Training camp is among us and with that comes all kinds of excitement, speculation and a whole whack of skeptics. The Leafs welcomed 64 players to this year's camp. Forty forwards, 18 defencemen and 6 goalies. Let's dive in and take a look first at the obvious keepers at camp.
Kessel, Bozak, Lupul, Riemsdyk, Kadri, Booth, Clarkson, Frattin, Komarov, Winnik and Santorelli
Phaneuf, Gardiner, Rielly, Franson, and Polak
Bernier and Reimer
Pretty standard -- nothing too surprising there. Where it really gets interesting is how the Leafs will fill the third D-Line and extra forward spots. Robidas and Granberg will have to have some impressive performances this week in training camp if they want to make the team. Hot on their heels, vying for one of those spots is Henrik Tallinder who is hoping to take one more go at a career in the NHL.
For the forwards it gets even more interesting. The Leafs brought Troy Bodie, Carter Ashton, Colton Orr, Peter Holland and Fraser McLaren to camp that all have a fighting chance to make the team as 3rd or 4th liners, and than throw in the wild cards of the highly anticipated William Nylander and Frederik Gauthier who have been turning heads. It is likely that the overtly confident Nylander will be sent to the Marlies for a bit more experience, but Gauthier would go back to the Q if he isn't successful in making the team.
Let's not forget the Goalies -- there is nothing set in stone there. Yes, likely Bernier will be the number one and Reimer will back him up, but Antoine Bibeau turned more than a few heads in the Rookie Tournament last week. I think the highlight reels are still replaying his incredible glove save against Pittsburgh's Bryan Rust on Tuesday. And Bibeau is no one-trick-pony. Last season in the Q, Bibeau led his team Val-d'Or Foreurs to the President's Cup. He was also awarded the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the Q's Playoff MVP. Many will say that Bibeau isn't ready for the NHL, but with the injury prone Bernier and shaky Reimer -- Bibeau just might find himself playing with the Leafs before too long.
It will be a very interesting pre-season with a ton of talent contesting for only a few spots -- and we are all too familiar with seeing top players like Bozak and Lupol go down with injuries. A few trades, like camp surprises and an injury here or there and we could be looking at an entirely different Leafs team come October 8.