A pair of preseason injuries are no longer limiting two players that are looking to push for more NHL opportunity this season. PuckPedia reports that the Florida Panthers have activated veteran defenseman Kevin Connauton from the Season-Opening Injured Reserve and CapFriendly reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs have done the same with young goaltender Joseph Woll.
Connauton, 33, is just two years removed from being a starter for the Arizona Coyotes and the year before that set a career high with 21 points and 73 games. Yet, the past two years he has been used sparingly, to say the least. Connauton played in only four games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2019-20 and last season suited up for just seven games with the Panthers. Despite his limited NHL time of late, Florida still re-signed the experienced blue liner this summer and at least seem willing to give him a shot at a permanent job by not only activating him to the NHL roster, but making room by demoting priority NCAA free agent addition Matt Kiersted. The Cats are still only carrying seven defensemen with Markus Nutivaara currently on injured reserve, but Connauton may still have to prove he is worthy of a roster spot before Nutivaara returns. With solid depth on the blue line, recently supplemented by the acquisition of Olli Juolevi, Florida needs a reason to keep Connauton on the NHL roster and his seven games last season may not be enough. Getting healthy and back in action as quickly as he did certainly helps his case though.
Woll, 23, may ironically have a better shot at NHL opportunity this season despite having no experience in the league. The 2016 third-round pick, who was a standout at Boston College, has been with the AHL Marlies for the past two seasons and while his numbers aren’t eye-popping, his play continues to draw praise. The Toronto net is far from set and just while Woll was recovering from injury himself, the Leafs lost off-season addition Petr Mrazek to injury. Mrazek signed a three-year deal this summer, but has a history of injury issues. Current starter Jack Campbell and backup Michael Hutchinson are on expiring contracts and will be on the wrong side of 30 as they look for their next deal. Between planning for the future and managing the present, the Maple Leafs have some incentive to give Woll a look – potentially a long look – this season. Now healthy, the young keeper can settle in down in the AHL and hopefully look forward to his NHL debut sooner rather than later.