Author Archives: Thomas Waind

Ranking the Best Young NHLers to Build a Team Around

The other night I was watching the Leafs vs. Jets tilt and was just wowed by the speed and entertainment. A match-up once dubbed as potentially this generation’s Crosby vs. Ovechkin, Matthews vs. Laine has been more like Crosby vs. Bobby Ryan. But nonetheless between, Auston, Marner, Nylander, Laine, Scheifele, Ehlers and Connor, there was no shortage of prime-time, next generation talent. While the Leafs lost the match-up, Matthews put on an absolute show.

Between the game against the Jets and the game against the Oilers this week, my buddy Blake texted me asking “if you could start a franchise and could have any one player to build around where would Auston Matthews be on your list.” Well last night I dusted off the keys and hammered out a list of the NHL’s best and brightest young stars.

To help make sense of the best building blocks in this topsy turvy NHL landscape, here’s the a list of my top 10 current NHL players to build a team around. I’ve limited the list to under age 27 (the NHL’s RFA age). The age limit is to put a focus on a player’s upside and not hypotheticals like “would you take 10 years of Matthew Tkachuk’s prime or the end of Ovechkin’s prime?” That’s a conversation for another day.

1. Connor McDavid

Imagine building your organization with the best scorer since Gretzky? Imagine if he also had the engine of a Ferrari? And he’s also just 22 years old? Just so long as you don’t pair him with**checks notes** some combination . of Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Kailer Yamamoto, plus one of the most shallow supporting casts in the league, a leaky blueline, and a revolving door of goaltending mediocrity, then you should be well on your way to contention.

The guy is an absolute cheat code.

2. Nathan MacKinnon

Now this list of mine is strictly some gut-feeling/analytical mix of a players production right now, crossed with upside, skillset, age and position-based value. If I was to factor in cap hit into the conversation, MacKinnon would leapfrog McJesus and place #1 with a bullet. I’ve poured over the numbers and found that $6.3 mil AAV is significantly less than than $12.5 mil. Dubious as you may be, I’ve double checked the math.

But in my hypothetical world I’m just talking about skill. Shred the contracts and put everyone in a fantasy draft. Who are you starting a franchise with? MacKinnon is a world-class skater, has great hands in-tight and is simply too strong to knock off the puck. He was  Hart trophy finalist in 2017-18 and had at least 95 points in each of his last two seasons. And he’s only 24 years old. Cheque please!

3. Auston Matthews

Here’s where I’ll get roasted for “being a homer” or “not watching enough non-Leafs games”. Here are five blind resumes of up and coming star players. Who would you take?

Screen Shot 2020-01-09 at 3.29.29 PM

Personally Player A looks rather appealing. Definitely the best scorer per 60 minutes and leads the pack in even strength goals despite being the youngest and playing by far the fewest games. AND he’s a center? Now we’re cooking with gas. Now let’s take a look behind the curtain to get a look at who this mystery sniper is.*

Image result for auston matthews gif

*the other players listed are:
Player B: Leon Draisaitl
Player C: David Pastrnak
Player D: Aleksander Barkov
Player E: Jack Eichel

In a league where a premium is paid for goal-scoring and elite centers, Matthews is a premier player scoring at a historic clip. Facts are facts.

4. David Pastrnak

With Ovie and Patty Kane both closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, Pastrnak and Kucherov look like the heirs apparent to the pinnacle of the sniping wing archetype. As with MacKinnon above, if I took cap hit into account, Pastrnak and his criminally underpaid $6.66 AAV would probably slide him up ahead of Matthews, maybe even McDavid, on this list. I for one do not cheer for underpaying players at the benefit of the fat cats upstairs, but maybe that’s just me. The math geeks, nerds and Bruins fans mocked the contracts Toronto has handed out in the last calendar year. I for one celebrate it as a victory for the common Joe firing pucks at their garage door.

5. Nikita Kucherov

Only McDavid and Kucherov and McDavid have 100+ points in each of their last two seasons. Between the two right wingers, I gave Pastrnak the slight nudge in the rankings since he’s three years younger and is currently having a better season than Kuch.

