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Maple Leafs to Give Lehtonen More of a Look on Main Roster

The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking for ways to get defenseman Mikko Lehtonen into the lineup more often.

He played a conservative 6:41 on Monday in a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, but Mikko Lehtonen will get another look on Wednesday as the Edmonton Oilers come to town to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Head coach Sheldon Keefe is likely to up his minutes and everyone seems to be getting a bit more confident in the defenseman’s abilities.

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Coming out of camp, Keefe noted that Lehtonen wasn’t quite ready for a regular role on the Maple Leafs defense. He wasn’t slotted into the top six and it wasn’t looking like he would get a shot at cracking it. Technically, the KHL Defenseman of the Year has still not moved up the depth chart, considering the Leafs are running with seven defensemen, but the coach is hoping Lehtonen will get more game action. In turn, he’s also hoping he gets more comfortable.

Keefe spoke with the media on Tuesday and said he sees giving Lehtonen more of an opportunity important to the overall long-term team success. Part of it is that he’s comfortable with his 11-man forward crew and that gives him the luxury to test things on the blue line.

Expect More Opportunities to Come

Keefe said he wants to keep offering opportunities to his defenseman and that his current roster deployment allows him to “get Mikko more involved.” The way he made the comments, it sounds like he’s going to continue to think this way as long as injuries, roster shuffling or other circumstances don’t get in the way.

Right now, the Leafs are leading the Scotia North Division so they’re in a good spot to keep testing and trying things. That includes giving newer players a chance to earn their spot on this very deep roster.

Mikko Lehtonen Maple Leafs KHL NHL

As for how many opportunities he’ll get on Wednesday versus the Edmonton Oilers… the Leafs are playing an Oilers squad who has mightily struggled on offense thus far this season and is just a measly 2-for-18 on the power play to date. That doesn’t mean Lehtonen is a sure thing to get more minutes, but if the Oilers get down early, Leafs Nation could see the defenseman a bit more often than they did on Monday.

Next: Oilers Sticking With Forward Combinations Despite Struggling Power Play

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