While the Toronto Maple Leafs are undoubtedly a team centered around star power, in recent years the organization hasn’t been afraid to give lesser-known players the chance to take the next steps in their careers. Last season, 26-year-old rookie Michael Bunting earned a spot next to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and played well enough to make the 2021-22 All-Rookie team. At this year’s training camp, it looks as though another under-the-radar player could get a massive opportunity in Toronto.
Per Jonas Siegel of The Athletic, the Maple Leafs have started camp with forward Adam Gaudette on a line with Marner and captain John Tavares. Additionally, Siegel notes that Gaudette will get looks on the team’s top power-play unit in the preseason. Gaudette, the 2017-18 Hobey Baker Award winner, has struggled in recent years to live up to the hype he had as a college hockey star. After a 2019-20 campaign that saw him post 33 points in 59 games, the holes in Gaudette’s all-around game led the Canucks to trade him to the Blackhawks. Gaudette played just 15 games in Chicago before heading to Ottawa as a waiver claim, and he had 12 points in 50 games as a Senator last season. He was not qualified by the team this summer, and then Gaudette signed a one-year, league-minimum deal in Toronto. At this point it, looks as though the Leafs will give Gaudette every chance to showcase his offensive talent and far outproduce what is typically expected from a player on a 750k cap hit.
Now, for some other notes from across the NHL:
- The Detroit Red Wings parted ways with coach Jeff Blashill this summer, and hired former Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde to fill that vacated role. Now, it seems a similar situation is playing out in Tampa. Today, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said (as relayed by The Athletic’s Joe Smith) that Blashill has taken over Lalonde’s old role in Tampa running the team’s penalty kill. Cooper also notes that with the departures of Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh, players like Ian Cole and Cal Foote will see roles on the penalty kill this season.
- Nils Lundkvist got his wish earlier this week, as the Dallas Stars traded two picks, including a first-rounder, to acquire him from the New York Rangers. Some questioned why the Stars would pay such a high price for a player with very little NHL experience, but it’s clear the Stars were undeterred by those concerns. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet said on the 32 Thoughts podcast today that the Stars had been attempting to acquire Lundkvist for “seven to eight months,” and Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek added that the Stars had a strong interest in Lundkvist going back to the 2018 draft. While the Stars’ longstanding interest in acquiring him won’t alone earn Lundkvist a top-four role in camp, it does speak to why the organization felt confident in sending those picks in order to acquire Lundkvist.