Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Reviewing Their Draft Weekend

The 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft started out quiet for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they had no 1st round pick to use on Day 1 due to the Jake Muzzin trade last season. 

 

Day 2 on the other hand started off with the Maple Leafs trading away Patrick Marleau and his entire $6.25 Million cap hit to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

The Trade:

The belief is that Carolina will indeed be buying out Marleau’s contract, which would allow Marleau to then sign a cheap deal with the San Jose Sharks as an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st. 

When a player over the age of 35 is bought out, the team which buys him out doesn’t receive any cap relief.  This was the issue that Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas had to work with while trying to find a trade partner for Marleau.  In order for this deal to happen, Toronto had to sweeten the deal by adding a 2020 conditional 1st round draft pick and a 2020 7th round draft pick.

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The condition for the 1st round pick is that if it becomes a top 10 pick then Toronto will keep it and Carolina will get Toronto’s 1st round pick in 2021 instead, regardless if it’s top 10 or not.  This trade also involved Carolina’s 2020 6th round pick coming to Toronto.  The biggest benefit to Toronto in this trade was freeing up $6.25M in cap space without having to take back any salary or give up any active roster players or prospects.

 

The Draft: 

When the Maple Leafs did eventually get around to drafting they stuck with the same formula that they used in last year’s draft and that is skill, skating ability and hockey IQ before size, strength and toughness.  With the way the NHL is progressing, it’s not a bad formula to be using.  Some fans are noticeably upset with the lack of size with this year’s Maple Leafs selections, but some of these 5’10” or 5’11” boys could still grow into 6’0″-6’1″ men.   The Maple Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley gave a brief evaluation on this year’s selections.

#53 – Nick Robertson

“Robertson is a highly skilled type of player that we are looking for moving forward. He’s a highly motivated young man. Very, very serious.”

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“We met with him on several occasions and did the background. He’s driven. That’s part of what we like about him, aside from the skill and hockey sense, this kid lives, breathes and eats hockey. That’s all he does.”

#84 – Mikko Kokkonen

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“Kokkonen Is very smart and a good defender. He can still improve his foot speed, but like a lot of these kids, they all have work to do.”

#115 – Mikhail Abramov

“Mikhail is skilled. Very skilled. He had a good Ivan Hlinka (tournament) this summer, a good year in Victoriaville. A good play maker who works hard. He had a good year on a young team.”

#124 – Nick Abruzzese

“Abruzzese is under-developed for a ’99. When you look at him, you’d think he is an ’01. He’s an older kid, but he still has room to grow and mature physically.” Lilley said. “He’s an intelligent human being and hockey player.”

#146 – Michael Koster

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“Michael had a great Ivan Hlinka in the summer. He went head-to-head with a lot of the top players against Canada and Europe.” Lilley said. “Koster is a very smart player who moves the puck well. Highly skilled. Just the type of player we were looking for. We were very excited to get him where he was.”

#204 – Kalle Loponen

“Ari Vuori, our European scout, really liked him in the late rounds.” Lilley said.  Loponen moves the puck well. He can skate. He is just another guy who is just going to get physically stronger. It’s probably his biggest hurdle right now.”

The Biggest Surprise

The biggest surprise for me in this draft was Toronto being able to get Nick Robertson at pick #53. Robertson was predicted to go in the 1st round somewhere between 17th – 20th overall. I hope that him slipping down into the 2nd round turns out to be a steal for the Maple Leafs. Looking forward to watching him develop over the next three to four years.

stats from eliteprospects.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

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)

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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

Toronto Maple Leafs

Who Should The Toronto Maple Leafs Add On The Blue Line?

It’s no secret that the defence of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been scrutinized and critiqued countless times through the years. This has been a problem stretching longer than just the Shanahan era of Maple Leafs hockey.

As we saw this past April, the team’s blue-line (outside of Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin) has been very shaky to say the least. The Leafs were dealing with injuries (i.e. Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott and lack of experience (i.e. Justin Holl and Igor Ozhiganov). But, even when Gardiner and Dermott were healthy, it was evident that the Leafs needed an upgrade or two.

This off-season will likely be a busy one for Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. One of his priorities is probably to address his defensive unit. So, if the Leafs want to bolster up on the backend, there are a few names to consider.

Adam Larsson

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Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson might be a player due for a reset. Everyone knows he had big shoes to fill after he was traded for Taylor Hall in the summer of 2016. He was tasked with being a big contributor on the Oilers blue-line. But, since the trade, he’s struggled significantly. He was not a terrible player on the team, but he is coming off a very poor year of 20 points in 82 games and was a -20.

Why trade him to the Leafs? Well for one, I see a trade where maybe Toronto looks to dump a contract or 2 in order to gain some financial flexibility. Say the Leafs wanted to trade Nikita Zaitsev, maybe getting Larsson back may not be so bad. After all he is a little cheaper as well as on a shorter term than Zaitsev. So, it could be more manageable.

Also, Connor McDavid needs a winger who can help. How about Connor Brown? I know he doesn’t seem like the flashiest name out there, but once upon a time, Brown was a huge contributor as the captain of  the Erie Otters, scoring 128 points in 68 games in the 2013-14 season. He also played with a 15-year-old McDavid as well. Could we see a reunion? Possibly.

The Leafs would likely take a player back in addition to Larsson. Perhaps Zack Kassian or Kyle Brodziak would fit the bill. Both have expiring deals and are fairly cheaper than Brown. One of these forwards would probably slot in on the Leafs fourth line and would add some physicality to the Leafs.

Jacob Trouba

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Many of you are scratching your heads at this, but just hear me out. People talk all the time about how the Leafs have to pay so many RFA’s this coming offseason but, how about Winnipeg?  With guys like Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor on expiring deals, many people forget Trouba is up too. Also worth noting, Trouba stated in an end of season media scrum that he was unsure about returning to Manitoba next fall.

Trouba might be someone who Toronto will inquire about. He’s big, he shoots right-handed, he plays top minutes and is coming off a career high in points (50 pts).

The issue is that he’d command a solid chunk of change (he earned $5.5 million this past year) and the Leafs would have to cough up a few assets.

A trade between these two teams would certainly be hard to pull off, but if Kyle Dubas gets creative enough and can work out issues going into the offseason, maybe this is something the Leafs should explore. 

Anton Stralman

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Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Anton Stralman might be a solid fit.

He was selected in the 7th round, 216th overall in the 2005 draft by the Leafs. Stralman struggled in his first few seasons and then was traded to the Calgary Flames for Wayne Primeau and a 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft (note: pick was traded away and Chicago selected Brandon Saad). Since Leaving Toronto, he eventually ended up playing for teams such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, and most recently the first place Tampa Bay Lightning.

In Tampa, he had 130 points in 355 games with the Lightning, including a career high 39 point campaign in 2014-15. With Tampa’s recent shortcoming in the 2019 playoffs, some names may have to go. This means that Stralman might not have a locker room in Tampa come July 1st.

Enter Toronto. Sure, he played here in the early 2000s, but this time its a whole new landscape. Now granted, Stralman is 31 and coming off a 5 year/$22.5 million dollar deal with Tampa, but given his age and experience, he might be open to taking a slight pay raise on a short-term deal. He’d have the opportunity to play for the Cup in Toronto alongside Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly. 

Tyler Myers

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Tyler Myers like Jacob Trouba might not be in Winnipeg come July 1st.

Myers was a key piece going over to Winnipeg in the Evander Kane trade back in 2015. At the time, he had signed a big 7 year, $38.5 million dollar deal with the Buffalo Sabres. He was unable to maintain his high scoring defensive form and the Sabres gave him the opportunity for a fresh start in Winnipeg.

Since the deal, Myers turned into a big part of the Jets blu-eline and is recently coming off consecutive 30+ point seasons and was has a total of +67 in his last two seasons. However, once again the salary cap comes into play. The Jets may have to shed an asset in order to maintain star forwards like Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine.

Myers provides a good veteran presence, a right-handed shot and an ability to play both on the power play and penalty kill. He also plays a very big physical game. But, he could be quite pricy to land. The Toronto Maple Leafs should inquire about Myers, but the expectations for signing him should be very low.

Chris Tanev

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Tanev is everything that Leaf fans want. Big body, right-handed shot, can kill penalties and he’s hometown kid.

He isn’t an offensive threat, but Tanev is more known for being a strong two-way defenseman. Tanev has one more year at $4.45 million and has a modified no trade clause. There is a chance that Tanev has the Maple Leafs on his no-trade list. But, given the Leafs success in the past few seasons, he might be open to being dealt to Toronto.

The issue is that he won’t come at a cheap price. Leafs fans might be triggered at the suggestion of this, but perhaps the Leafs look to deal Kasperi Kapanen (pending RFA) for Tanev.  I know the intent is to keep him, but it might be a challenge. If he asks for too much money at his negotiations, the chances of retaining him will be close to none. Plus, if he does end up traded to Vancouver, he’d join his former teammate, Josh Leivo. Leivo was traded to Vancouver during the season and spent time alongside Elias Pettersson.

Talking To Carolina?

Honourable Mention: Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton or Brett Pesce

Note: All three are top four defensemen, even top 2 on the right team. However, given the increased trade value of the Hurricanes playoff run, it may be unlikely to trade for them.

