Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Right Handed Defensive Options In The 2nd Round

At this year’s NHL Draft in Vancouver, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to wait until Day 2 of the Draft before they make a selection. But, they’ll still be able to strike gold on Day 2.

Unless the Maple Leafs make a trade for a 1st round pick, they currently don’t have one. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas dealt the 1st round pick to the Los Angeles Kings along with Sean Durzi and Carl Grundstrom for Jake Muzzin back in January.  As of right now, the Maple Leafs will be drafting with a pick somewhere between #51 – #54 and with the team’s need for right shooting defensemen, I’ve selected the two prospects I believe best fit that need.

Kaedan Korczak, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Embed from Getty Images

After reading the various scouting reports about Korczak, I’ve came to the conclusion that the Yorkton, Saskatchewan native would be a great fit in Toronto. 

Korczak is currently listed as 6’3″ and weighs 192 Lbs, but at only 18 years of age, he still has time get a bit bigger and to better fill in to his frame. 

Scouts have listed him as a good solid defensive defenseman.  You’ll likely never see him on the power play, but most scouts see him as a reliable penalty killer and a player coaches would want to put out on the ice late in a game to defend a one goal lead.  Korczak has also been described as having good mobility. He’s great when passing the puck out of his zone. Zone exits are crucial and Korczak can be trusted to get the puck out of his zone without mistake. In addition, he doesn’t panic under pressure or get caught out of position.

Korczak is currently projected to be a 2nd pair defenseman, but that could all change depending on how he develops.

Antti Tuomisto, Ässät U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)

Born in Pori, Finland, this 6’4″ 190 Lbs right shooting defenseman is seen as a power play quarterback, who looks for the simple and safe pass with less risk of a turnover. 

Although his acceleration and straight line speed are a bit slow, his lateral movement is better and his ability to anticipate plays helps him avoid getting caught out of position too often.

Just like Korczak, Tuomisto has a big body with room to fill out and is known for using his big body to rub out opponents along the boards.  Just like other big men in hockey, Tuomisto uses his big stick to his advantage to cover passing and shooting lanes.

He’s got a hard shot and good accuracy which is what makes him a good quarterback for the power play.

The biggest thing that Tuomisto needs to work on is his foot speed, but he still has plenty of time for that.

Who I’d Lean Towards

Although both of these players would be a nice addition to the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I would select Kaedan Korczak with the Leafs’ 2nd round pick as he is the better defender and has more of what the Maple Leafs need. 

We’ll have to wait until Day 2 of the NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 22nd to find out if either of these players becomes a Maple Leaf.

Stats and Scouting reports found on thehockeynews.com and finnprospects.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings: Don’t Separate Kempe And Toffoli

Los Angeles Kings centreman Adrian Kempe and winger Tyler Toffoli were outstanding together last season.

Adrian Kempe

Embed from Getty Images

The 22-year-old centreman from Kramfors, Sweden had an impressive season in Los Angeles. You might look at his point totals and quickly disagree with my statement, but you shouldn’t. For the amount of ice time that Kempe received, he was phenomenal. His average time on ice (ATOI) was 14:30. The biggest reason for his low ATOI was that he was competing with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter for ice time. Both, Carter and Kopitar have a lot of veteran experience and have proved to be effective play-makers in the NHL. While, there have been a lot of unknowns with Kempe. But, he managed to shock Kings fans over the course of the season.

In 81 games played, he tallied 12 goals, 16 assists, a 51.6 corsi-for percentage (CF%), a 53.0 offensive zone start percentage (oZS%), 21 blocks, 86 hits and 20 take-aways. In addition, per NaturalStatTrick, Kempe averaged 0.61 Goals/60 and 0.67 Total Assists/60.

All-in-all, it was a solid campaign for Kempe.

Tyler Toffoli

Embed from Getty Images

The 27 year old Scarborough, Ontario native also had a solid campaign. 

In 82 games played, he registered 13 goals, 21 assists, 52.7 CF%, 53 oZS%, 23 blocks, 39 hits and 44 take-aways. Additionally, per NaturalStatTrick, he had averaged 0.34 Goals/60 and 0.89 Total Assists/60.

Unfortunately, Toffoli’s goal numbers dropped quite a bit if you compare them to his goal totals from his 2017-2018 campaign. The Kings took notice of that and tried to play him on a few different lines until he discovered his mojo. Over the course of the season, Toffoli played on 5 different sets of forward lines. In addition, he played with two different centremen (Jeff Carter and Adrian Kempe). Plus, the Kings also tried to have him play on the left side. 

But, there were only two line combinations that truly worked for Toffoli. Both, of those lines had him on the right side of Kempe.

