The Maple Leafs need to be gearing up for changes. What will happen during the upcoming offseason? How will the team address gaps in its lineup?
Given the Salary-Cap Situation, Younger Players Are a Must
Currently, the Maple Leafs have several players who are becoming free agents, and they simply can’t keep them all. This season, more than the past it seems, there’s both the need and the opportunity to begin to call upon organizational depth to answer the needs and solve the problem.
For me, and I know for other Maple Leafs’ fans, it could be a fun season. I love to see the youngsters burst into the lineup and work their tails off to make a place for themselves. The fact is that, this season, a number of young players will likely step up and get the chance to make a significant impact in the 2023-24 season.
In the following post, I’ll take a look at three specific players who specifically should have a bigger role next season.
Young Player #1: Forward Matthew Knies – A Potential Rising Star
No one quite knew what to expect from Matthew Knies. However, he has consistently exceeded expectations since he jumped into the Maple Leafs’ postseason lineup straight from the NCAA. Even his biggest fans might have been surprised.
Knies showed improved speed, tenacious forechecking, and strong puck protection skills. While he started in a depth role, he didn’t stay there long. When given the chance with the team’s top-six units, he showed himself to be a postseason asset. He simply had the knack for scoring goals himself or for being part of the scoring.
He made an impact in the top six. His impressive offensive skills included a willingness to drive to the net. And, with his size, Knies was able to make a difference there. The highest upside for the season is that Knies will have a chance to solidify his spot in the Maple Leafs’ top-six lineup.
Young Player #2: Goalie Joseph Woll – Battling for the Backup Role
Joseph Woll had a remarkable season in 2022-23. He was given the chance and he ran with it. In the process, he proved that he was a capable goalie. With injuries to the goalies ahead of him, Woll stepped up to showcase his talent.
In seven regular-season games, he put up a stellar 6-1-0 record, a .932 save percentage, and a 2.16 goals-against average. In the postseason, his record was 1-0-2, and his save percentage was .915, with a 2.43 goal-against average. Both good!
His team might have struggled, but Woll remained consistent. He continued to display excellent rebound control and was a calming presence in the net. Given these strong performances, he’s likely in line for a full-time role in the NHL. The highest upside for the season is that Woll will push one of the more established goalies off the roster. Can he even become the new Number One Maple Leafs’ goalie?
Young Player #3: Timothy Liljegren – A Potential Defensive Force
Timothy Liljegren has long been regarded as a promising defenseman in the Leafs organization. Although he’s primarily played on the third pairing or faced occasional benchings, he’s shown glimpses of his potential as a two-way player. He makes some mistakes, but these can be chalked up to inexperience.
However, given the probable large number of roster changes, look for Liljegren to get a great chance to shine. He’s an effective puck-mover, and his defense is improving. He also has a knack for contributing offensively.
This offensive upside makes him a valuable asset on the blue line. The highest upside for Liljegren this season is that he earns a regular top-four spot and solidifies himself as a right-side defenseman who’s a key part of the roster.