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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

The young talented offense will continue to carry the team past their defensive gaps

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-fifth up are the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs have 13 Stanley Cups but the most recent was during the 1966-1967 season. After a rough decade where they made the playoffs just once in 10 years they showed strong promises of hope with a strong young core bringing the team to the playoffs last year for just the 2nd time in 12 years.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 14th
Eastern Conference Standings: 8th
Atlantic Division Standings: 4th
Goals for Rank: 5th
Goals against Rank: 22nd

: The Toronto Maple Leafs made a strong turn last year during Mike Babcocks 2nd year with the team. It wasn't Mike who made the splash though, it was Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, all in their first years, all not of drinking age and all combining for 81 goals and 191 points (or an average of 27 goals and 64 points each). This was good enough for the 1st, 4th and 5th most points on the team. Of those 191 points, 68 were on the Power Play (around 36%; the Maple Leafs as a whole had the 3rd most power play points in the league last season). Considering all of this it's equally impressive that only William Nylander had a subzero plus minus on the year. They are young, they are scoring at an unbelievable pace, they are scoring on the power play and yet still maintaining a respectable plus/minus considering all of this. There is a chance for a sophomore slump (most likely Marner) but I'm inclined to think we see more of the same from the talented trio. As you can see from the 5th in goals for and 22nd ranking in goals against, their issues are not on the offensive end. Jake Gardiner is a very talented defensemen but I think it goes downhill after that. Nikita Zaitsez spends so much time trying to produce points that he gets stuck out of position a fair amount, Ron Hainsey is well past his prime and Morgan Rielly made a fair amount of mental lapses as a 22 year old still figuring out where to be in his 4th season in the big leagues. Hopefully Ron can provide some tutelage to Morgan and Nikita. Connor Carrick looked the part last year in his 3rd year and could crack the top 4 if he can keep that kind of strong play up. The defense to me will continue to be the Achilles heel for this team.  Frederik Anderson held down the job between the pipes featuring 33 wins across 66 games played. He had a 2.67 GAA (26th in the NHL) and a .918 SV % (13th in the NHL). He does a good job and is a very serviceable goaltender but the defense have to help him out, the Maple Leafs currently allow 32.6 shots against per game, 3rd worst in the NHL.  The issue becomes the off season where they handed out a 3 year $18MM contract to veteran Patrick Marleau instead of investing in a strong defenseman like Karl Alzner or Brian Dumoulin.

Major Additions
: Patrick Marleau, Dominic Moore and Ron Hainsey
Major Subtractions: Brian Boyle and Matt Hunwick

Prospects and Picks:
- Timothy Liljegren. The 17th overall selection in the 2017 draft, Timothy sat out half of last year with a nasty case of Mono. His talent had him as a top 10 pick but the lack of playtime might have scared some teams away allowing him to fall into Toronto's lap at 17. He possesses more of what Toronto has right now, strong defensive play with high IQ but getting caught out of position in desire for offensive production.  I think he's on the fast track but is likely at least a year out from joining the team.

-Kasperi Kapanen. The 2014 draftee has excellent skills and is elusively quick. He was averaging a point per game in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies before being brought up for 8 games and scoring 1 goal last year. He's been on the cusp for 2 years now and should crack the lineup this year. If he gets third line minutes there is chance for some deep league points from Kasperi.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-I think the team is going to drop back a little bit offensively but Patrick Marleau should step back into the 50+ point club being on a line with Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

-Kasperi Kapanen. As a deep league flyer I think Kasperi could get 20-30 points if he makes the lineup this year. It's built for young talented players to hit the ground running.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $0MM with 23 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 7th
Eastern Conference Standings: 4th
Atlantic Division: 1st

NHL 8th: Chicago Blackhawks (Western Conference 4th; Central Division 3rd)

NHL 9th: Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference 5th; Atlantic Division 2nd)

NHL 10th: Anaheim Ducks (Western Conference 5th; Pacific Division 2nd)

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)