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TORONTO — There was a sense of caution from Cheap Toronto Maple Leafs Jerseys head coach Sheldon Keefe following a much-hyped intrasquad game at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.

“I expect our group to grow,” Keefe said. “But as far as changes to the main group, I don’t think you’ll see much of that.”

And you can’t blame him.

With just ten days and no exhibition games to prepare for a 56-game season, The second-year NHL head coach had to act fast.

On the first day of on-ice activity, the Maple Leafs split their 40 players into two groups. Every player expected to be a part of the opening night roster or on the bubble was in Group 1. The players in Group 2 faced a virtual wall.

It all comes down to time or lack thereof. It’s a new reality.

“Normally, they’d get multiple exhibition games to be able to make their mark and get comfortable and really show you who they are,” Keefe said of the players in the second group. “It’s those guys that this affects the most.”

With provincial government regulations keeping camp closed off to the media through Friday, a Team Blue vs. Team White intrasquad game drew a lot of interest. Both TSN and Sportsnet (co-owners of the Maple Leafs’ parent company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) simulcasted the match.

Apart from daily briefings via Zoom video conferences, there wasn’t a lot known about how players performed.

Saturday’s game gave us some clues.

Defenceman Mikko Lehtonen looked comfortable out on the ice. The 26-year-old Finn signed a one-year contract worth $925,000 in May and the rookie appeared to fit the top-six role he has assigned at camp.

“I have watched a lot of NHL games and I talked with the guys who have played here,” Lehtonen said of the adjustment to playing in North America. “It’s not a big surprise, but smaller things where you can adjust your game.”

Lehtonen is also getting power-play time alongside forwards Cheap John Tavares Jersey, Cheap William Nylander Jersey, Cheap Zach Hyman Jersey and Cheap Jason Spezza Jersey. He showed off his skill by setting up Team White’s fourth goal. A pass to Nylander as time expired with the man advantage.

While Lehtonen’s role appears secured, it doesn’t look as though Cheap Pierre Engvall Jersey should get used to the fill-in role he’s been occupying as the team’s third-line center.

After a leg injury to forward Alex Kerfoot earlier in the week, Engvall was moved over from the second group to the first group to fill the spot. Kerfoot has resumed skating again, but the timetable for his return is not yet known. It doesn’t appear as though Engvall did enough to make Keefe’s decision difficult should Kerfoot return in time for the team’s season opener against the Cheap Montreal Canadiens Jerseys on Wednesday.

“I expected better play from him with the puck,” Keefe said of Engvall. “It was good to see him score a big goal, but I was hoping for better from him today.”

Keefe generally liked what he saw from his top players, including veteran Cheap Joe Thornton Jersey, who played on a wing with Cheap Auston Matthews Jersey and Cheap Mitch Marner Jersey.

“Those guys who you expect to be good, I thought they were,” said Keefe.

The team has Sunday off before preparing for their roster decision. It’ll be a difficult balance for the team to get under the $81.5 million salary cap while keeping the maximum amount of players (23) on the active roster. They will likely stay under the active roster max by taking advantage of the taxi squad. The one-time-only provision allows for teams to carry an additional four to six players (at least one must be a goaltender) along with the club. Those players are exempt from the cap, but must be called up to the active roster before playing in a game.

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Good luck to Tim Stuetzle.

The rest of his life starts Sunday, when he’s expected to take his first strides in the National Hockey League with the Cheap Ottawa Senators Jerseys.

It has only been three months since the late, great Alex Trebek broke the news of Stuetzle’s arrival to Senators fans — the same time gap which normally occurs between the drafting of a top prospect and his first training camp — but it sure seems like it has been longer.

The concept of time is different during a pandemic, with all of us seeking entertainment, enthusiasm and social engagement wherever we can find it. It has been an eternity since the Senators skated off the ice into limbo land following their 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center last March 11.

The wait for Stuetzle, though, appears to finally be over.

A shining light for the hungry German team at the world junior championship in Edmonton, it’s expected he’ll practise with the Senators ob Sunday after spending the past week in quarantine in Ottawa.

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His performance in Edmonton, including five goals and five assists in five games and a spot on the tournament all-star team, has only heightened the great expectations.

Accordingly, it’s not a stretch to suggest that no 18-year-old Senators player — Stuetzle will celebrate his 19th birthday while making his debut in the 2021 season opener next Friday against the Cheap Toronto Maple Leafs Jerseys — has received so much attention since the Alex’s (Yashin and Daigle) almost 30 years ago.

The challenge for Stuetzle, along with Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and head coach D.J. Smith, will be in handling all of the above as the Senators tackle the highly competitive all-Canadian division.

Unlike teenagers coming into the NHL directly from major-junior or the NCAA, Stuetzle has the experience of playing professionally in Germany’s DEL, where he scored seven goals and 27 assists in 41 games with Mannheim in 2019-20.

At the same time, Smith has already said Stuetzle will likely begin his NHL career as a winger, removing some of the additional responsibilities that come with playing centre.

A leadership duty will fall upon the centre who receives the first opportunity to play alongside the teenager.

It’s a mentorship position, of sorts, and the role could go to Derek Stepan, the 30-year-old, 10-year NHL veteran who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in late December.

Coincidentally, Stepan is also expected to skate with the Senators for the first time Sunday following his quarantine period, perhaps giving the Senators two-thirds of a new practice line. As for a third member of such a unit? How about Cheap Connor Brown Jersey? He’s a solid two-way winger who lived through the beginnings of the rebuild in Toronto withCheap Auston Matthews Jersey and Cheap Mitch Marner Jersey on the ice and Smith on the bench as an assistant coach.

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Matthews, of course, burst onto the scene with a spellbinding four-goal explosion in his NHL debut against the Senators en route to a 40-goal, 69-point rookie season, but Senators fans need to keep their expectations in check.

Stuetzle was picked third overall. While he clearly outperformed second choice Quinton Byfield at the world juniors, the dynamic Alexis Lafrenière is the pre-season favourite to win Calder Trophy honours as rookie of the year after being selected No. 1 by the Cheap New York Rangers Jerseys.

While Stuetzle has naturally become a marketing vehicle for the Senators, he needs time to develop into part of the core that could one day make the club a legitimate contender.

That time is well down the road and the Senators will be in tough to simply escape the divisional basement in the NHL’s modified set-up this season.

It’s worth a reminder here that Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl, who comes into the season as the reigning Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner as leading scorer and MVP, didn’t experience instant success.

Draisaitl, a fellow German who was also drafted third overall, scored only two goals and seven assists in 37 games in his 2014-15 rookie season with the Oilers. He went back to junior midway through the campaign to polish his game and rebuild his confidence. He has since evolved into one of the league’s top players.

Every player is different. Perhaps Stuetzle can step directly into a prominent role, similar to the way Senators winger Cheap Brady Tkachuk Jersey quickly established himself in 2018-19, when Mark Stone was around to show him the NHL way.

However it plays out, it’s going to be fun to watch. Senators fans have waited long enough to see what Stuetzle and the new season is all about.