In a preseason game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens that did not feature either team’s regular lineups, there were several key takeaways. For the Maple Leafs, the focus was on three young prospects. Specifically, Matthew Knies, Mikko Kokkonen, and Nick Robertson showed themselves during the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 victory.
Takeaway One: Matthew Knies Shines Bright
The standout performer of the game for either team was Matthew Knies. The 20-year-old forward showed his readiness to make an NHL impact with the Maple Leafs. The jury should be no longer out – he’s a dynamic player. He’ll make this team.
He has the size of a power forward, who is quick on his skates. But he plays with keen hockey intelligence. On Friday, his skills were evident Knies not only opened the scoring with a laser-like shot but also demonstrated his ability to contribute everywhere on the ice.
He was simply the best player on the ice, and it was clear that he would add depth to the regular team’s penalty-killing unit, or power-play unit, or five-on-five. And, he’s growing. He’ll get stronger every season.
Knies’ solid defensive awareness, coupled with his physical presence and quickness on skates, make him a solid 200-foot player. His performance in this preseason game (and others) has done nothing but further solidify his spot in the opening game lineup.
Takeaway Two: Mikko Kokkonen’s Defensive Excellence
Another strong player in the game was 22-year-old defenseman Mikko Kokkonen. While he failed to score a goal during his time with the Marlies last season, Kokkonen wasted no time getting on the scoresheet for the Maple Leafs in the preseason. His shot from the point found the back of the net.
Even better, Kokkonen stood out during a critical penalty-killing sequence in the game. His shot-blocking ability, along with his tenacity in tight battles, made him a valuable asset on the penalty kill.
He even saved the best for last. At the end of the game, he thwarted several chances for the Canadiens to score when he blocked shots. His defensive prowess was especially impressive during the closing minutes of the game.
Takeaway Three: Nick Robertson’s Frustrating Night
Nick Robertson plays with an energetic style. He’s speedy and has a great shot. He led the Maple Leafs with six shots on goal. However, once again he was unable to convert those chances into goals. Perhaps his injuries, which have limited his playing time, have taken a toll. He needs more reps.
Would some time with the Toronto Marlies help him regain his form and confidence? Does he just need more time to develop? He clearly has both the skills and the desires. He’s strong but can’t finish.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
These two teams play again tonight. Fans can expect to see different rosters take the ice. As the regular season approaches, both the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens will work to fine-tune their games.
Tonight is another chance to do so.
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