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Kadri, Holzer looking for Leafs' lineup spots

by Corey Masisak

There was a strong start, but ultimately more disappointment for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. After a 9-3-1 beginning, the Leafs slipped from playoff contention with a brutal February and missed the playoffs again.

Two years ago, the trio of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin was one of the top scoring lines in the NHL. Last season it was Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel who piled up the points, while the other three, particularly Kulemin, regressed.

The addition of James van Riemsdyk augments what is already a potentially strong forward group, not to mention the possible promotion of some talented prospects. If the Maple Leafs are going to return to the postseason, there is going to have to be improvement from the defense corps and goaltending.

James Reimer is a bounce-back candidate in net, but a lot of the focus could be placed on the guys in front of him being better defensively. Coach Randy Carlyle is in his first full season, and he'll be charged with getting the forwards to backcheck more attentively, while hoping a couple of the young defensemen can continue to improve.

2012-13 Toronto Fantasy Team Preview

Under-valued: Mikhail Grabovski - Quality contributions across the board makes for a solid depth center on fantasy rosters -- he's averaged 26 goals, 55 points, plus-7, 56 PIMs, 13 PPP and 201 SOG over last two seasons.

Over-valued: Phil Kessel - Despite a breakthrough 37-goal, 82-point season in 2011-12, Kessel posted just four goals and 12 points with a minus-eight rating in final 16 games after linemate Joffrey Lupul went down with an injury.

Sleeper: Jake Gardiner - 22-year-old rookie blueliner has a bright future ahead of him after recording seven goals and 30 points -- expect his PP ice time to increase after averaging 1:58 per game last season.

-- Matt Cubeta

The goals are likely to be there, as the Leafs have enough depth to cover for another regression or two. How much of an issue preventing them remains will likely determine the outcome of the 2012-13 campaign.


Joffrey Lupul - James van Riemsdyk - Phil Kessel

Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin

Nazem Kadri - Tyler Bozak - Matt Frattin

Matthew Lombardi - Jay McClement - Tim Connolly

David Steckel


Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson

Jake Gardiner - Korbinian Holzer

John-Michael Liles - Mike Komisarek

Cody Franson


James Reimer

Ben Scrivens

NOTES: The two players to watch during training camp are Kadri and Holzer. Toronto's top six looks pretty firm, assuming van Riemsdyk takes to the transition from wing to center. The Maple Leafs would be delighted if Kadri proves he belongs in the lineup as a regular, but it would also be an interesting squeeze.

Offense wasn't really a problem last season, so maybe the Leafs stick with the veteran role players who are more defensively oriented, but Kadri and Frattin can boost the team's scoring depth. Even if Kadri isn't ready, Toronto is likely to deploy an expensive fourth line.

With Luke Schenn in Philadelphia, there is an opening in the lineup on defense, and Holzer could be the one who claims that spot. If he's not ready, Franson (who is a restricted free agent and still needs to sign) would likely slide in there unless one of the other kids, say Jesse Blacker or Morgan Reilly, has a great camp.

If the Leafs don't make a deal for another goaltender there will obviously be a ton of pressure on Reimer. Even average goaltending could make this club a playoff participant. Scrivens is still an RFA and needs a contract.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter at: @cmasisak22

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