6. through 8. is some combination of Aleksander Barkov, Leon Draisaitl and Jack Eichel

Honestly my rankings on these three elite centers varies from day to day. It really depends on what you’re jonesing for. Looking for a future Bergeron-esque perennial Selke candidate? Barkov’s your man. Looking for a dynamic offensive weapon who can single-handedly carry a team’s scoring? Eichel’s your man. Looking for some kind of hyrbid of the two? Can I interest you in the new model of Draisaitl?

9. Andrei Vasilevskiy

While he’s having a bit of a down year, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more dynamic goalie than the 25 year-old reigning Vezina trophy winner. While Binnington won a Cup with St. Louis last year, I give Vasilevskiy the edge since Binnington has yet to show that he can dominate over the course of a full regular season schedule. Vasilevskiy has been the backbone of a Tampa Bay squad that has been best regular season team over the past three seasons.

10. Seth Jones

I wanted to include one defenseman and Seth Jones seems to check off all of the boxes. At age 25 Jones still has his best years ahead of him, yet already has already has two top-10 finishes in Norris Trophy voting.

I also considered Ekblad for his early career goal-scoring prowess, but he hasn’t even come close to Jones’ heights yet. I considered Chabot since he leads all NHL defensemen in ice-time despite only being 22 years-old. My qualms with Chabot–while he’s still amazing–is that he’s being force-fed minutes by a lackluster Senators team and is still a long way from establishing the two-way dominance that Jones has. The other d-man that I considered for this list is Cale Makar who has been nearly a point-per-game player as a rookie, which is absurd. The only caveat I can throw at him is that Makar has 64.8% of zone starts in the offensive zone. For context Erik Karlsson–who has long been criticized as a purely offensive defenseman–is a career 55.6% oZS% and only had one season where he surpassed 60%. While Makar has been impressive, he’s largely been used as a specialist and has a long way to becoming an Erik Karlsson rather than a Mike Green or Tyson Barrie.

Among defensemen age 27 or under, I think Jones has the best combination of two-way play, dynamic skill and ceiling to grow. Any team would be ecstatic to have him as a building block.

 

Honourable Mentions: Elias Pettersson, Mark Scheifele, Filip Forsberg, Sebastian Aho, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jake Guentzel, Kyle Connor, Miko Rantanen, Nikolai Ehlers, Patrick Laine, Williams Nylander, Dylan Larkin, Aaron Ekblad, Cale Makar, Zach Werenski, Thomas Chabot, Morgan Rielly, Dougie Hamilton, Rasmus Dahlin, Ivan Proverov, Jordan Binnington, John GIbson, Ilya Samsonov, Carter Hart, Matt Murray, Joonas Korpisalo

 

 

Blue and White Blog Game 11: I’ll Be Watching the Raptors Tonight

Talkin’ Leafs

Yeah I’m worried. Last night should’ve been a win for your Toronto Maple Leafs but evidently the team didn’t agree. CBJ isn’t the most talented team by any stretch but you could see that they wanted that win. We’re 10 games into the season and Toronto’s biggest problem has been the fact that their core four, Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Rielly, have had zero interest in battling for the puck. Sure they’ve been capitalizing and scoring when the other team makes a mistake. But the rest of the time, particularly in their own zone, they’re letting the other team dictate the pace and physicality. Last night’s game was the perfect example where Marner , Matthews and Nylander had good nights on the box score, but were invisible in the neutral zone and their own end.

Here’s a clip of the O Dog on Over Drive going off on the team’s effort last night:

Now tonight they’re in Boston with back-up Michael Hutchinson in net. Unless Babs lights a fire under these guys you can see the loss coming from a mile away. That’s why I’ll be tuning into the Toronto Raptors season opener tonight.

Talkin’ Raps

Tonight the 2019 championship banner is being raised at Scotiabank Arena in tonight’s NBA season opener between the Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans. I for one am fired up to tune in and watch one of my teams finally in a championship banner celebration. I may blog Leafs games but I’m equally as big of a Raptors fan as I am a hockey fan. How can you not be pumped up for tonight?

Here’s a few thoughts I have on the 2019-20 edition of the Toronto Raptors:

Kyle Lowry is still here

With a big booty that would have Mike Babcock flustered, Kyle Lowry is entering his 14th NBA season. The savvy vet is still good enough to carry offensive play, as evident by his performances in games Kawhi was load managing. At 33 years old Lowry is still a top 10 point guard in the league. Last season among guards (includes point and shooting guards) Kyle ranked 13th in Win Shares (6.6), 9th in Assist % (34.8), 12th in defensive rating (108), and 12th in Value Over Replacement (2.8). Last year he only had the 24th ranked usage rank among guards so expect his scoring to tick up closer to where it was during the DeRozan era.

