Huge Change In Store For the Maple Leafs' Lineup

Many pundits around the Toronto Maple Leafs were left scratching their heads at the team's free agent acquisition this summer of offensive defenceman John Klingberg. But the impact the former longtime Dallas Star D-man will have on the Leafs is already being felt. He'll be starting his Toronto run as the quarterback for the top power play unit, supplanting assistant captain and longest-serving Leaf, Morgan Rielly. 

At the team's first practice, Klingberg—who has six 40+ point seasons on the blueline—lined up at the point with the vaunted top PP unit of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares. 

And the unit's top sniper is giving his stamp of approval. 

"He's an experienced guy. Extremely skilled offensively and a lot of poise back there," Matthews said. "So he's pretty comfortable being in the position he is up top. And hopefully, we can just work together and start to build chemistry, starting with today."

"Klinger has had a lot of success in that position as well over his career," added head coach Sheldon Keefe. "We just want to use this as an opportunity to help Klinger to get comfortable. There is no better way to do that than to be with our best people."

Rielly is moving to the second unit, which, for now, will boast the likes of Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Calle Järnkrok, and Timothy Liljegren. 

The Leafs had the second-best power play in the NHL last season, at a 26% conversion rate. But having a real shooter at the point position adds yet another dimension to the group. 

"Obviously [this power play] has been [near] the top of the league last few years," said an effusive Klingberg. "It's very exciting for me to come in and be able to be part of it."

The Leafs signed the 31-year-old, 9-year veteran to a one-year, $4.15M contract this summer. 

Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports