It’s an off day for the Leafs, so technically the news isn’t coming from the rink, but rather from various PR accounts.
First there were the two news stories from earlier in the day:
Timothy Liljegren has been added to the NHL COVID protocol:
Also Topi Niemela re-signed with his Liiga team this morning:
So that brings us to the other two stories in Leafs land…
G Michael Hutchinson has been assigned to the Maple Leafs taxi squad from the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
F Joey Anderson, F Kyle Clifford, D Carl Dahlström, D Filip Král and D Kristiāns Rubīns have been reassigned to the Marlies from the Maple Leafs taxi squad.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) December 29, 2021
So the taxi squad has been radically reduced, at least temporarily. It looks like Alex Biega and Michael Hutchinson are the only two players on it at the moment. It’s not likely to stay that way, but given the intention to only keep players on the taxi squad for a maximum of 20 days, this frees up the ability to reset the start of the taxi squad date for a number of key players a little later than the day they initially joined.
It also could mark the return the Marlies to practicing and playing, that announcement could be in the works. Getting players like Kral, Rubins, and Anderson back into games makes a ton of sense, and for Dahlstrom, and Clifford, they seem like they will return to the taxi squad at some point soon.
Removing these players from the taxi squad could also point to some additional players being ready to return to the Leafs, and that would certainly be nice.
Anyways, it’s a small change, but Michael Hutchinson being involved in the taxi squad isn’t much of a surprise at all. Given the flexibility of the current version of the taxi squad it’s likely be an ever changing group over the time it’s around.
Official Announcement: The 2022 #WorldJuniors have been cancelled due to Covid-19.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 29, 2021
The World Juniors are officially cancelled and as such we are forced to spend time talking with our families instead of staring at flickering hockey images on a screen. Bummer.
From a Leafs perspective, this means that Matthew Knies, Topi Niemela, and Roni Hirvonen will rejoin their club teams and continue their seasons. All three managed to pick up a single point in the tournament before it was shutdown.
While it is possible the tournament could be rescheduled for a later date, the logistics of it when players are already involved in club team seasons, and will have prospect development camp commitments over the summer make it seem unlikely.
This was the last year of eligibility for Knies, Niemela, Hirvonen, and Tverberg.
Welp, was hoping it would be longer before tweeting this one. Only 2 #Leafs prospects are eligible for the 2023 World Juniors:
Voit is a strong candidate to be on Team USA. Toronto currently has a 1st, 2nd, and a 7th to potentially add to the list
— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) December 29, 2021
And with only three draft picks in the 2022 draft, the Leafs likely won’t have a lot of others in the mix for it either, although I don’t think this as ever been a concern for the Leafs organization, and instead it’s just something fans want.
After a couple of attempts at the tournament in Edmonton, next year the tournament is slated for being played in Novosibirsk and Omsk in Russia.
The Leafs should be back on the ice tomorrow, or at least some of them. The next scheduled game is Saturday against Ottawa.