The core of “the next” Raptors team is already on the roster

Fred Vanvleet is the eventual heir apparent to the starting point guard role. Patrick McCaw and Norm Powell are solid, young two-way wings. Before a sophomore season from hell, OG Anunoby’s rookie season garnered optimistic (if not wildly unrealistic) Kawhi Leonard comparisons.

But the centrepiece of this core is Pascal Siakam. The 2019 NBA’s Most Improved Player, Siakam looks like a guy who can be a 20-10 power forward with playmaking abilities and a bit of shooting touch. Last year he was the second scoring option on an NBA winning roster and is still only 25 years old. I can’t wait to see how good this guy can be.

The Raptors are the hardest team to predict for 2019-20

If everybody’s healthy and all breaks right for the Raps, I could see them being a top three seed in the Eastern Conference. But of any team with legitimate playoff aspirations, Toronto is probably the most likely to tear the roster down. They have Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka on expiring contracts and will likely flip them to a contender at the first sign of a lost season. Lowry has a year and a half left under contract and a championship team in need of a point guard might give up a nice haul in order to chase a ring.

The Action Network as the Raptors over-under win total set at 46.5. The last time the Raptors dipped below 47 wins was when they had 34 in 2012-13. Hammer that OVER folks. Let’s have ourselves a year!

Blue and White Blog Game 10: Bear Down

Whew

That 5-4 OT win Saturday night was a bit of a rollercoaster. There’s a lot to take away from it, and quite a bit of it was troubling. I couldn’t get a preview up in time on the weekend since I was mixing in a few cervezas in Ottawa. Some things are bigger than sports.

Let me preface this by saying that, if the Leafs plan on actually beating Boston this year, Saturday was a must-win. Playing the against Boston’s back-up goalie at home with Freddy in net on their side of the ice. Toronto really had a chance to take it to ’em. The Leafs were able to squeak out a win in OT despite being outshot 46-29, with some real stretches of ugly play. Nobody asks how, just how many, right? Well for Toronto to have some sustained success over a full 82 games + playoffs the “how” will matter. There’s a lot of loose bolts to tighten up here.

To their defence, it was Toronto’s first game with John Tavares on the shelf so every team’s line was thrown into a relative blender. We got a look at Kerfoot on the second line. Matthews and Marner spent a good chunk of ice-time on the same line. Nylander even played some center. Toronto’s a deep enough team upfront that they can survive, hell even thrive, until JT gets back. But it’s a huge loss all the same.

Tonight’s Game

The Blue Jackets are currently treading water at 3-3-2. They’re 30th in Goals Per Game with 2.25 and 17th with Goals Against Per Game with 3.25. They look to be pretty snake bitten seeing as they’re fifth in shots per game with 35.0 and 24th in shots against with 30.1. A .500 record given their inability to score the puck is resiliency at it’s finest. Don’t be surprised if their shots don’t start going in and the Jackets rocket up the standings.

Players of Interest

The Big Asses

Babs likes big butts and he simply cannot lie. Timashov and Moore have been revelations this year and I guess we’re finally putting a finger on just what makes these guys go. Folks we’re talking about a couple big asses that just won’t quit. Moore’s got 5 points in 9 games and Timashov has 4 in 6 games. That’s tremendous production for a couple of guys getting bottom six ice-time. Production from secondary sources has been a god send in the early part of the season.

 

Cam Atkinson

36 shots on net and only 2 goals? That is the definition of snake bitten. A career 11.7 shooting %, there’s just no way Atkinson is going to continue to score at a 5.6 clip. Expect a lot of goals soon. Hopefully just not tonight.

Marner + Matthews

Babcock gave these two an extended look on the same line on Saturday and the results were largely underwhelming (other than the Matthews to Marner feed in 3-on-3 OT). I’m sure they will get another chance but, if they want to form their own super line, they need to look dominant when they’re given the chance. I for one think that Nylander looks more comfortable on Auston’s right wing, but if the Marn Dog proves me wrong I certainly won’t be upset.

