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2018-2019 NHL Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

John Tavares brings game changing value to Toronto

Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-Eighth up are the Toronto Maple Leafs currently in their 101st season and in full swing to make a deep cup run this year. They have made the playoffs the last two consecutive seasons but just three times in the last fourteen seasons. The rebuild took a while but it’s complete now.

2017 – 2018 NHL Stats:

NHL Standings: 6th
Goals for Rank: 2nd
Goals against Rank: 12th
PP Rank: 2nd
PK Rank: 10th

Projected 2018-2019 NHL Stats

NHL Standings: 4th
Eastern Conference Standings: 2nd
Atlantic Division Standings: 2nd
Coach: Mike Babcock (118-95-33 regular season with Toronto; 5-8 playoffs)
645-380-19-152 regular season all time; 87-70 playoffs)

Overview:

The Maple Leafs were among 2-3 teams who had the most exciting off season and it was almost entirely surrounding the signing of John Tavares. At 28 years old, he is arguably in the twilight of his professional career and he currently sits 301st on the all-time NHL points list not too far behind the likes of Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos . The current top six looks like it is going to be Patrick Marleau, Auston Matthews and William Nylander on the top group with Zach Hyman, John Tavares and Mitch Marner behind them. That is a strong top ten but it’s compounded by Nazem Kadri, Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen who are a very talented third line. With arguably the top power play unit (certainly a top three) offense will be no issue here. Defense will be the make or break aspect for Toronto this year, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are great but the jury is still out on Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey and Connor Carrick, the team has needed to address defense for a few years and it will be an Achilles heel. Frederik Andersen faced the most shots against last year but a decent margin (146 shots or 7% more than the next closest goalie – Andrei Vasilevskiy). This is a trend that should continue this year, if your league awards saves, look to Frederik. Due to the high shot volume he was 29th in GAA but just 16th in save percentage. He is an average goalie in a sub average shots against situation. Mike Babcock is a strong coach and will continue to be a good asset on the bench going forward.

Major Additions:

John Tavares

Major Subtractions:

James Van Riemsdyk, Tomas Plekanec, Tyler Bozak, Matt Martin

Prospects and Picks:

-Andreas Johnsson. Taken 202nd overall in the 2013 draft, Andreas played a few season in the SHL before playing in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies where he put up 101 points across 129 games. He joined the Maple Leafs for nine games last year putting up 3 points. He’s quick, he reads the ice well but he has a lot of work yet to do in protecting and shielding the puck which creates costly turnovers.

Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

-Timothy Liljegren. Selected 17th overall in the 2017 draft, the Maple Leafs got a quality player in the mid-1st round. He put up 17 points with the Marlies last season across 44 games. He can score and pass in excellent fashion, he has an excellent hockey IQ but the effort is not always at 100% which produces lackluster results at times.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:

-Mitch Marner. If I asked the average hockey fan who doesn’t cheer for Toronto who the top point producer was last year most would say Auston Matthews, some might say Patrick Marleau or James Van Riemsdyk, fewer yet would say William Nylander or Mitch Marner. Marner’s 22 goals were good enough for fifth most on the teams but his 47 assists make up for that as he posted 69 points last year. The teams assist leader now has John Tavares on his line, this should be interesting. Expect Mitch to toy with 80 points, especially with the lines split as evenly as they are, opposing teams will be forced to use their shutdown line on either Matthews, Nylander, Marleau or Tavares, Marner, Hyman, but not both.

Cap Situation:

$54MM Spent; $24M in Cap room; 18 players signed; average team age 26.

Poll

Will Mitch Marner score 80+ points?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    Yes
    (33 votes)
  • 5%
    No
    (2 votes)
35 votes total Vote Now