Kempe And Toffoli

As I mentioned above, Kempe and Toffoli were a great combo. In the visual below (created by Sean Tierney, data from MoneyPuck.com), you’ll see just how special they were together.

visual from Sean Tierney, data from MoneyPuck.com

In the top right corner of the graph (the good section), you’ll see that Kempe and Toffoli were dominant together. When Toffoli was on Kempe’s right side, they owned a low xGA60 (Expected Goals Against Per 60) and a high xGF60 (Expected Goals For Per 60). Plus, it didn’t matter who was on Kempe’s left side.

While Toffoli was playing right-wing and Kempe at centre, the Kings had featured two different wingers on Kempe’s left side including Carl Hagelin and Carl Grundstrom. Hagelin was only featured in 22 games before being dealt to the Washington Capitals prior to the deadline. After Hagelin was dealt to the Nation’s Capital, Grundstrom, who was acquired in the Jake Muzzin trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was then put on the left side. With Grundstrom in place on the line instead of Hagelin, the line performed pretty much the same. Sure, they had a slightly higher xGA60, but it wasn’t too noticeable when you watched the Kings play this season.

Based on how the trio performed at the end of the season, if I’m new Kings head coach (former Edmonton Oilers head coach) Todd McLellan, I leave the line in place. In fact, I’d give them more ice time. I’d decrease the ice time of Jeff Carter‘s line, as Carter looked a bit sluggish last year and give the trio roughly 17-18 minutes a night. It’s clear that it worked well last season, so why ruin a good thing. Give it a shot. Worst case, the trio’s chemistry falls apart and the Kings have to fiddle with their lines all over again.

stats from hockey-reference.com, naturalstattrick.com, moneypuck.com and NHL.com

visual from Sean Tierney

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

 

 

Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings: Grundstrom Fitting In Well In Hollywood

Earlier this season, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Carl Grundstrom in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Grundstrom was part of the trade that sent Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In addition to Grundstrom, the Kings received Sean Durzi and a 2019 first round draft pick. Most hockey fans didn’t consider Grundstrom to be an attractive piece to the trade, but he is and he’s proven it so far.

Since his NHL debut on March 9th against the Arizona Coyotes, Grundstrom has tallied three goals (all at even strength). Based on those even strength goal numbers, Grundstrom is averaging 1.96 goals/60. Before I continue, I’d like to mention the fact that it’s a small sample size. Since he’s only played in 7 games, it’s hard to reach too much into his performance, but it’s encouraging. 

He’s also proven that he can be reliable in defensive situations. So far, Grundstrom has 2 blocks, 17 hits, 5 take-aways and 56.3 corsi-for percentage (CF%). Grundstrom has quickly shown that he can be a true asset in any situation.

Taking A Look At The Highlight Reel

Thanks to @KingsGIFS, we have the following Grundstrom highlights. Let’s take a look at the first one.

In the below GIF, you’ll see Adrian Kempe deliver a swift pass through traffic to Grundstrom. Kempe sees Jaycob Megna looking to cause a breakup, but he’s confident in his pass getting to Grundstrom. Grundstrom picks up the puck at the hash-marks, pulls to the right of Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller and then rips a backhand shot past Miller for a goal. It truly was a great set-up by Kempe and a solid backhand goal by Grundstrom.

In the same game against the Ducks, Grundstrom delivers an open ice hit on fellow countryman Rickard Rakell. Rakell was controlling the puck, he sees Grundstrom coming at him and quickly gets rid of the puck before the collision. Grundstrom delivered a solid hit and put in a solid effort to shut down the Ducks’ momentum.

The Kings Trust The Swede

The Kings have also shown that they have a lot of trust in Grundstrom’s game. From the get-go, Kings head coach Willie Desjardins has plugged Grundstrom on the team’s second line. He’s playing alongside Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli. That’s significant. If the Kings didn’t believe that Grundstrom’s current NHL stint would be a long one, you’d think that Desjardins would have given the young Swede third or fourth line minutes. Instead, he playing an average of 14 minutes a night. Not too shabby. 

Coming Soon: Grundstrom On The Power-Play?

In addition, if Grundstrom continues to play at this rate, the Kings could potentially add him to one of their power-play units. He’s had experience on the power-play with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Prior to the trade, he played in 42 games with the Marlies and tallied 4 power-play goals. Plus, Grundstrom had a high shooting percentage this season in the AHL. When you combine his shooting percentages (S%) from his time with both the Toronto Marlies and the Ontario Reign (The Kings’ AHL club), he posted a 13.55 S%. Based on his performance in the AHL, Grundstrom could prove to be a solid asset for the Kings when playing 5v4 and 5v3 hockey.

Not only can be of help on the power-play, he could be useful on the penalty kill given his talent in the defensive zone. All-in-all, Kings fans should be thrilled with Grundstrom and should be optimistic that he’ll continue to be successful.

stats from hockey-reference.com, naturalstattrick.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Looking At Jake Muzzin’s Debut

Last night, defenceman Jake Muzzin made his Toronto Maple Leafs debut.