Josh Anderson

The Jackets are getting Anderson back after missing the last six games with an upper-body injury. Ol’ Torts seems pumped about it:

“You’re [darn] right it does, he’s one of our best players. In the time he’s spent with me, he is one [heck] of a hockey player. There is so much there where in my mind where I can project what he can be. He can be something special.” — Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella on Josh Anderson

via NHL.com

 

Final Thoughts

Sometimes it’s tough to get the train on the tracks. Missed the game 9 Saturday night write-up. No Phil’s thoughts tonight as he sweats out the Vodka + Mountain Dew Baja Blasts consumed on his trip to Queen’s homecoming.

It’s tough to get a full 82 game schedule into the blog game. Blogging the Leafs can be a game of load management, but I can’t afford to pull a full Kawhi. The Klaw is on a three year $103 million contract and I’m out here trying to stay alive in the blogging streets. It’s up to me to pick up this pieces, skate back to the bench and get ready for the next shift. Go Leafs.

 

The Blue and White Blog Game 8 Versus The Great 8

Not gonna lie, I just realized there was a game tonight. If this game preview seems a little more slapped together, then usual I apologize.

 

The Maple Leafs rode a four goal second period to a big win over the Wild last night. That puts the team at 4-2-1 on the year, third place in the Atlantic. There’s nothing much to really say other than they just outplayed the Wild and took care of business at home. The big guns led the way Marner, Tavares, Rielly, Matthews and Andersen all producing.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight it’s the battle of the back-up goalies with the Leafs trotting Michael Hutchinson and Capitals starting rookie Ilya Samsonov. Like Toronto, Washington is also off to a similarly so-so start with a 3-2-2 record. The core that won the 2018 Stanley Cup is still largely intact so by year’s end, expect them to be in the mix. Right now Washington has the third best Corsi For % in the NHL with 54.66 so you have to think that the underlying possession numbers will result in a string of wins.

Players of Interest

T-Dog

Through seven games, “T-Dog” Moore leads the Leafs with a PDO% (Even Strength Shooting % + Save % with player on ice) with 112.1. After a big 4-2 Tuesday night over the Wild, Moore was moved to the left wing of the Tavares, Marner line. I like this adjustment with the speed, hands and grit that Moore brings to the puck retrieval role. His work in the dirty areas should open up the ice for JT and Marner. I think Moore might be the best fit considering he’s more comfortable in a chippy role than Kapanen and has better hands than Hyman.

Ilya Samsonov

Washington’s first round pick in 2015 looks to be getting a shot to supplant Braden Holtby. The 22 year-old rookie has a .944 save percentage in his first three games. For years he’s been touted as the best goalie prospect in hockey and the early returns have been promising.

Morgan Rielly

Have yourself a night Morgan!

Great night for fantasy hockey that’s for sure. Now there are still some kinks that the Rielly-Ceci pairing need to iron out in their own end, but you can’t complain too much after that game.

 

Phil’s Thoughts

Here’s some quick talking points from couch correspondent Phillip Waind:

“Very tired. Pulled an all nighter playing 7 hours of Risk last night. I’m battling to stay awake all day just to keep my sleep schedule from being completely nocturnal. Gotta love reading week. Anyways, I missed last night’s game and can’t imagine I’ll be awake for tonight’s. Just like I abandoned the idea of the blue army taking control of Asia, I too hope that Babcock abandons the idea of Kapanen as a top six forward.”

 

Remember That Leaf

Brendan Leipsic

Image result for brendan leipsic maple leafs

Originally came to Toronto by way of the Cody Franson to Nashville trade. The full trade was Lepsic from Nashville Predators with Olli Jokinen and round 1 pick in the 2015 draft (*Travis Konecny) to Toronto Maple Leafs for Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson.

Leipsic was unreal with the Toronto Marlies scoring 124 points in 141 games in three seasons with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate. I was pretty rattled when Toronto lost him in the Vegas expansion draft after choosing to protect Matt Martin.

It ended up not being too huge of a loss with Leipsic not really sticking on with Vegas or Vancouver. Now he finds himself on Washington’s fourth line

*The Leafs would trade Konecny pick down twice in 2015 to draft Dermott and Bracco

Final Thoughts

Let’s keep this train rolling. Tough task for Michael Hutchinson to steal a win on the road against the dangerous Capitals squad, but sometimes winners gotta win. A night after the Nationals clinched a World Series berth, it’d be a real shame to whoop that Capitals in Washington. Real shame.

