Scouting The Atlantic Division: Toronto Maple Leafs


As the season gets ready to kick off, The Rat Trick will break down each divisional opponent.

For just the second time in the franchise’s storied history, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected first overall in the draft. Auston Matthews joined Wendel Clark as the only two players to be selected first overall by the Maple Leafs, and there won’t be any shortage of pressure on the most recent draft choice.

Since the lockout, Toronto has only made the playoffs one time, a game seven collapse against rival Boston Bruins. With Matthews in tow, Mike Babcock behind the bench, and Lou Lamoriello and Brendan Shanahan in the front office, Toronto have created a potential powerhouse of an organization.

It may be some time before anything bears fruits, especially expecting anything this year might be too much, but there is no doubting that Toronto should be a fun team to watch this year – for better or worse.


Key Additions – Matthews, Mitch Marner, Matt Martin

Key Departures – P.A. Parenteau, Brad Boyes, Michael Grabner

The Maple Leafs have gone with a full on youth movement this year, with their only big free agent signing among the forwards was fourth line grinder Matt Martin. Some familiar names return – James Van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak – but none of them can be considered the ‘core’ of the team anymore.

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Each of the team’s last three first round picks – all top ten picks – look to have made the roster, or are on the verge of doing so, after their latest round of roster cuts.

The team will start and end with Matthews, the most recent first overall pick. The Arizona native is so highly thought of, some believed he could have overtook Jack Eichel as the second overall pick last year if not for a late birthday that made him ineligible.

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Matthews already plays an incredibly strong two-way game that is absolutely critical if you are going to be the top center under Babcock. He played his draft year across seas, playing in Switzerland for Zurich SC, and in 36 games Matthews registered 46 points.

Marner was the fourth overall pick two years ago, returned to juniors for another year, dominated the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights on their way to winning the Memorial Cup. He won the Red Tilson Award (CHL’s top player), as well as the MVP in both the Memorial Cup and OHL playoffs after scoring 116 points in the regular season and another 44 in the postseason.

The Ontario native will bring an offensive flare to the table that remind some people of Patrick Kane. William Nylander made a brief 22 game appearance in the NHL ast now and will bring even more flair to the offensive game.


Key Additions – Nikita Zaitsev, Roman Polak (returns)

Key Departures – None

Toronto returns most of their blue line that they finished the season with, after trading away captain Dion Phaneuf at the trade deadline. They did bring in Russian Nikita Zaitsev to help a blue line that struggled a year ago. Over the past two seasons playing for CSKA Moscow of the KHL, Zaitsev registered 58 points (20 G, 38 A) in 103 games played.

The blue line will be led by Morgan Rielly, who after a career season was awarded with a six year contract this offseason. It certainly was a big year for the now 22 year old, as his elevated play was noticed by his head coach, as well as others. Rielly won gold with Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Championships before playing with the ‘North American’ squad during the World of Hockey tournament.

Zaitsev and Rielly will be joined by Frank Corrado, Jake Gardiner, Martin Marincin, and Matt Hunwick, while Roman Polak returns after being traded to the San Jose Sharks during the season.


Key Additions – Frederik Andersen

Key Departure – James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier

After spending years going back and forth between Bernier and Reimer, they both find themselves with new teams. Reimer headed south to play with the Florida Panthers while Bernier heads to Anaheim, the same team they acquired their new goalie from (in separate trades).

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Andersen has consistently been one of the better goalies in the NHL since he broke into the league, but the Ducks decided to go with another one of their young players, John Gibson, as their long term solution.

The Maple Leafs quickly jumped on the opportunity and traded for the 27 year old Andersen and gave him a brand new contract. There will be an adjustment, going from playing for an annual contender to a rebuilding team, but the Leafs have faith in their new goalie.

Jhonas Enroth will back up Andersen, after spending last year with the Los Angeles Kings, behind Jonathan Quick.