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Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Establishing expectations for the new look Leafs heading into training camp

It’s election season, and maybe that’s why I’ve felt the need to poll the TLN Contributors so much lately. We’ve ranked prospects, we’ve ranked the roster, and at the same time we ranked the roster I managed to sneak in a few other questions about the Leafs roster for our crew to answer.

Not to spoil the rest of the rankings, but it’s interesting to see that Michael Bunting who is the first to appear on our rankings received more votes that Nick Ritchie or Alexander Kerfoot to appear on the left side of Auston Matthews. Ritchie seems to be the front runner based on draft pedigree and size, and Kerfoot seems to be viewed as Tavares line bound. Perhaps the feistiness of Bunting seems more of the Hyman characteristics that need replacing than the physical play. And of course since we’re talking about replacing Hyman it’s worth noting that one of our voters had a hard time accepting that he’s moved on.

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As demonstrated by our rankings, we aren’t completely sold on the idea of David Kampf. What we’ve learned in the couple of weeks since we voted on this is that he is very likely the Plan A in the Leafs mind, and Kerfoot seems destined for the wing. That being said, I guess you could say that we things reverting to Kerfoot. And as for our contributor hoping for a trade, it looks like the ship has sailed. Check back at the trade deadline.

We were all over the place on this one, and Kerfoot keeps his streak alive of winding up on every question so far.

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Dermott got the slight edge here, and with while I, in a rare moment of optimism about him, chose Mikheyev as my pick, I can appreciate that Dermott might have a lot of opportunities come up this season that might see him moved into the top four.

Once again we see some TLN cheekiness here, and Playoff Mitch Marner finds his way on here. Love that for some of us the optimism around this team can’t be crushed.

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Goodness, we’re already running Ritchie out of town. Either that or we are still exhausted from the Nylander vs. Ritchie draft pick comparisons that we’ve become so entrenched in Nick Ritchie not being good that we’d rather be proven right than have him add value to the Leafs. Full disclosure, I was one of the jackasses that picked him, and I would be delighted if he proves me wrong.

The Marner hurt within Leafs Nation remains very real, and while I wasn’t one of the people who selected him here, I am not ready to wipe the slate clean on Marner either. You know how there are really good players, that even if they play for your team you’ll never really like? That’s my situation with Marner and the playoffs certainly has given me a chance to grind my axe. That said, I don’t think he’ll be disappointing, just fail to live up to his contract.

As for the rest, we have a number of newbies make an appearance, and while there are some that think Travis Dermott will improve, there’s one person planning on being disappointed by him. I’ll also go ahead and assume the Jake Muzzin disappointment will be injury related, not performance.

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I don’t know who is going to be hurt more this season, the TLN crew or Ondrej Kase. I guess it’s safe to say that when he’s healthy we’re expecting big things of Kase. While this consistent vote of confidence in him might make him look like a lock to succeed, the reality is that Kase, Bunting, and Ritchie are all gambles, good gambles, but gambles and if at least one of them pans out for the Leafs it might be worth it. The lack of love for Kampf continues, and that pretty much guarantees we’ll all fall in love with him by game two.

As for Robertson, it might be a stretch to classify him as new, but he isn’t exactly tenured either. There’s no doubt that he has the best potential upside of the group, even if it seems likely he’ll be proving himself on the Marlies to begin the year.

Finally here’s the overall story on what we think of the Leafs roster compared to the end of last season. No more Hyman, Foligno, Thornton, Nash, Bogosian, Galchenyuk, and of course Andersen. Now we have Mrazek, which seems like a potential upgrade over the shakiness of Andersen, but Bunting, Ritchie, Kampf, and Semyonov are wildcards at best.

I think that being said, worse isn’t an unreasonable answer, and different is probably the answer that has the best spin on that as in my opinion, there’s an on paper downgrade, but reality is something needed to change and this is the Leafs way of trying something new without blowing up the core.

As for better, well, I guess there is something to be said for Ritchie as a youthful, upside version of Foligno, Kampf as being a valid replacement for Nash, Bunting having fresher legs than Thornton, but Mrazek over Andersen would probably be the driving force in that vote. That still doesn’t account for the absences of Zach Hyman or Zach Bogosian. Still, love that optimism.

Let us know your answers in the comments below. Who will impress, who will disappoint, and is this a better roster than last season?