The Blue and White Blog Game 7: The Grind Line is Wild’n Out

What has gotten into Toronto’s bottom six?

The third and fourth line just look downright lethal out there while the “top line” of Kapanen, Tavares and Marner look absolutely glacial by comparison. I’m sure that I could look at some stats to decipher some of this weird play but I’m going by just the old eye test.

The bottom six chip, forecheck, and are absolute hounds on the puck. And for once, for all of the years of Brian Burke truculence and Lou Lamoriello bottom six over-pays, once the bottom six gets a hold of the puck they can actually do something with it. On the flip side, controlled zone entries are the bread and butter of the elite talent that Tavares and Marner bring to the table. Last season when the other team would stack their own blueline and force them to dump, they’d chip it in for golden retriever Zach Hyman to fetch. Six games in Kapanen just hasn’t been as effective chasing that stick and one wonders if that line couldn’t hurt for a little dose of Mikheyev or Trevor Moore on the wing. I for one think Kappy could use a little patience, but at a certain point you have to produce.

 

Tonight’s Game

After beating Detroit 5-2 on Saturday night, Toronto hosts the 1-4-0 Minnesota Wild tonight. There is apparent talent on this Wild team but I think it’s safe to say that they’ve missed the championship window on this Parise-Suter-Dubnyk core. They have the second-oldest team in the NHL with an average age of 29.5. And what young players they do have seem to be be of the Ryan Donato, Joel-Eriksson-Ek mold without any real elite potential lurking.

What they can hang their hat on is a solid, bordering on elite, defensive unit. Take a look at this six pack:

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 4.02.21 PM

Despite a bad record this defensive core should be something that could prop them up. The Wild have one of the most anemic group of forwards out there and five games in, their top three scorers are all defensemen; Brad Hunt with 4 points and Suter and Spurgeon with 3 points each.

 

Players of Interest

Toronto’s Third Pairing

There’s always something. Toronto has sent down 2018 first round pick Rasmus Sandin which, shock of shocks, seems to have struck a chord with Leafs Nation. But once you get any anti-Babcock vitriol out of your system and take a deep breath, this move seems fine and down right logical. On paper Toronto preserves a year of his NHL entry level deal. On the ice Sandin will get more opportunity with the Marlies than the 12:33 TOI he was getting with the big club which will surely be better for his development.

With Dermott’s return just around the corner it will be a tryout between Holl, Marincin and Gravel to standout and earn the role of 6th and 7th defensemen.

Devan Dubnyk

At age 33 it’s fair to question whether we’re seeing the beginning of the end for him. This year has has a .862 save percentage and 4.56 GAA in 4 games which is just a frigid start to say the least. For a team that was 27th in goals for last year, keeping the puck out of their own net will be incredibly important.

Dmytro Timashov: Playmaker

Does Kapanen hear the footsteps yet?

 

Phil’s Thoughts

Here’s some quick talking points from couch correspondent Phillip Waind:

Last game showed what the bottom two lines for the Leafs can do. They were buzzing all night and displayed that they have the ability to carry the team. Even if that team is the measly Red Wings, it was impressive all the same. The Tavares-Marner line has only shown flashes of what they could be, so hopefully they start to cook.

 

Final Thoughts

This season is probably the last gasp of air for this current rendition of the Minnesota Wild. They canned GM Chuck Fletcher, the Nick Fury to this super team, this summer . Minnesota has one of the oldest and one of the most expensive rosters out there which is a lethal combo.

That being said Toronto can’t afford to look past anyone this year. They still have a lot to figure out on their own side of the tunnel. How do you get the Tavares-Marner duo going? When will Andersen round into form? Beyond Rielly, Barrie and Muzzin, who can you trust on the blueline?

Regardless, Minnesota is due for a dub. I just hope it’s not tonight.

The Blue and White Blog Game 6: MoTown, Mo Problems

It’s the four year anniversary of the greatest debut in Maple Leafs history.

 

Just a throwback to better days. If you haven’t been paying attention Toronto is having are having a rough time lately. Well a whole year actually. At 2-2-1, turns out the Leafs have been a .500 for longer than you’d expect.

Not good!

Image result for michael scott rough year

All of this has been punctuated by the 7-3 shellacking at the hands of the Lightning on Thursday night. After a 4-3 first period the wheels fell off. Horrible play in their own end, penalty kill out of sorts and an uninspiring performance by Andersen. It’s all doom and gloom in the Maple Leafs new cycle. So why not bring on the Red Wings!

Tonight’s Game

The Red Wings are actively tanking yet sit at a 3-1-0 record. They’re essentially a one line team, but that one line has been off to a hot start. This is a team that has most of their young talent still in the minors (only one of their six first round picks since 2014 (Dennis Cholowski) made the team out of camp). I expect the Red Wings to cool off at some point, hopefully by tonight. I’m not one to put a “must win” label on a game, but a loss would whip the Toronto sports media machine into a frenzy. Leafs are 1-1-1 against their Atlantic division rivals so they have to shove these guys into a locker.

Players of Interest

Tyler Bertuzzi

Being from the Guelph area, I used to watch Bertuzzi chuck knucks and bury pucks since his time with the Storm. He currently has 3 goals and 6 points in 4 games, locking down the left wing on the top line with Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin. The top line has accounted for 10 of the team’s 14 goals so far. Tonight this line should receive a healthy amount of Toronto’s attention.

Frederik Andersen

Fair or not, the run and gun Leafs rely heavily on goaltending to bail them out. Even with a revamped blueline, Andersen had to shoulder much of the burden in their own end. Now Andersen is known to start regular seasons off slow, but he has to round into form if Toronto is even going to pretend to be a threat this year.

I’m a big Freddy guy so I believe he’ll be fine. But I can’t help but feel a bit of worry settle in.

Anthony Mantha

6 goals in 4 games? Sheesh. Mantha has come out of the gate red hot looking like a legitimate 30 (40?(50?(probably not 60))) goal threat this year. The big boy from Longueuil, Quebec, vanquisher of the 2014 Guelph Storm’s Memorial Cup dreams, is finally delivering on his big time potential.

Phil’s Thoughts

Here’s some quick talking points from couch correspondent Phillip Waind:

“Ceci stinks. Kapanen stinks. Hyman, doesn’t stink as much as I thought until watching Kapanen. Andersen stinks right now. Marner stinks but still picks up apples. Matthews. Simply the best.”

 

Final Thoughts

Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’m already mixing in some birthday drinks, I’ll keep it short and simple. Beat Detroit.

The Blue and White Blog Game 5: Rumble in the Atlantic

Monday night’s game versus St. Louis was a tough one. I actually thought that it was Toronto’s most complete games so far but sometimes you just lose to good teams. One of the silver linings from the loss is the continued solid play of William Nylander.

He looks flat out dynamic. For all of the heat he took last year and the praise that Marner raked in, Nylander looks like he’ll be way more bang for Toronto’s buck. Just check out this goal from Monday:

Just flat out silky.

Anyways, take the loss and we’re on to the Lightning.

Tonight’s Game

The Leafs and Lightning have been pencilled in as playoff teams for year’s end by pundits and fans alike. Both teams are fast and skilled with great goaltending. The difference lies on the blueline where Tampa boasts one of the NHL’s most talented six pack.

I do think that Toronto may be able match them as the season goes along considering the talent that they possess with Barrie, Rielly and Muzzin. It’ll all come down to how Ceci plays and how the bottom pairing shakes down.

Both team’s have an abundance of top-end talent but Tampa Bay’s core is arguably the best in the league. No other team has a Hart winner (Kucherov), three 40 goal scorers (Kucherov, Stamkos and Point), a Norris Trophy finalist (Hedman) and a Vezina winning goalie (Vasilevsky). This season is a failure for them if it doesn’t end in a Stanley Cup. Those are their expectations.

Player’s of Interest

Tampa’s Left Side

Honestly take a look at who Tampa has lined up on the left side of their blueline pairings:

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 2.34.57 PM

Based on the Corsica ratings on Daily Faceoff all three are in the top 30 of left shot defensemen. No other team can boast such depth and it’s one of the reasons Tampa is such a wagon. At all times they have one of Hedman, McDonagh and Sergachev on the ice. All three can move the puck very well and be used to shut down other team’s top lines.

