Per Mirtle the Leafs have made their final cuts:
“Defencemen Keith Aulie and Matt Lashoff and forwards Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb and Mike Zigomanis were all dropped from the Leafs roster”
“Lashoff, Boyce and Crabb are on waivers in order to go to the minors. Zigomanis had already cleared earlier in training camp.”
What all this means is that both Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner have made the Leafs opening day roster. Both impressed throughout the pre-season and fulfil Burke’s promise to make the team bigger and younger.
The New Kids on the Block
Frattin gets the opportunity to play on a line with the Leaf’s two best players. While largely a result of circumstance, one doubts that Frattin would be there Kadri was healthy, or if MacArthur had not been suspended, Frattin has earned a chance to play on the Leaf’s top line. The kid has come a long way since throwing lawnmowers. Time spent with Crosbovski and Malklemin, however limited, will show him what it takes to be an NHL player and maybe help him mature a little. I’m calling a goal for him on opening night.
On one hand Gardiner demonstrated that he has NHL calibre skating, speed, vision, and passing. On the other he displayed a lack of NHL strength, and defensive positioning. Give the role he is expected to play sheltered EV minutes and time on the second, or inevitably, the first PP unit his liabilities shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The Leafs have lacked offense from the defence in years past, Phaneuf, Liles, and Gardiner will be relied upon to remedy that this season.
Down goes Aulie
Keith Aulie was in over his head last year. The big blueliner benefitted from the stellar goaltending of James Reimer, and a significant amount of luck. Many observers predicted that his luck would change. It did not take very long as Aulie struggled throughout the pre-season. Some time playing a tonne of tough minutes with the Marlies is the best for his development. He’ll get a call up in the event of an injury or a trade.
Both Frattin and Gardiner have been rewarded for their strong play during the preseason. Aulie struggled and was sent down. Although Colton Orr remains a Leaf, you can’t win them all.