Top questions at Leafs camp

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

1. What’s up with Ron Wilson?

“The coach isn’t going anywhere,” thundered general manager Brian Burke when Tomas Kaberle’s father insisted that Wilson was incompatible with his son.

Burke becomes the first Leafs GM to bring back a coach who missed the playoffs in two straight seasons, but he expects results, certainly not another 0-for-October at home.

This should be a better roster for Wilson, who saw improvement in the final third of last season after Burke blew up the old one. But be warned, just about every post-lockout, post-trade deadline Leafs squad has done a similar tease.

2. Who will be on the first line?

Phil Kessel has expressed support for Tyler Bozak to be centre, but exhibition games are about giving players such as Nazem Kadri a chance.

Bozak looks and talks the part so far and like Kadri is noticably bigger. But were his 27 points in 37 games misleading last year or will Burke need to start thinking right away about a trade or a free-agent gamble?

Kris Versteeg is expected to be on the left side, can also play the right and if Wilson is really curious, take a spin at centre.

3. Who must impress right away?

Bozak if he wants to stay on the No. 1 unit, Kadri if he’s going to stay at all, while defenceman Keith Aulie will be testing his surgically repaired shoulder. If Aulie has a good camp, once he’s cleared for contact, it might be at the expense of Luke Schenn’s ice time.

Forwards Mikhail Grabovski and John Mitchell were very dedicated at summer workouts as they try to hold their roster spots in the face of challenges from at least three new NHL-proven arrivals and mystery men Marcel Mueller, Luca Caputi and Brayden Irwin.

4. What will the exhibition games reveal?

Well, there’s little time for practice as the Leafs wade in to five games in as many nights starting Tuesday. The opposition is an excellent grade (Detroit, Buffalo, Ottawa and Philadelphia), Keep in mind, though, the Leafs won six of nine last season and got so carried away with playoff dreams that Burke pulled the trigger on the Kessel trade in the belief it would put them over the top.

5. Who might surprise from the rookie camp ranks?

Last year, the whole Frat Pack line of Bozak, Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg had their launch party in Kitchener and eventually made the team.

This month’s gathering in London was not as newsworthy, but management was very happy with its first good look at Jerry D’Amigo, Irwin, Sondre Olden and Greg McKegg up front and Simon Gysbers on defence.


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