The dark-horse candidates who might play with John Tavares

Heading into training camp, there are question marks over who will play alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. On the season debut of In the Mentions, Omar makes the case for Nick Abruzzese and Alex Steeves as options Sheldon Keefe might seriously consider.

Video Transcript

- So as far as the lineup goes, the big question mark is who is going to play with Tavares and Nylander? Or specifically, who's going to play with Tavares? I know the big conversation is, OK, maybe Nick Robertson, this might be his opportunity to make it. But I kind of wanted to focus on two other players, one being Alex Steeves and the other being Nick Abruzzese. Now these two players have had short little stints with the Leafs last season, Steeves at the beginning of last season and Nick Abruzzese at the end of last season.

Now those two players have already played some games, they were both members of the Leafs for the Traverse City tournament that just happened recently in Michigan. I wonder if they are dark horse options to make it. I mean, based off of how they play-- like Steeves has really shown that he kind of has a relentless forecheck, you know he skates pretty fast, has a really accurate shot. During the tournament he had a lot of good opportunities, a lot of moments where he's picking corners but just went right off the post. If he works that out a little bit, that could be pretty dangerous.

Now Nick Abruzzese in particular has shown a lot of strong patience and a lot of willingness to get pucks to the net, whether it's just to make them make a play to someone else or actually to score. He had had a really sick goal while it was falling from his knees in the same tournament. Yes, it is a tournament against a whole bunch of other prospects, but I think seeing their play styles is pretty interesting. And the fact that they both played on both wings throughout the tournament too.

So I'm wondering how the groups are going to shape up once training camp hits, if one or both of the players are with Tavares's group in training camp. I wonder if Sheldon Keefe and the rest of the coaching staff kind of has the same idea, right? Maybe we see some games where we have Abruzzese or Steeves playing with Tavares just to try it out, just to see what happens. Yes, they're going to give Nick Robertson every opportunity to make the team for sure, but in the event that it doesn't work we need someone else to fill that gap.

Do we really want to see another year of Kerfoot on the left with Tiberius and Nylander? There are times where it worked and there were a lot of times where it didn't. Is it going to be Engvall, or do we leave Engvall to the bottom six and kind of help give the bottom six some skill there? So yes, I know there are a lot of big names, or at least popular names that we're talking about, but I would [? be really ?] interested to see if Abruzzese or Steeves end up being dark horses to make the team this year.