There are only 26 days until the Toronto Maple Leafs play their first preseason game of 2019-20. The squad has welcomed some fresh faces, who will hit the ice with their new linemates at training camp on September 13.
One of these players will be expected to adapt to the new atmosphere quickly and provide immediate relief to the Leafs’ back end. Tyson Barrie, acquired in a trade that sent Nazem Kadri to Colorado, is one of the NHL’s high caliber defensemen. Long story short: he’s exactly what the Leafs need.
Barrie tallied 57 points in 68 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season. With Jake Gardiner’s status as a Maple Leaf still unknown, Barrie’s ability to produce points and essentially replace Gardiner’s production is extremely valuable. The 28-year old has only dipped below 40 points once in the past five years when he recorded 38 in 2016-17. He has 307 points in 484 games – a very impressive stat line for a defenseman.
The only thing stopping Barrie from being an elite d-man in the NHL is his below-average defensive metrics. In 2017-18, his expected goals for sat at 42.92 percent, one of the worst in the league. His xGF% and actual GF% (51.92 percent) were 9% apart. However, he averaged 2.47 GA per 60 minutes played, which is reasonable. Fortunately, his xGF% and actual GF% were only separated by 0.68% in 2018-19, with an xGF% of 52.42 percent. He averaged 2.42 GA per 60 minutes.
I do believe that Tyson Barrie was better defensively the past two seasons than what his ‘expected’ metrics give him credit for. Next season, Barrie will find compatibility playing alongside Jake Muzzin on the Leafs second pair. Muzzin is a stay at home defenseman, who can handily cover for Barrie when he decides to join the play. If he manages to clean up his defensive game slightly, Tyson Barrie will well exceed expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.
We all saw this one coming. William Nylander had an abysmal 2018-19 campaign coming off a prolonged contract negotiation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He needs to have a bounceback season – every fan and writer with a head on their shoulders should realize his potential.
The 23-year old Swede scored seven goals last season, cringe-worthy for a player who will be making $6.9 million AAV for the next five seasons, and earned a frontloaded sum of $10 million to kickstart his contract.
Nylander maintained very solid 5v5 advanced stats, with a CF% at 56.8 percent last year. His Relative CF% was at 5.2 percent. In essence, he managed to control play and move the puck in 5v5 situations more times than not. Pair these stats with the point production we’re used to seeing from him, and Nylander could be deadly. He’ll be by Matthews side as a second-line winger, increasing his chances of success.
His role as a should-be 60 point producer on the Maple Leafs is undeniable. Nylander spent his first two full seasons with Toronto on a high, scoring 61 points apiece. His ceiling is higher than Drake’s bridal path mansion, but last season sent him for a loop. I’d expect him to find his footing in 2019-20 after an offseason of training (with NHL caliber staff), an opportunity he missed out on last summer.
Marner’s importance to the Toronto Maple Leafs is unwavering, whether he is signed by September or not. Throughout his tenure with Toronto, Marner has been a magician. Poised as an elite NHL winger, the 22-year old tallied an astounding 94 points last season. His point total wasn’t the only area he saw growth but was the most noticeable coming off a 69 point year in 2017-18.
Let’s cut to the chase.
Mitch Marner’s presence as a Maple Leaf next season will not decide the team’s success. It will, however, influence it greatly. A deciding factor in John Tavares coming to Toronto was the assurance he’d be surrounded by a plethora of young talent. Mitch Marner and John Tavares are dynamite on the first line and will be next year as well. The sooner a contract is figured out between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner, the better.
The goal of this article was to look at three players who will be impactful for the Maple Leafs while helping the team improve from last season. Tavares, Matthews, and Andersen may be popular choices as the most important players – I wanted to explore which players can take their game to new heights for Toronto in 2019-20. Let me know your thoughts!