Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-20 season preview

           After the 2019 playoffs, the Maple Leafs\’ recent playoff woes became a theme: they will lose in seven games to the Boston Bruins. Out of Toronto\’s last four playoff appearances, three of them included a game seven loss to Boston. Now Toronto will need to get over their playoff struggles against the not just the Bruins, but against every team. The Maple Leafs have not been to the second round of the playoffs since 2004.

            Additions: Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, Cody Ceci, Jason Spezza, Ilya Mikheyev, Ben Harpur, Nick Shore, Kenny Agostino, Pontus Aberg, Kevin Gravel, Jordan Schmlaltz, Michal Neuvirth (PTO), Matt Read (PTO), David Clarkson (contract)

            Subtractions: Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Ron Hainsey, Garrett Sparks, Tyler Ennis, Igor Ozhiganov, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman

The Mitch Marner saga was well documented, as the RFA forward reportedly had an absurd asking price for his new contract. He signed a six year deal with a $10.893 million cap hit that makes him the seventh highest paid player in the league, but just the third highest paid player on his team. He scored a career high 26 goals, and his 92 points led the team. Auston Matthews had another great season, with a career high 73 points in 68 games, plus 37 goals. John Tavares had a great first year with the Maple Leafs, with a career high 47 goals and 88 points. Kasperi Kapanen had a nice breakout season, with 20 goals and 44 points. After two consecutive 61 point seasons, William Nylander was an RFA, and held out until the December 1st deadline, then signed. He was bad in his 54 regular season games, with seven goals and 27 points. He unintentionally completed the not-so-hard task of getting the fan base to turn on him. The Leafs acquired 25 year old center Alex Kerfoot from the Avalanche. Kerfoot scored 15 goals with 42 points in his sophomore 2018-19 season. Playing on a line with Tavares and Marner, Zach Hyman scored a career high 21 goals with 41 points. He tore his ACL and could miss the first month of the season. However, since he isn\’t expected to miss significant time, he is still in the projected lineup below. Like Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson also had a breakout season. He scored 20 goals with 43 points. Trevor Moore had 39 points in 46 AHL games, earning an NHL stint. He had eight points in 25 games. The Leafs signed Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev. In the KHL last year, he scored 23 goals in 62 games. He eyes a bottom six role. The Leafs signed Toronto native Jason Spezza to a one year deal as the 16 year veteran eyes his first Stanley Cup. For the Stars last year, Spezza scored eight goals with 27 points in 76 games. The last forward spot is up for grabs. Former first rounder Frederik Gauthier is the best option among returning Leafs. He had 14 points in 70 games last year, but he isn\’t a right winger. Kenny Agostino is another option. In 63 games for the Canadiens and Devils last year, he had 24 points. Pontus Aberg scored 11 goals in 37 games for the Ducks last year, but he scored just one in 22 games with the Wild after he was traded to Minnesota.

Morgan Rielly had a major breakout season. He never had double digit goals in a season entering 2018-19, then he scored 20. He also had 72 points, a career high. He finished 5th in Norris voting. Unfortunately, he is the only Toronto defenseman signed past 2019-20. Tyson Barrie came to Toronto in the same trade as Kerfoot. He scored 14 goals with a career high 59 points last year. After being acquired in a trade from the Kings, Jake Muzzin had 16 points in 30 games, and somehow finished 11th in Norris voting. Travis Dermott had shoulder surgery, and could miss a similar amount of time as Hyman. He had 17 points in 63 games last year. The Leafs traded for Cody Ceci, who had 26 points for Ottawa last year. He is a -60 player over the last three seasons. Like the last forward spot, the last defensive spot is up for grabs. Justin Holl spent all of last year in the NHL, but only played in 11 games. Ben Harpur had five points in 51 games for Ottawa last year. Martin Marincin has played in a depth role in Toronto over the past four years, playing in 116 games total for the Leafs.

Frederik Andersen had another decent season, with a .917 SV% and a 2.77 GAA. That\’s been the average numbers for him in his Maple Leaf career. The problem is who will back him up. The answer seems to be Michael Hutchinson. In five games for the Leafs last year, Hutchinson had a .914 SV% and a 2.64 GAA. 11 year veteran Michal Neuvirth is in camp on a PTO as well.

                 Deep Depths
Nic Petan was acquired by the Leafs at the trade deadline. He scored one goal in five games post trade. before the trade, he had two assists in 13 games for the Jets. The Leafs signed depth defenseman Kevin Gravel, who had three assists in 36 games for Edmonton last year.

                 Up and Coming
The Leafs\’ top two prospects are both defensemen that are an option for the final spot on D. They were also the last two Toronto first round picks. Timothy Liljegren had 15 points in 43 AHL games, and played in one ECHL game last season. As an AHL rookie, Rasmus Sandin had 28 points in 44 games. Jeremy Bracco had a great AHL season. He scored 22 goals with 79 points in 75 games.

                 2019 draft class
Round 2, 53rd overall: Nick Robertson
Round 3, 84th overall: Mikko Kokkanen
Round 4, 115th overall: Mikhail Abramov
Round 4, 124th overall: Nicholas Abruzzese
Round 5, 146th overall: Michael Koster
Round 7, 204th overall: Kalle Loponen

There is no denying that Mike Babcock is an great coach. He has been to the Stanley Cup finals three times, and won once. But he may be on the hot seat in Toronto after three consecutive first round exits, and a mini controversy when he didn\’t play Matthews a lot in game 7 of the series vs Boston last season. Kyle Dubas did a great job of getting around the salary cap, and signing his RFAs.

                  Projected Lineup
Andreas Johnsson – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Zach Hyman – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Trevor Moore – Alex Kerfoot – Kasperi Kapanen
Ilya Mikheyev – Jason Spezza – Kenny Agostino
Extras: Frederik Gauthier, Pontus Aberg, Nic Petan, Nick Shore

                  Morgan Rielly – Tyson Barrie
                  Travis Dermott – Jake Muzzin
                  Ben Harpur – Cody Ceci
Extras: Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, Kevin Gravel

                                 Frederik Andersen
                                 Michael Hutchinson

The Maple Leafs are scary good. But, they play in a great Atlantic Division that has two better teams than them. The Leafs are still a third place team, behind the Lightning and Bruins.

Published by carterhud SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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