Summer of 2019 RFA Battle

Image result for brayden point mitch marner

Linemates on the 2015-16 Canadian World Junior team, Point and Marner found themselves as two of the most talked about players this past offseason. Both were restricted free agents looking for significant pay days. Both had career years in 2018-19 with Marner racking up 94 points and Point with 41 goals and 92 points. Both took the whole offseason by hostage and waited out for their respective deals. Marner signed a six year deal with a $10.893 mil AAV and Point signed a three year bridge deal carrying a $6.75 mil AAV.

While the Marner contract has drawn a ton of criticism, it’s time to put up or shut up for both he and Point. Now that they’re not on rookie deals there’s way more pressure for them to produce. The Marner and Tavares line has gotten off to a relatively slow start and Point is playing in is first game of the season tonight after being activated from the IR. Look for both Marner and Point to be pushing hard tonight.

Freddy The Goat

That’s two goals in four games for The Goat. Nobody mistakes the guy for a world beater but he’s a thick boi who can win a few key faceoffs. He’s been a solid fourth liner so far in his short career and I think he can make some beautiful music with Spezza this year.

During the Brian Burke/Dave Nonis eras, some pretty careless draft day comparisons were thrown around. Brad Ross was the next Darcy Tucker, the Leafs had Lucic dreams for Tyler Biggs. Gauthier was no exception. I distinctly remember someone throwing a Patrice Bergeron comp when he was draft, I just can’t remember who. But at the very least here’s what Craig Button thought on daft day:

“I HAVE WATCHED FREDERIK FOR ALMOST 2 YEARS NOW AND HE HAS ALWAYS IMPRESSED ME. HE PLAYED MIDGET LAST SEASON (HIS TEAM LOST IN THE TELUS CUP MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP TO RED DEER IN AN EPIC FINAL) BECAUSE HE WAS CONSIDERING GOING THE NCAA ROUTE AND WAS CONDITIONALLY GRANTED ACCEPTANCE TO HARVARD UNIVERSITY. HE’S BIG, HE’S SMART AND HE MAY NOT RUN YOU OVER BUT HE ASSERTS WITH HIS SIZE & TAKES ADVANTAGE. HE IS A STRONG TWO-WAY PLAYER WHO PLAYS ALL SITUATIONS. HE REMINDS ME OF KEITH PRIMEAU. HE HAS NOT COME OUT OF NOWHERE, YOU JUST HAVEN’T HEARD OF HIM BECAUSE HE WASN’T ON A ‘MAINSTREAM’ RADAR. CENTERS LIKE HIM ARE RARE AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT HE COULD BE A TOP 10 PLAYER BEFORE LONG. DIFFERENT PLAYER THAN HUBERDEAU BUT SIMILAR SCENARIO AS YOU POINT OUT.” (Maple Leafs Hot Stove, 2013)

View this post on Instagram

Year 2! #ontheroadto50

A post shared by Frederik Gauthier (@freddygauths) on

You heard it straight from The Goat’s mouth: #ontheroadto50

Remember That Leaf?

Carter Verhaeghe

Image result for carter verhaeghe

Drafted by the Leafs in the third round of the 2013 draft, Verhaeghe was able to grab the fourth line centre job for Tampa out of camp. After four OHL seasons with the Ice Dogs and five seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, Verhaeghe has finally made the NHL. The Leafs traded him in 2015 when they shipped Verhaeghe out to the Islanders with Matt Finn, Taylor Beck, Tom Nilsson and Christopher Gibson for Michael Grabner. It was a training camp trade used to shed contracts as the Leafs were sitting at the max 50 right before the season. Of the players Toronto traded only Verhaeghe and goalie Chris Gibson are the only two still playing in North America.

Last year Verhaeghe lit up the AHL with Syracuse Crunch scoring 34 goals and 82 points in 76 games. The Lightning might have something here. While it would be nice to still have him in the system, the tanking moves made in 2015-16 led us on the road to Auston Matthews so no harm no foul here.

Final Thoughts

So far the Leafs are 1-0-1 in divisional match-ups. Both Toronto (2-1-1) and Tampa (1-1-1) aren’t off to the fastest of starts. Both will look for a big win tonight. It’ll go a long way for the Leafs to hold serve at home against a divisional rival. If Toronto hopes to grab the Atlantic one seed and avoid the Bruins in the first round this spring, a win tonight would be huge.

« Older Entries