They acquired Muzzin in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Muzzin is 29 years old (he’ll be 30 on February 21st) and has the big body (6’3″ 213 Lbs) that the Maple Leafs have been missing on their back end.

Muzzin grew up in Woodstock, Ontario and was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Per John Chidley-Hill’s article, as a child, Muzzin idolized Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour and Felix Potvin

Muzzin’s Hockey Career To This Point

Muzzin played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 5th round of the 2007 NHL draft.  He never ended up being signed by Pittsburgh, so he returned to the OHL as an over-aged player.  In 2010, he signed as a Free Agent with the Los Angeles Kings. He would go on to help the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2014 with a 12 point performance (6 Goals and 6 Assists) in their playoff run. 

Embed from Getty Images

The Woodstock native also played in the 2015 IIHF Would Championship and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, winning Gold in both tournaments. During the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, he played under coach Mike Babcock, who just so happens to be the Toronto Maple Leafs current bench boss.

The Trade

The trade to Toronto is the first time that Muzzin has been traded in his hockey career and it allows him to play for the team he cheered for growing up.  In order to make the trade happen, the Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas had to give up his 2019 1st round pick, Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi.  The draft pick will be a late round pick somewhere between 20th – 31st depending on how well Toronto does in the Playoffs. Grundstrom is projected to be a top 9 winger and it’s still too early to predict how good of a defenseman Durzi will turn out to be. The best part about this trade was that Kyle Dubas didn’t have to give up a roster player or any of our top prospects.

Recapping Muzzin’s First Game As A Leaf

Embed from Getty Images

Muzzin played his first game as a Toronto Maple Leaf on Friday. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible debut. He finished the game with 18:08 minutes of ice time. He played most of the game on the top pairing with Morgan Rielly. Muzzin had an even +/- rating and had 2 blocked shots.  Just like most players who get traded to a new team during a season, it’ll take the defenceman a few games to become comfortable with his new team.

All-in-all, Leafs fans should not expect a ton of points from Jake Muzzin, but they should expect hits and blocked shots. Plus, he brings a lot of playoff experience and will most likely be looked upon for inspiration come playoff time.

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Dubas Delivers Again, Jake Muzzin To The GTA

Earlier this evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a significant trade with the Los Angeles Kings.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas placed a call to Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake and was able to land defenseman Jake Muzzin. In exchange for Muzzin, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi and their first round draft selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. 

It’s a solid trade for both sides. The Kings acquire solid prospects, while the Maple Leafs get an elite defenseman.

Jake Muzzin

So far this season, Muzzin has been excellent for the Kings. While times have been tough in Southern California, the Woodstock, Ontario native has made the most of it. In 50 games played, Muzzin has tallied 4 goals, 17 assists, 2 power-play assists, 21:32 average time on ice, 92 blocks, 111 hits and a 50.5 corsi-for percentage. 

The good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs is that Muzzin is rather consistent with his offensive production. In his previous four seasons, he has reached the 40 point plateau three times. The only time that Muzzin failed to reach 40 points in the last three seasons was in his 2016-2017 campaign.

Aside from Muzzin’s statistics, he’s well-known as a great two-way defenseman. In the defensive zone, he’s not timid at all. He’s not shy and will be physical when he needs to. In addition, he doesn’t mind blocking shots.

Plus, he’s pretty good when it comes to getting the puck out of the defensive zone. In the diagram below, I compared Jake Gardiner to Jake Muzzin (using CJ Turtoro’s A3Z Player Comparison Tool). In the diagram, you’ll see that Muzzin blows Gardiner out of the water when you focus on zone exits. 

Where Will Muzzin Play?

Per the below tweet from Darren Dreger of TSN, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will feature Muzzin on his top defensive pairing alongside Morgan Rielly.

While it hasn’t been confirmed which side Muzzin will play on, my assumption is that Babcock will have Rielly play on the right side. Rielly has had some experience playing on the right side and has proven that he can be successful on his wrong side.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs adding Muzzin to the lineup, this means that someone has to shift down. In Dreger’s tweet, he mentions that Ron Hainsey might shift down to the third line. However, as of late, Nikita Zaitsev has been abysmal. I wonder if Babcock will move both Hainsey and Zaitsev down to the third line and have Travis Dermott play with Jake Gardiner.

Of course, if Babcock went through with my proposed lines, you’d have two defensemen playing on their wrong side, but that’s not a big deal. Plenty of defensemen play on their wrong side. Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings, Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Arizona Coyotes, Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers and T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames are some of the most notable defensemen who play on their off-side. If they can do it, I’m sure that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be just fine with Rielly and Dermott playing on the other side. 

Recap

With the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Muzzin, Dubas has delivered once again. He’s strengthened his defensive core and now they look prime to shut down their divisional rivals. 

 
stats from hockey-reference and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler