My hockey fixation began during the 1993-94 NHL season when I was seven years old. I have been a loyal follower of the Toronto Maple Leafs all these years and have seen some elite players don the blue and white. And there are a select number of modern-era players who are on my Leafs All-Time Team.
For clarification, my definition of modern era is any player who has worn a Leafs sweater since the 1993-94 campaign.
One of the criteria is that there has to be at least one player from the current roster. The obvious choice is centre Auston Matthews, as he is the best player on the Leafs, but some people might argue otherwise.
It was a game-changing moment for their organization when they drafted him first overall in 2016. His NHL career started with a bang when he sniped four goals in his debut, which is a modern-NHL record. Matthews went on to win the Calder Trophy that season, after bulging the twine 40 times.
He leads the Leafs with 47 goals and 80 points this season. Matthews was on pace to crack the 50-goal mark before the season was put on hold. His superstar status will continue to rise as the years go on.
Another standout centre is Mats Sundin. He played for the Leafs from 1994-08, including his captaincy from 1997-08. Sundin showed great leadership qualities during his time with Leafs and is the franchise leader for regular-season points with 987, and goals with 420. He also led them to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 1999 and 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs. In 2012, Sundin was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and had his number retired by the Leafs in 2016.
Back when I first started watching the Leafs, they had Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, who were gritty, primetime players.
Gilmour was a centre and played a crucial role in their deep playoff-runs in 1993 and 1994. Back in those days, the Leafs played in the Campbell Conference, which then became the Western Conference starting in the 1993-94 season. In 1992-93, he set the team record for points in a season with 127 and assists with 95. Both milestones are still intact. Gilmour was also their team captain from 1994-97. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011 and then in 2016, his number was retired by the Leafs.
Clark, on the other hand, was a left winger. He was the captain of the Leafs from 1991-94 and was a vital contributor during the ’93 and ’94 playoff-runs. Clark was a versatile player who wasn’t afraid to fight but had goal-scoring ability as well. He is tied for the franchise’s single-season power play-goal record with 21. Clark accomplished this feat during the 1993-94 campaign. The Leafs retired his number in 2016.
I must admit that it was difficult trying to decide which modern-era players had the credentials to earn a roster spot on my all-time team. However, I feel that Matthews, Sundin, Gilmour and Clark all deserve to be recognized as great Leafs players.
Follow me on Twitter at @IanMcB519 for more of my content!
Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!