How each offseason addition looked in their Maple Leafs debuts

There were plenty of changes within the Maple Leafs organization both on and off the ice this summer. Here's how the squad looked in Wednesday's opener.

TORONTO — After a prolonged offseason that brought upon a drastic management change, the Toronto Maple Leafs opened their regular season against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

You may be inclined to think it’s the same old Maple Leafs, but that’s not true: all four left wings weren’t on the opening-night roster last season, a pair of rookies headlined the third unit, and a host of new general manager Brad Treliving’s free-agent signings were featured up and down the lineup.

Here’s how each of the new-look Leafs fared in their first regular-season test together — a thrilling 6-5 shootout victory punctuated by a hat-trick from Auston Matthews.

Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten

We’re grouping Knies and Minten together purposefully. Minten emerged as the breakout story of training camp and the 19-year-old centered a line flanked by Knies and Calle Jarnkrok on Wednesday.

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe warned against the idea that Maple Leafs management was merely infatuated with the promise Minten showed, rather that he proved he’s one of the 12 best forwards on opening night.

“Things are changing year-over-year,” Keefe said Tuesday morning. “If you’re developing a real team and a real organization, you’ll have guys that come up from behind through the draft that will push you, it’s not just free agency that you may be looking at to see the guys but the draft picks are coming in, pushing, it’s very healthy for the team.”

As for Knies, he’s more proven at the professional level, getting thrown into playoff action immediately after finishing his NCAA career and Keefe said he’s now looking for him to prove himself against the rigors of an 82-game season.

“Matthew Knies has found success early,” Keefe said. “He plays with confidence, he knows he can make a difference on the ice. He came in at the most challenging time of the year during the playoffs and had success and he’s carried that into the preseason and it doesn’t seem like an offseason or a reset has changed his mindset at all.”

So how did Toronto’s two rookies fare in the opener? Knies made a minimal impact, failing to extend plays in the offensive zone. He wasn’t detrimental to Toronto’s winning effort but, for one game at least, he did not consistently drive the offense and did not generate a scoring chance through the first two periods, while finishing with a team-worst 31.6 percent Corsi. And yet, he almost changed the narrative entirely, getting robbed on the doorstep by Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen in OT.

In the interest of fairness, neither player can be blamed for Montreal’s fifth goal. Timothy Liljegren fanned on a routine breakout pass and was immediately punished by Jesse Ylonen with Minten cutting through center, expecting a feed.

Minten was generally better and though he didn’t make any splashy plays, he’s continued to earn the trust of the coaching staff, while winning 60% of his draws. Shortly after Matthews tied the game at 2-2, Minten just missed a golden opportunity in front of the crease. It was his best chance of the evening.

Keefe post-game on what he saw in Minten’s NHL debut:

“I thought it was good. You could tell, first of all, the game is not a preseason game. It’s played a lot faster, a lot more intense, there’s no shifts off. I thought you could tell he was adjusting to that, it’s his first exposure to that. But I thought he got better as the game went on, which is really good to see.”

Tyler Bertuzzi

Bertuzzi has been asked to fill the Michael Bunting role on the No. 1 line and initially it seemed like a work in progress, as Toronto’s top unit generated zero chances in the first period — though that's now an afterthought in the wake of Matthews’ hat-trick and Marner’s shootout winner.

Bertuzzi strung together a gorgeous passing sequence with Matthews in the third, but when Matthews was robbed on the doorstep, a fracas ensued.

Although he was mauled by Mike Matheson, Bertuzzi ended up with two minors, one for slashing, one for roughing, and the Canadiens capitalized, taking a 4-3 lead while he looked on helplessly. It wasn’t an ideal debut for Bertuzzi, although he registered five shots on goal.

Max Domi

Domi wasn’t particularly noticeable, playing under 12 minutes, but he drew a tripping penalty against Alex Newhook, which led to Matthews’ first goal.

Unfortunately, Domi’s game will be remembered for a failed breakout sequence, flubbing the puck before Newhook notched his second goal of the contest to give the Canadiens a 4-3 lead.

We’ll need to see more from Domi, particularly if his play limits the effectiveness of William Nylander, who gave Montreal’s defense fits with his explosive speed through the neutral zone.

John Klingberg

Klingberg’s evaluation is a key example of the eye test vs. advanced stats. He finished with a 39% Corsi and some would suggest he was a defensive liability — Juraj Slafkovsky threaded a pass right through him to Newhook for Montreal’s second goal.

He also recorded two primary assists, looked every bit the part of an elite power-play quarterback and he made a game-saving play which led directly to Matthews’ hat-trick goal. Klingberg played 24 minutes and improved as the game went on.

“I thought he was great tonight. I guess if I could go back to one little thing that stands out, I thought the play of John Klingberg was really good tonight. I thought he played with lots of authority with the puck, shot the puck when it was his turn to shoot it, and moved it with confidence. He didn’t get a lot of game reps with the power play but I thought he did a good job especially as we settled in the second period with the power play. He was another real standout for me tonight,” said Keefe.

Noah Gregor

Gregor earned a spot on the fourth line and created three chances at 5-on-5 in the first period. After TJ Brodie tripped at the blue line, Gregor desperately tried to chase down Jake Evans but to no avail on the game’s first goal.

He responded with Toronto’s first tally of the game, earned first-line penalty kill minutes with David Kampf, while finishing with a team-best 68.4% Corsi.

Matthews and Keefe singled out the fourth line as Toronto’s best after Wednesday’s victory. It’s in large part due to Gregor’s speed, tenacity and opportunism.

Ryan Reaves

Reaves did what he was asked to do. He fought Arber Xhekaj in a heavyweight tilt during the first period and fired up the crowd in doing so.

He generated one shot in eight minutes, worked well in sync with Gregor and Kampf and added an element sorely lacking from previous Maple Leafs teams.

He gets top marks, relative to expectations.