2018-19 Record (46-28-8) 100 Points
The Toronto Maple Leafs were coming off yet another first-round exit in the 2017-18 NHL playoffs. To end this streak, they made a huge splash signing much-coveted center John Tavares to a seven-year deal worth $77 million ($11 million average annual value (AAV)). Playing on the Leafs first line alongside young superstar Mitch Marner, they both had career years. Wingers Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson also played amazing posting 44 and 43 points respectively. Watch out for them to continue this upward trend and more. Travis Dermott looks to be a future top-four defenseman while Trevor Moore showed promise in limited action as a rookie. The Leafs also finally have a true number one defenseman in Morgan Rielly. Their biggest trade during the regular season was acquiring veteran defenseman Jake Muzzin in exchange for futures. Unfortunately, none of this was enough and the Leafs suffered yet another first-round loss.
Season MVP – Mitch Marner
Marner was the clear MVP of the Leafs this season. For the second straight season, the 22-year-old winger led the team in points with 94. He also had 68 assists. He is an elite passer with great vision and can come in with clutch when the Leafs need him to. Marner and teammate Tavares proved to be a dynamic duo combining for many of the Leafs goals. He has a very bright future ahead of him and is only going to get better.
Honourable mentions: Tavares, Rielly, Frederik Andersen
Most Improved Player – Morgan Rielly
Rielly is the most deserving of the title “Most Improved”. He was a big part of their powerplay, and he was also one of the best players at even strength. He had a career-high in goals, assists, and points with 20-52-72. He’s much better defensively at breaking up plays and exiting the puck, all while being an elite offensive defender. He is also very good at getting his shot through traffic. Although he was already very good, he is now considered to be one of the best players on the Leafs and best defenseman in the NHL.
Disappointment – Garret Sparks
Entering the 2018-19 season, goaltender Garret Sparks had just won a Calder Cup with the Toronto Marlies and was also named the best goaltender. To allow the Leafs to make Sparks their backup, they put two proven goaltenders in Curtis McElhinny and Calvin Pickard on waivers and they were both claimed. Unfortunately, things did not seem to work out for Sparks at the NHL level as he only posted a 3.15 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .902 save percentage (SV%). He was also overly active in the net which brought him out of position. Now the Leafs have traded him to Vegas where he is going to start a new beginning between the pipes.
Highlight of the Year
Current Depth Chart
Top Three Prospects
Rasmus Sandin – Sandin is the Maple Leafs most recent first-round pick. He is a very well rounded and smart defenseman who doesn’t make too many risky plays and will be a very important part of the future top four. The blueliner will likely also be an important part of the penalty kill. Don’t be surprised to see Sandin join the team mid-season as Dermott did a few years ago.
Timothy Liljegren – Liljegren, the team’s second-best prospect is more of an offensive defenseman. Unfortunately, throughout his young career, he has had to deal with injuries that have kept him out of the lineup, so it is harder to get a good read on his potential. He has a higher ceiling than Sandin but a lower floor. He is much less of a sure thing, although he does seem to have a bright future ahead of him. He is a future quarterback of the Leafs power play but likely needs some more time in the AHL.
Nick Robertson – Robertson is a creative winger with a good shot and elite hands. He plays much bigger than his small stature (5’9”, 161 lbs). He is really good at defending the puck and retrieving it which could make him a valuable asset for the Leafs penalty kill. I project him to be a middle six winger that can play on both special teams (power play, penalty-kill) and will be an asset for the Leafs moving forward, especially on the left side. He is the Leafs no. 3 prospect, slightly ahead of Jeremy Bracco in my opinion.
Players Due to Breakout
Key Additions/ Departures
- Tyson Barrie– A mobile defenseman who will quarterback the second powerplay unit and be a huge part of the top four
- Alexander Kerfoot– A defensively sound center who can score 40 points and will likely be the third line center
- Jason Spezza– A big center with a long and impressive resume who will slot in nicely on the third or fourth line
- Cody Ceci– A big defenseman who had a rough year this past season and will be looking to rebound and become a legitimate part of the top four
- Ben Harpur– Huge defenseman who will just be organizational depth
The Maple Leafs have already filled out their roster and made trades so there is no one that looks like they are on the verge of being traded. That being said, I would not be surprised to see one of their depth defenders like Justin Holl get moved.
The Maple Leafs have a lot of depth on forward and defense, but if goaltender Michal Neuvirth doesn’t get a contract off his PTO, they will likely be looking for a new backup.
With the acquisitions of Ceci and Barrie, the continued development of Rielly and Dermott, as well as a solid defenseman in Jake Muzzin, the Maple Leafs have a group of defensemen they can trust and rely upon on a nightly basis. Matthews, Marner and Nylander are all still in their early 20s, while John Tavares seems to be entering the prime of his career. Goaltender Andersen has been playing very consistently in the regular season, but for the Maple Leafs to take the next step he must do this in the playoffs as well, and I think he will. Watch out for them to be near the top of the league and contend for the Stanley Cup.
NHL Stats: NHL.com
Discuss this article and more in the Overtime Heroics Forums!