With the Toronto Maple Leafs trimming down their roster earlier today, what initially started as a three-way battle for that vacant third-line winger spot has now become a dogfight between Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin.
Both players have had good showings during this preseason. Kadri earlier on, while Frattin took a little time to adjust, potting two goals and two assists so far. We have seen both on the power play as well—Frattin on the point and Kadri on the sideboards, both looking more and more comfortable in their roles.
With opening night 10 days away, Frattin and Kadri have shown they deserve a better look at the NHL level, much like their defensive counterpart, Jake Gardiner.
But with the recent news that offseason acquisition Matthew Lombardi has been cleared for contact, and is expected to be in the line up opening night, is there still room for Kadri or Frattin?
Brian Burke prides himself on having a team that has plenty of truculence and pugnacity, so he feels the need to dress guys like Mike Brown, Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr.
From what I have gathered around Leafs nation, there are two possibilities for the Leafs opening-night lineup that fans want to see, one with "truculence" and the other I will present as a "young blood" line.
Our top six is essentially set, with the following players guaranteed roster spots. The Mac in the USSR line is undoubtedly our No. 1 unit.
The bottom six raises all the questions. Do the Leafs go with truculence, or ice the young bloods? Here are the possibilities:
...Or the young blood option:
The latter option would increase secondary scoring, while also providing (albeit diminished) physical play and the ability to put the puck in the net. The onus on protecting the top lines would probably fall more on the defensemen's shoulders.
With the chemistry of the Connolly line in question, having some secondary scoring would help, not to mention the Leafs had one of the worst secondary scoring in the league last year.
But with a team that is only getting better, the need to improve as a player continues to grow. Have Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin proved that they would make this team better? Or would the Leafs be taking one step back in order to take two steps forward?