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Maple Leafs recall top prospects Nylander, Kapanen

Touted forwards to make NHL debuts against Tampa Bay

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

TORONTO -- Forwards William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen headline a list of prospects recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. 

Nylander and Kapanen will be in the lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SUN, TSN4, NHL.TV), along with forwards Nikita Soshnikov and Zach Hyman. The four players, along with veteran Ben Smith, were recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

Forward Brooks Laich and defenseman Connor Carrick, acquired Sunday in a trade with the Washington Capitals, are possibilities to play, Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. 

"Everybody's going to get a full opportunity," Babcock said. "Tampa Bay is a really good team and [our kids] are going to have their hands full." 

Nylander and Kapanen, first-round picks in the 2014 NHL Draft, are major components of the roster overhaul taking place in Toronto. 

Nylander, 19, played 37 games with the Marlies and had 18 goals and 45 points. The No. 8 pick by Toronto in 2014 sustained an injury playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championship, but since returning to the Marlies on Feb. 4 has 10 points in nine games. 

"It is going to be a tough game," Nylander said. "I have never played at this level before, so it is going to be interesting to see how it unfolds. … I finally get a chance here so it will be a lot of fun." 

Kapanen, 19, played 32 games with the Marlies and had eight goals and 22 points. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins at No. 22 in 2014 and traded to the Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015 in a deal that included Phil Kessel going to the Penguins. Kapanen scored the game-winning goal for Finland at the WJC. 

"It feels good [to be called up], but at same time, it doesn't mean we have to work as hard," Kapanen said. "I think it is the other way around, we have to keep working harder. It's a privilege to be here and I'm just going to keep on working and be here as much as possible." 

Hyman, a right wing, had 13 goals and 33 points in 54 AHL games. Soshnikov, a left wing, had 18 goals and 28 points in 50 games. Each will play on the penalty kill Monday, Babcock said. 

Goalie Garret Sparks, another rookie, starts Monday for the fifth time in the NHL this season. He has spent much of the season in the AHL, but the Maple Leafs traded goalie James Reimer to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. 

Sparks said he is excited to see what his AHL-turned-NHL teammates can do in this new environment. 

"You have a lot of guys on this team who are being given opportunities by this team and they have waited a long time since being drafted by this team to get those opportunities," Sparks said. "Clearly, there are a lot of kids in here that are very excited to make their debut tonight and I could not be [happier] for them." 

Toronto loaned forwards Mark Arcobello, Brendan Leipsic and Josh Leivo to the Marlies on Monday but any could return at some point after the NHL Trade Deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET.

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