William Nylander’s centre experiment may be dead in the water thanks to Fraser Minten

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
8 months ago
One of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ training camp experiments appears to be over before it really even started, and it could have everything to do with youngster Fraser Minten.
When camp opened up this season for the Leafs, general manager Brad Treliving approached the coaching staff and suggested they give William Nylander a look at centre. Keefe agreed to give it a try, but what they didn’t realize at the time was the fact Minten was going to stand out so much during preseason action.
Now, Minten is set to play another preseason game in Toronto and Nylander has moved back to right wing on the second line along side John Tavares and Max Domi. Nylander and Domi have shown great chemistry so far this preseason and Tavares gets a major upgrade over having Sam Lafferty on his wing.
Minten, on the other hand, is expected to skate on the third line with new friend Matthew Knies and Calle Jarnkrok, who is returning to action after battling a neck injury.

Nylander Wasn’t Given Extended Look

Who knows how the last couple of preseason games will go, but after saying the team was going to give Nylander an extended look at centre, that wasn’t the case at all. We haven’t even reached the regular season and there’s already been a change.
And while it wasn’t a complete disaster, Nylander’s production and line production as a whole wasn’t anything to write home about while he was playing down the middle. He had just been coming off back-to-back career seasons and was in line for another on Tavares’ wing.
Instead, he was asked to play centre, a role he has some experience in, but not much. While Treliving’s idea was an interesting one and gives the team a chance to evaluate how versatile their lineup can be, I don’t think anybody expected Minten to make the kind of impact he has.

Minten Staying is Bad News for Several Leafs

While it’s not set in stone just yet, it appears there’s a decent chance of Minten making the team out of camp and starting the regular season on Oct.11 as the Leafs third-line centre. If nothing else, it’s more of a possibility than it was a few days ago. However, this wouldn’t be good news for the likes of Noah Gregor, Nick Robertson, Sam Lafferty and Pontus Holmberg.
Holmberg was in line to have a really good shot at being the fourth-line centre for the Leafs this season. Minten has temporarily leap frogged him on the depth chart.
Gregor was supposed to be signing a contract after showing well in his professional tryout. If Minten stays, will Gregor still get his deal and a look on the wing of the fourth line? What about Bobby McMann, Nick Robertson and Lafferty? There’s only so many spots to go around and a hard salary cap to worry about.
If Nylander is back to the wing and Minten is on the third line, the Leafs forward group likely looks like so:
Bertuzzi – Matthews – Marner
Domi – Tavares – Nylander
Knies – Minten – Jarnkrok
Lafferty – Kampf – Reaves
While keeping Minten around is great news organizationally as the former second-round pick is developing at a rapid speed, it does leave some major decisions in play with the rest of the forward group. Coach Keefe has his work cut out for him over the course of these next few days before Toronto’s roster needs to be finalized.
One thing we do know, Treliving’s idea of having Nylander down the middle was a short-lived experiment that may not show face again this season. While these things are always worth a look, the Leafs should be fine with him sticking on the wing given his production there in recent years.
Does Minten get into some NHL regular season games? It’s a possibility that he cracks the big club and is given a look when the games actually mean something. Although for Minten, each passing day at training camp has meant the world.

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