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Noah Gregor gets another shot on the top line, Leafs lineup remains a “mystery”

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
Heading into the Toronto Maple Leafs’ last game against the New York Rangers, head coach Sheldon Keefe decided to elevate Noah Gregor to the first line after the news that Matthew Knies (illness) wouldn’t dress. Fast forward to tonight’s game, and he’s getting another look with the top dogs against the Columbus Blue Jackets with Knies still sidelined.
Gregor, who signed a PTO with the club in early September, earned a one-year contract after training camp and has been a great addition to the team’s bottom six up to this point. Now, with the absence of Knies in the lineup, he’s earned his shot to play in the top six alongside two of the best players in the NHL.
In the last game against the Rangers, he played 17:40, picking up an assist on the Matthews goal to open the scoring. His 17:40 of ice time in that game crushed his previous season-high with Toronto, which was 13:38, and with another look on the top line, it’s safe to say the 25-year-old will play more minutes if he continues to impress.
Through 26 games thus far, he isn’t filling the net up with pucks or registering a ton of points, given his fourth-line role. Still, the Beaumont, Alberta native does have four goals and six points to his name while also providing a physical presence on the ice, as he ranks tied for first on the team in hits with 47, alongside Matthew Knies.
The biggest asset when watching Gregor is his speed, but if you watch him long enough, he has a pretty underrated shot in his arsenal, which could benefit a line. But when he’s with Matthews and Nylander, could it be good or bad for the line? We know Matthews is the primary option on that line. It’s obvious. However, Nylander is also a threat to shoot the puck with his 13 goals to his name and coming off a 40-goal season. So, for Gregor, does he have to change his playstyle when he’s with the big dogs or continue to play how he has been playing this season but be less shoot-first?
Gregor ranks eighth on the team in shots with 47. That’s more than Matthew Knies, Max Domi, Nick Robertson, and David Kampf to name a few. I don’t think he’ll shy away from his shoot-first mentality, but when lined up with Matthews and Nylander, he’ll have to continue to play the role that Knies brings. Hunt the puck, retrieve it and give it to those two while also getting scoring chances in and around the net.

Pregame details:

Maple Leafs projected lineup:

Noah Gregor – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Nick Robertson – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
William Lagesson – Jake McCabe
Simon Benoit – Conor Timmins
However, according to David Alter, Sheldon Keefe left the media with an interesting quote regarding tonight’s lineup against the Blue Jackets.
With that intriguing quote from Keefe, could we see the Maple Leafs elect to go with an 11/7 lineup again? We’ll have to wait and see what they decide to do.

Blue Jackets’ projected lineup:

Johnny Gaudreau – Adam Fantilli – Justin Danforth
Yegor Chinakhov – Dmitri Voronkov – Kirill Marchenko
Patrik Laine – Cole Sillinger – Kent Johnson
Alexandre Texier – Sean Kuraly – Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski – Nick Blankenburg
Ivan Provorov – David Jiricek
Jake Bean – Andrew Peeke

Projected goalies:

Ilya Samsonov (TOR) vs Elvis Merzlikins (CBJ)

Broadcast:

Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
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