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Leafs loan Lehtonen to KHL, Robertson inches closer to debut

August 1, 2020, 3:56 PM ET [328 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are one day away from the start of their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but GM Kyle Dubas is also plotting out what to do with the club’s prospects with the start of the 2020-21 NHL regular season and the beginning of the American Hockey League season slated for early December.

Last week the Leafs announced that winger Egor Korshkov would play for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL next season and on Saturday the club announced that they have loaned defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to Jokerit of the KHL.

"The way that we've approached where our players are going to play next year is that we've had to sort of get outside of our usual plan for that. Take any of our guys, they would usually at this point in the year be about a month before heading into camp (and) the players who were based in Europe would be heading into their training camps now. The tac(tic) that we've taken due to the circumstances that are impacting the world everywhere, is that we have to be a little bit more agile in our thinking in terms of what we want with our prospects." Dubas said.

In the cases of some of them, and none of these things are official yet, but some of these players have had relationships and they played in different places in Europe. So if they're able to, if those places are safe and they've done a great job versus the virus and their seasons are going to start, it's a great opportunity for us to see those players begin to get some game action (and) get some time."

The 26-year-old won a World Junior for Finland in 2014, played six seasons in the Finnish SM-Liiga, played for his country at the 2018 Olympics, and two seasons with HV71 (where he won an SHL title in 2017) before signing with Jokerit, where he led all KHL defenseman with 49 points (17 goals, 32 assists) in 60 games last season.

With KHL training camps starting this month and their regular season beginning in early September, it will give both Korshkov and Lehtonen two months of game action prior to the start of Leafs training camp in mid-November.

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After a day off, the Leafs practiced at the Ford Performance Centre for the final time before the start of the qualifying round best-of-five series against the Blue Jackets and for the third straight day, the club skated with the same four forward lines and three defensive pairings, including 18-year-old old rookie Nick Robertson skated on the left side with Alex Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen, which makes it probable that the 2019 draft pick will make his NHL debut on Sunday.

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