In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs Quick Hits, I share some of the news that’s emerged from the team this week.
Quick Hit One: Bob Baun Died This Week
In some sad news, Bob Baun who was a stalwart defenseman with the Maple Leafs during their glory years of the 1960s, passed away earlier this week. Baun had a long NHL career from 1956 to 1973, playing 964 regular season games. He played 14 out of his 18 NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs and was a loyal Maple Leafs player to the end.
Baun was pivotal in the Maple Leafs winning four Stanley Cups (1962, 1963, 1964, 1967). He was known for his solid defence but also contributed offensively as well. Over his career, he scored 37 goals and added 187 assists during his career. Most notable was the game-winning overtime goal he scored in Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals despite playing with a broken leg.
His physicality and clutch performances made him a valuable player for the team during both the playoffs and the regular season.
Quick Hit Two: Fraser Minten Is Growing as a Key Prospect
Fraser Minten, who was selected in the second round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, is turning into a promising Maple Leafs prospect. He’s also growing quickly and is now becoming more imposing at 6-foot-2, and 192 pounds. The 19-year-old center has now played for the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL for three seasons.
Each season, he’s shown offensive improvement. He’s beginning to grow in his ability to use his size and strength more productively to him an advantage on the ice. Minten’s shot is also improving. His quick release and accuracy compensate for what is called a not “overly powerful” shot.
He’s also becoming a much smoother skater who’s becoming more reliable as a 200-foot player. While he might be a couple of seasons away from cracking the Maple Leafs’ NHL lineup, he’s tenacious and assertive. He’s projected to become a middle-six NHL center, who should easily transition to the NHL.
Fans can judge his performance at the upcoming training camp. How ready will he be for the NHL?
Quick Hit Three: Tyler Bertuzzi Is a Good Bet to Play on the Team’s First-Line
Smart money sees Tyler Bertuzzi becoming a candidate for first-line work alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. His physical style of play brings the kind of “attitude” and complements finesse and skill. Bertuzzi’s hard-nosed play could fill a void in the team’s lineup.
Imagine what might happen with Bertuzzi if he can stay healthy and build positive chemistry with linemates Marner and Matthews. They could create more offensive opportunities for each other. Each player, working together, might open space for the other linemates to excel offensively.
There are several reasons why Bertuzzi’s placement on the first line makes sense. However, the final decision rests with head coach Sheldon Keefe. As I noted, if Bertuzzi can stay healthy he can have the potential for putting up career-high offensive numbers.
Quick Hit Four: Is William Nylander Undervalued?
William Nylander improves every season. Last season he scored 40 goals and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down this season. He also puts up strong underlying analytical numbers with his play, and he shows up in the postseason.
Yet, his contract negotiations are dragging on. Who will blink first? Realistically, it would seem that signing Matthews first would make sense. Yet, because Nylander is currently on such a value-friendly contract for the team, what happens with Matthews doesn’t impact Nylander as it would impact Marner.
I’m hoping that the organization will recognize Nylander’s value and pay him a comparable salary with others in the NHL.
Quick Hit Five: Chances Are Max Domi Will Want to Stay in Toronto
Let’s hope Max Domi has a strong season with the Blue & White. If he does, I imagine he’d be more than willing to sign a team-friendly deal. This is his hometown and he’s wanted to (from what I’ve read) play here for a long time.
He should have a positive impact on team dynamics. People suggest he’s one of the good guys. I’d love to see more “good guys” on the team. Let’s hope he’s considered for a longer-term contract when the season ends.