The Toronto Maple Leafs had some reinforcements at practice today as Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall joined the team on the road after spending the last week in the COVID protocol. Unfortunately, their return came with some bad news as well, as Justin Holl, Ondrej Kase, and Nick Ritchie have all been placed in the protocol.
It’s tough timing for Kase, who had just returned from injury and received an opportunity to play with Auston Matthews on the team’s top line. He has played more than 20 minutes in each of the last two games, and though Marner’s return would have cut into that time, his performance for the Maple Leafs this season has been strong enough to command an increased role. In 30 games, the oft-injured Kase has eight goals and 17 points.
For Holl, missing any time could have disastrous implications should the coaching staff decide his replacement can handle the top-four role. The 29-year-old defenseman has had a tumultuous season, including a period as a healthy scratch and trade rumors swirling around his future in Toronto. In 29 games, he has just three points, a far cry from the player who registered 20 last season as part of a shutdown pair with Jake Muzzin.
Ritchie meanwhile was just struggling to stay in the lineup for Toronto and has been a disappointment from game one. His two-year, $5MM contract appears to be a mistake at this point with just two goals and nine points in 33 games. Ritchie’s ice time has been slashed dramatically–he started the year on the first line–to the point of being a healthy scratch earlier this month.
According to David Alter of The Hockey News, Matthews and Michael Bunting are the only two Maple Leafs regulars to not test positive for COVID-19 over the last month.
Crap leafs catching a lot of breaks – Ritchie unavailable! Lol