Recap

In short, what the Toronto Maple Leafs do from now until October is beyond speculation. Things change daily and I am sure there are other players the leafs would love to acquire. But, who do you believe would be a good fit on the back-end in Toronto?

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins: Another First Round Fight With Toronto

The Toronto Maple Leafs Square Off Against The Boston Bruins In A Rematch Of Last Year’s First Round Battle

For the second year in a row the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs will face-off in the first round of the National Hockey League  playoffs. Last year the Bruins got the last laugh in a seven-game series and it’s one that many Maple Leafs fans do not forget. This time around, do the Maple Leafs have what it takes to knock off the Big Bad Bruins?

Speaking from a Bruins point of view, it will be another factor of wearing the Maple Leafs down. Play hard on the boards and make Toronto work for every single puck possession.

Line-to-Line

Boston’s Top Line: David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand are arguably one of the deadliest top lines in the league. Clearly the points are a no brainer but it’s the play making abilities and chemistry they provide. On top of that, have you seen the speed? It makes for a formidable trio. The three combined for 266 points, including 106 goals.

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Toronto’s Top Line: Head Coach Mike Babcock has really mixed up some lines throughout the year, not really giving a definitive #1 line. However, the one combo that was used a lot this season was Kasperi Kapanen, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander. The one factor is, due to Nylander missing half the year, the points do not compare to Boston’s top line. But the speed and talent are some things that really stand out. It has been more of who fits well with Matthews. 

Advantage: I am giving the Bruins the win in this category. I feel the top lines taking on each other will be too much for Toronto to handle.

Secondary Scoring

Boston: Throughout the season the same phrase has been used, “The Bruins only have one line”. This very well might be the case, but if you’ve followed Boston and the adversity they may face or the “doubters”, you’ll come to notice the B’s crank it up a notch come playoff time, especially against the Blue and White. So yes, Boston’s top three has to really get going early on to set the tone. But having guys like Jake DeBrusk (42pts), David Krejci (73pts) and Danton Heinen (34pts) could really help contribute.

Toronto: The Maple Leafs probably have the edge in secondary scoring, especially when you have the name John Tavares, who had 88 points in his first season with the Buds. Can you say Mitch Marner? He led the team with 94 points mainly playing with Tavares, and that has been a difference maker for both. Nazem Kadri and Andreas Johnsson finished a point apart from each other with 44 & 43 points, respectively,  and have been monumental secondary scorers. For the Maple Leafs, they have a lot of skill and talent. it is all about getting everyone to come together for Game 1.

Advantage: Toronto. Many people think Tavares could be the lone piece to solve the Bruins. I think they have a very good point and if he’s matched up against Bergeron it could be tough for Bergeron to get anything started. However, I think it will be other guys like Patrick Marleau and Marner who could really come alive in this series.

Defense

Boston: The Bruins for years have always been known as a gritty team, who can wear down opponents and have a solid blue line, with players who even bring along some offensive talent. Torey Krug played 64 games this year and notched 53 points. He was really missed and you could notice a difference when he was not there. I feel Charlie McAvoy could really step into the limelight this post season. McAvoy only had 28 points in 54 games and five playoff points last year, but the young kid showed a ton of promise and look for him to do the same this time around.

Toronto: I think Toronto’s defense will be the difference maker. If they can pull it together and do a better job locking down the Bruins and creating those chances for their forwards then they could pull this series out. However, the Maple Leafs have struggled mightily on defense all year-long and who’s to say they won’t do the same in the playoffs. I think the addition of Jake Muzzin is key, but it is still to be determined what he and the rest of the blueliners can do.

Advantage: Boston. For me, the Bruins take this category hands down. this is straight forward hands down. We are forgetting one main guy, Zdeno Chara. The man is still a freak of nature and is a pivotal swing player to really wear down the Maple Leafs.

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Goaltending

The Bruins: Boston hasn’t had the caliber of goaltending they normally do from Tuukka Rask this season. This stems all the way back into the early part of the year where he took some time away from the game for “personal reasons”. Rask was struggling and then once he came back from that break he got better. The problem being this year is, he has not had that intimidation factor like he has in the past to make it hard to put pucks by him. On the other end of the spectrum, Jaroslav Halak was doing well this year during those times where Rask was declining, and he stepped up in a major way.

Toronto: Frederik Andersen is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He’s also had his ups and downs throughout the season but if the right Andersen shows up then the Bruins could potentially be in trouble. ‘Freddy’ capped off the year with a 36-16-0-7 won/loss record along with a 2.77 GAA and .917 SV%. With the revolving door in the back up spot between Garret Sparks and Michael Hutchison, Andersen just has to play his game and be confident in the production he gives.

