Maple Leafs’ Andersen ready to embrace load management once 2019-20 gets underway


Hey, if it worked for Kawhi Leonard Frederik Andersen is open to the idea of a taking a seat on the bench in 2019-20 when Maple Leafs staff decides it’s required, perhaps a little more commonly than what Andersen experienced in his first three seasons with the Leafs.

“I am sure we will try to do some load management or whatever you call it,” Andersen said after taking part in the Leafs’ informal skate at the Ford Performance Centre on Wednesday.

Even those with just a passing interest know that during the Toronto Raptors’ charge to an NBA championship last season, Leonard was given time off every so often to not only try to ensure that he was in the best condition for a long playoff run, but also keeping in mind he was coming off a quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games the previous year.

Andersen doesn’t have anything similar to digest regarding coming back from a serious injury, but there have been groin woes that have been an issue.

Andersen had a one-word answer and didn’t elaborate when asked about his health in comparison to where it was when the Leafs’ season ended in April at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

“Better,” Andersen said.

Significantly better?

“Yeah, thanks,” Andersen said.

Andersen, who turns 30 on Oct. 2 – the Leafs that night play host to the Ottawa Senators to begin the regular season – has started 192 games in his past three years combined with Toronto, coming in at 60 starts last season after getting the call 66 in each of the previous two.

Crucial in the amount of time Andersen winds up spending in the crease will be the play of the backup.

One of Michael Hutchinson or Michal Neuvirth, who will attend camp on a tryout, will be the man in the relief role. And once that’s determined, the overall performance of Hutchinson or Neuvirth should, the team’s fingers crossed, make lessening the load for Andersen more palatable.


With a spot on the Leafs’ third defence pair up for grabs, especially with Travis Dermott expected to be on the sideline well into October as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery, Rasmus Sandin knows what he wants.

“My goal is for sure to take a spot up there and if not, then it’s for the better to go down (to the Toronto Marlies) and hopefully get a lot of ice time this year as well,” Sandin said. “I’m confident in myself and we will see where that leads.”

Sandin developed throughout last season, flourishing under Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe after the Leafs selected Sandin with the 29th overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. Whether Sandin, who won’t turn 20 until March, can turn that growth into a spot on the Leafs blue line will be determined by his play in camp and in the pre-season. If a return to the Marlies is deemed best for Sandin for now, it won’t be long before he is a Leafs regular.

“He has a great attitude, is very coachable, he listens, but really the biggest key for him is he is a very intelligent player,” Keefe told us during the Marlies’ post-season this past spring. “He reads the ice very well and reads pressure very well.”

Sandin takes some inspiration from defenceman Miro Heiskanen, who was excellent at the age of 19 for the Dallas Stars last season, marking his strong play with an appearance at the NHL all-star game in San Jose.

“It’s great to see young guys doing well up there and hopefully I can be one of those guys too,” Sandin said.

Also with his eye on a spot with on the Leafs blue line is Sandin’s good pal Timothy Liljegren, looking to make the jump after two seasons with the Marlies.

“With Dermott out to start the year, there is a spot to fill and that’s good for young guys to come into camp with that knowledge,” Liljegren said.

“Confidence can have a lot to do if (whether) you make the team or not. I think I have pretty good confidence coming into camp now and I have felt pretty good the last couple of days here (skating with Leafs regulars).”


Auston Matthews made his first appearance at the informal skate, but didn’t speak to reporters, as he is heading to Chicago for the annual NHL player media tour. Matthews, naturally, made an impression in his initial skate with teammates and other players in the Leafs organization. “Just so fun to watch, seeing what he was doing on the ice,” Sandin said. “Amazing to see you’re skating with a guy like that and see how he is handling the puck and knocking down pucks from the air. He is a very skilled guy. He makes you compete.” There’s no question coach Mike Babcock should be on the hot seat once the season starts. Even if the Leafs begin without winger Zach Hyman (knee) and Dermott, as well as, perhaps, the unsigned Mitch Marner, general manager Kyle Dubas and his staff have provided Babcock with plenty of depth. Once the roster is full, and as long as the Leafs can avoid major injuries to key players, there’s little reason this club shouldn’t enjoy a long playoff run next spring. Babcock will have more than enough talent at his disposal to make it work Andersen on heading to St. John’s, N.L, at the end of next week for the start of training camp: “Interesting area of the world. Pretty cool to get a chance to get back.”