Projecting the 2016-17 Leafs Lineup: Part 1 – Forwards

The Toronto Maple Leafs are heading into what is expected to be a pretty exciting season. Not neccessarily in the sense that they'll be winning a lot of games, but rather because of the players who could potentially make the team. For instance, this season's Leafs lineup is likely to feature the team's three headed monster in terms of prospects, featuring Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. There are many other prospects that could potentially make the team, and they have a good mix of veterans, journeymen, and young studs that could excite a fanbase. With that, I give you my projected lineup for next season.

1ST FORWARD LINE

James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

JVR in the first line LW spot is a given, no matter what. A former 30 goal scorer and 60 point man for the Leafs, JVR was stalled with injuries and is the Leafs' best left winger without a question. Kadri led the team in points last year and Auston Matthews' isn't quite ready to handle first line minutes, so Kadri will man the top line middle, and Nylander put up 13 points in 22 games with the Leafs last season, making him the most experienced and skilled prospect of the ones who have played for the Leafs already. Nylander might not begin the season on the first line, but he'll definitely end up there by the end of the year.

2ND FORWARD LINE

Leo Komarov - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner

Man oh man, if this is a line next year, then this will be a treat to watch. Fan favourite Leo Komarov, who recently discovered his offensive side, playing alongside of this years' first overall pick Auston Matthews and last year's fourth overall pick Mitch Marner. Mike Babcock said that Auston would start off on the third line, but I have no doubt that he'll eventually be moved up simply because he's too skilled for a bottom six role. Marner and Matthews also happen to be good friends in real life. Despite not being a deciding factor on who will play where, it could play a part in their chemistry.

3RD FORWARD LINE

Josh Leivo - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown

That's right. We're sticking Bozie with a pair of youngsters. Bozak, at age 30, is expected to serve a veteran role this season, and I have him playing with two young forwards who each have a nice story. I've always had a soft spot for Leivo, considering the fact that every time he's received a callup, he impressed me, yet could never stick with the team. I think this is the year that he stays up all year. Brown, meanwhile, is a sixth round pick from 2012 and has proved doubters wrong every year and essentially led his respective teams in scoring almost every year. He was injured last year, but recieved a callup in March and put up five points in six games. Like Leivo, this is the year Brown sticks with the team in my eyes.

4TH FORWARD LINE

Matt Martin - Brooks Laich - Milan Michalek

We're past the excitement, now it's time for the nit-and-grit, tough as nails line. First of all, the Leafs brought in leaguewide bruiser Matt Martin, so this is where he'll fit best. Laich has been arguably the best veteran for the kids, and will definitely have a spot on this team, and Milan Michalek will likely be playing for a ticket out of town for the trade deadline. However, this makes a very important veteran line that will definitely see their fair share of minutes.

I also want to point out that this is not an opening night roster projection, just what I think the lines will shape out to be later on in the season.

FINAL LINEUP

James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Leo Komarov - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Josh Leivo - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Matt Martin - Brooks Laich - Milan Michalek

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