Advantage: The Maple Leafs netminding narrowly beats the Bruins and could be a big part of their success. They just need to make sure once they’re down they aren’t out of it until the final horn goes.

Overview

Overall, I feel the Boston Bruins once again will strike down the Toronto Maple Leafs and move onto the second round. I feel even though the categories are tied, home ice advantage will be the big difference maker, especially if Toronto can’t win a game in Boston. So, this is why I think the Leafs will continue to search for the antidote against their poison, the Big Bad Bruins in Beantown.

Stats provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins: Taking On Toronto Yet Again

The Boston Bruins will be taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one.

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So, here we go again. It took 7 games last year. How many will it take this season? Yet another original six matchup in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Thursday night at TD Garden. How do the boys stack up against the Leafs? Another grueling series? Will Frederik Anderson make it go the distance? Or can Boston’s top line excise the demons and beat the Leafs in less games?

Bruins Forward Group Is Stronger

Boston has all the weapons to get past round 1. They have more skills up front.

The Bruins top line featuring David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is easily one of the best top lines in the NHL. While Toronto does have a great top line with John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman, it isn’t as strong as Boston’s. The weakest link on the Leafs’ top line is Hyman. While he’s a speedy forward who can control the puck from zone to zone, he’s isn’t as effective as his left-wing Boston counterpart (Marchand). Marchand has been more effective at producing goals and scoring chances in the offensive zone. Per NaturalStatTrick.com, this season, Marchand owned a 1 Goals/60. On the flip side, Hyman owned an 0.83 Goals/60. Plus, Marchand’s Total Assists/60 is higher than Hyman’s as well. 

Boston’s Blue-Line Versus Toronto’s Blue-Line

In addition, their blue-line is better built than Toronto’s.

Yes, Toronto acquired Jake Muzzin a few months ago, but I’m not sure that the acquisition of Muzzin makes the Leafs a better defensive club than Boston. The Bruins defensive depth is much stronger. The Bruins have three solid defensive lines and can rely on defensemen like Matt Grzelcyk to eat up minutes. For Toronto, they have a lot of question marks including Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev.

Home Ice Advantage

Home ice was huge for this test. It nearly took till the last game of the season for Boston to secure home ice advantage. The Bruins have had some luck with Game 7’s in their building. May 13, 2013 stings for all of Toronto. Need a reminder? It was 4-1. 4-1. Boston was down 4-1 with 10:42 seconds left in the 3rd period. Many Bruins fans thought it was over. But, you have to remember that a three goal lead is the worst lead possibly in the sport of hockey and the Bruins proved that. They tallied three goals in the late stages of the game and Bergeron scored the game  winner in OT.  It was incredible. It was the loudest I’ve ever heard the Garden to be honest. What a moment.

Now, let’s jump to last year. Again, the Big Bad Boston Bruins took on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The up and down roller coaster during round 1 of the playoffs was too much to handle. The Bruins started the series winning both games on home ice. Then they went to Toronto, where they took 1 of the two and had a commanding 3-1 lead in round 1. Dropped the next two and again these clubs were headed to another game 7. The Garden was electric. Another incredible moment. On the edge of your seat type stuff. We came out on top. 

Toronto Maple Leafs

The pride of USA Hockey leads the Toronto Maple Leafs into the TD Garden Thursday night looking for revenge. Mitch Marner doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down soon. Oh yeah, they also have William Nylander, Nazem Kadri, should I keep going? Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner on defense. Two young studs in today’s game. Although, I do believe Gardiner had an awful game 7 last spring. He had a costly giveaway against the Bruins, which only added to the fire.

Babcock and Cassidy

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They’re also lead by one of the best coaches in NHL history in Mike Babcock. Rumors will say, he’s not the players’ favorite, but what hasn’t this man won? Cup in Detroit, gold medals with Team Canada and the list goes on. Bruce Cassidy, in just his third series as head coach, has lead Boston to yet another playoff berth. There is no question that he’s one of the leagues best, but can he out coach Mike Babcock yet again?

The Same Path To The Cup

2019 seems no different. The path to the 7th Stanley Cup in Franchise history will have to go through Toronto and then Tampa, unless the Blue Jackets have something to say about it. I love the Bruins’ chances. Heart, passion, determination, skill, and toughness are all characteristics that make up this Boston Bruins team. With leaders like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand, it’s hard to disagree.

It All Starts On Thursday

Thursday night fans from Toronto and Boston will board the rollercoaster. It’s sure to bring waves of happiness, doubt, and fear, but Boston will prevail in round 1. Setting up yet another matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in round 2. It’s time to play the game.

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

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals