Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Roberston in, Pierre Engvall out

The return of the NHL season is near, and the Leafs are slowly getting their roster for the play-in round established. During today’s practice, the team made an interesting swap at the forward position on the third line:

Seeing Nick Robertson in a third line role ahead of Pierre Engvall is quite an interesting development, to say the least. Robertson has been making impressive strides early on, including a stint on the top line with Auston Matthews and William Nylander. This is a player that has been hungry to land a spot on the Leafs roster since Day 1 of training camp, and his continued excellence is going to make Sheldon Keefe’s life tougher once it is time to assemble the lines.

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If that means Engvall has to sit out, then that is a tough setback for a guy that started his Leafs tenure making impressive strides in his development. He appeared on track to be an effective checking forward on the third line with penalty-killing abilities. But Engvall did struggle to produce offensively prior to the pause, recording just three points from January 8th onward.

Even still, Engvall does carry value to the Leafs and it would be unwise to keep him out of the lineup. So that means someone else needs to be scratched for that to happen, and the only two candidates that can be justifiably removed are Jason Spezza and Frederik Gauthier.

Spezza is in the twilight of his career and could benefit from the occasional healthy scratch on back-to-back nights. While Gauthier has made strides in his game over the years, his presence and/or absence from the lineup doesn’t tip the scales dramatically in either direction.

The defence and goalies remain unchanged to this point, though it would be nice to see Rasmus Sandin find his way into the lineup as his confidence grew tremendously during his second stint with the team in January. The pairing of Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci will be the X-Factor for the bluelines’ performance in August, so do keep an eye on that pairing.

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All stats unless otherwise noted are from Hockey-Reference.com.