To this point within the 2023-24 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have performed 17 video games. Their report sits at 10-5-2 for 22 factors and so they at the moment sit third within the Atlantic Division. At occasions this season, the Maple Leafs appeared to battle rather a lot, however within the final two weeks, they seem to have righted the wrongs and have line combos that work.
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The staff now finds themselves in Sweden and it seems like this journey may very well be the factor that brings the staff collectively and will get everybody to purchase into their program. Sadly, this was the yr that the Maple Leafs might have taken over the Atlantic Division however as a result of their early season struggles, they didn’t and are actually enjoying catch up in an try to take excessive spot. Nonetheless, as talked about earlier than we’re 17 video games in, and with that listed below are three gamers who’re main the cost and exceeding expectations thus far this season.
Calle Jarnkrok – How Swede He Is
When Michael Bunting left throughout free company this previous offseason after which Calle Jarnkrok was placed on the highest line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, I used to be skeptical that the Maple Leafs misplaced somebody who might battle within the corners and scrum it up for the road. Nonetheless, Jarnkrok proved that he might be that participant, which is why he finds himself on this checklist. It isn’t simply concerning the factors; particularly on a staff like Toronto, they’ve that coated. They want gamers who’ve vitality and might go into the corners and win board battles. Jarnkrok appears to have discovered a brand new kind of vitality this season; possibly it’s as a result of he has turn out to be the brand new model of Alex Kerfoot for head coach Sheldon Keefe and is used in every single place, or possibly it’s simply that he feels he can do effectively in that function. Both manner, he has match into that function very effectively this season.
Moreover, he has discovered a brand new house on the third line alongside Max Domi and Nick Robertson, and really shortly, the trio has turn out to be the vitality line for the Maple Leafs. The emergence of this line helped to quiet issues down concerning the lineup and the way it felt disconnected. Jarnkrok’s level manufacturing has been good this season as effectively; he has 4 objectives and 5 assists for 9 factors, is a plus-7, and averages 15:38 time on ice (TOI). That is good for a secondary scorer on the Maple Leafs, particularly in a yr the place depth scoring is missing.
John Tavares – Age is Only a Quantity
John Tavares has proven this season that he could also be getting older, however he can nonetheless play at a excessive stage. For the previous few offseasons, he has been topic to numerous criticism as a result of his contract and the way the Maple Leafs may very well be in a greater place financially in the event that they didn’t signal him. Properly, this season he has been as constant as ever; he has seven objectives and 12 assists for 19 whole factors in 16 video games. He and William Nylander have been on a tear this season; they sit one and two on the staff in factors. Tavares seems to have put within the work this offseason; he appears quicker and stronger on pucks, which has helped his line produce.
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Tavares has tailored properly to the function of the second-line centre on the staff. Because the captain, he has helped the Maple Leafs by means of their struggles early on, and now that he and Nylander appear to have woken Tyler Bertuzzi from his early-season nap, the road is dominating their opponents.
This can be a prime instance of what this line is able to; it begins with a faceoff win by Nylander, who sends the puck across the finish boards from the half wall. Bertuzzi digs in and beats his man, takes possession of the puck, seems as much as discover Tavares streaking to the aspect of the online, and dishes an ideal go to him. Tavares makes no mistake and buries the puck, finishing the comeback and capping off a really dominant third interval by the second line for the Maple Leafs. This line’s chemistry ought to have followers excited, particularly if they will proceed this type of play all through the season and probably into the playoffs.
William Nylander – Superstardom
What extra might be mentioned about Nylander? He has performed himself proper into superstardom alongside Matthews and Marner for the Maple Leafs. Nylander has been sensational this season, he has 12 objectives and 15 assists for 27 factors, and he joins Doug Gilmour as the one Maple Leaf within the final 25 years to have 25 factors in his first 16 video games. He additionally has an extremely spectacular streak happening; he has a degree in each one among his first 17 video games. To not point out, he’s additionally on tempo to attain 128 factors, which might be probably the most in a season by a Maple Leafs participant. Sadly, it’s not all good for followers of the staff, Nylander remains to be on an expiring contract and whereas each side are speaking a couple of new deal there hasn’t been any motion reported by any of the notable NHL insiders.
This begs the query: What would occur in the event that they didn’t attain an settlement earlier than July 1, 2024? Nylander could be free to signal with any of the opposite 31 NHL groups; nonetheless, he can nonetheless signal with the Maple Leafs if he loses the eight-year deal that comes when you re-sign together with your present NHL membership on an expiring deal. Fortunately, there may be hope to get Nylander re-signed, so for now, let’s get pleasure from what he’s doing this season. When Matthews had two hat-tricks in his first two video games of the season, I might have thought it could have been him who was on this tear, however then Nylander’s play simply stored getting higher and higher, and he has been the staff’s finest participant by far this season. Particularly after being the most important think about each video games in Sweden for his membership.
After final season and his career-high 87 factors, it felt like he was all the time going to be across the 80-90 level vary, however then this season occurred, and it seems like he may very well be a 100-point participant all through his prime, which makes it really feel just like the Maple Leafs have to re-sign him.
Early on, it gave the impression to be a season through which the Maple Leafs would battle, however the staff has turned it round and is again to their previous methods of outscoring their opponents. Because of gamers like Nylander, Tavares, and the honourable point out, Matthews, who’ve led the cost in that division. It’s gamers like Jarnkrok that you just depend on to close down video games and even spark a comeback with energetic shift late in video games. Collectively, Jarnkrok, Nylander, and Tavares have been big for the Maple Leafs and much exceeded the expectations set originally of the season.