GREAT THINGS BREWING IN TORONTO
2016-17 was a building year for the young Toronto Maple Leafs. New GM Caboose elected to make very few moves to the roster he inherited, simply trimming some of the fat from the roster and bringing in veteran forward Scott Hartnell. Despite the lack of activity, the Leafs, lead by their young guns Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, came within just one point of a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference. It became clear that defence was a big concern for the young Leafs, and GM Caboose acted fast on draft day.
Star winger William Nylander was sent to the rival New York Islanders in exchange for right-shot defender Ryan Pulock in a move that puzzled many in the hockey community. The premium price was likely due to a dearth of top 4 right defenceman throughout the league, and with the surplus of star forwards the Leafs were forced to make this move. Toronto also added young defenceman Nate Schmidt, who was underutilised on a stacked Capitals team. Schmidt is expected to feature alongside Nikita Zaitsev in a revamped Leafs top 4. Jake Gardiner will play in a reduced role, and feature as a powerplay specialist.
With the 14th overall pick, Toronto selected centerman Lias Andersson, who they expect to be a big bodied middle 6 center for them in the coming years. With Matthews, Kadri, and now Andersson down the middle the Leafs C core should be set for years to come. Toronto also picked up Center Fabian Zetterlund, who many agree is an outside shot to be an NHL mainstay, but possesses some high end skill.
Going into the season, the Leafs expect their lineup to feature 4 rookie forwards in Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, and Zach Hyman. Kapanen and Johnsson are expected to feature in the top 6, while Brown and Hyman will ply their trade further down the lineup. All in all, it is expected to be an exciting year for the young Leafs, who are sure to be stronger this season.
2016-17 Team Awards:
2017-18 Toronto Maple Leafs
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
James Van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Kasperi Kapanen
Scott Hartnell - Tyler Bozak - Zach Hyman
Matt Martin - Peter Holland - Connor Brown
Morgan Rielly - Ryan Pulock
Nate Schmidt - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak