronto’s winger logjam might mean that they back out.
@matthew_gooding asked: Where does Kerby Rychel start? Marlies or the Leafs?
That’s going to be up to how he does in camp. His AHL success implies that he can make the next step, but his NHL performance (in a bad situation, admittedly) doesn’t match that train of thought. He’ll have to compete with the Greenings and Michalek’s of the world for a spot on that left wing, and while he’s capable, he’s not a glaringly obvious fit. If he has to start the year on the Marlies as a result, it’s probably not the end of the world.
@ops4thliner asked: Who is the Leafs’ number one target on the back end?
I’m not convinced that they’ll get too aggressive on anybody. Toronto’s blue line is lacking an obvious big name, but is filled with players with above-water numbers who seem to fit into the mobile, puck carrying philosophy that Babcock preaches. They can survive as long as they stay reasonably healthy.
@hockeyphreak asked: Do you think Auston Matthews will be better than Mats Sundin?
It’s too early to put that much pressure on the kid; we can’t be comparing him to the best player in Leafs history before he ever hits the ice for the team. With that, said, if there’s a prospect in the system who has the potential to be a lead-by-example, always reliable top centre like Mats, its Auston.
@SebIsAFG asked: Who will be the dark horse to make the Leafs out of training camp?
Connor Brown. Babcock is a huge fan of his work ethic, and though he missed a huge chunk of last season due to injury, he came back determined and on a mission to make up for lost time. A strong summer could do a world of good for his chances.
@ChewieD23 asked: Do you think there’s another Left Defenceman who can replace Gardiner if he’s injured?
Not to his level, obviously. With that said, Andrew Neilsen is likely going pro this year and can likely play a third pair role once or twice. Rinat Valiev is a right defenceman, but he’s played let a few times as well. Maybe Matt Hunwick plays better this year. There are no great options, but there’s some in case of emergency glasses to break if need be.
@JJDigitized asked: What’s likely to happen with Jonathan Bernier?
He’ll either be moved after this week, or he’ll be the backup until he strings a few good performances together and regains the intrigue of the league. Last year is very likely to have been an anomoly for him, and I think a team with a surplus of cap space but uncertainty in their starter will be willing to take the low-cost risk.
@liam_boland asked: What line do you see Nylander starting on this season and why?
He’ll be on Matthews’ right wing. What number will that line be? Hard to say right now. But he’ll be the dynamic play-creator on the line while Matthews plays the “little things” hockey he’s prided over for.
@bdlaker: What are the odds that the Leafs have found a new market inequity at the draft, or have simply just lost their way?
I lean more so to the former than the latter. As I wrote the other day, though, I don’t know what that inequity is, or if it will work.
@TomOppolzer asked: With Matthews in tow, will the Leafs win 4 or 5 Stanley Cups in a Row?
Don’t be ridiculous, Tom.
This is Toronto. Six cups.
Be more like Drake, Tom.