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Toronto Maple Leafs: More Than Just Matthews

Since the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, the Toronto Maple Leafs have only made the playoffs once, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2013 playoffs in heartbreaking fashion. They were up 4-1 in the middle of the 3rd period but then the Bruins came back to win in overtime. If you want more details on this game, ask any Bruins fan that you know. You can also ask Leafs fans, but you probably don’t want to give them flashbacks. 4 years later, the Leafs are a completely different team.

[the_ad id=”534″]The Leafs stunk for the next 3 years. But it has ended up being a good thing for the franchise because they were able to fully rebuild their team. They completely overhauled their front office too. They appointed Brendan Shanahan as the President of Hockey Operations. They hired Lou Lamoriello, as the general manager, who is considered one of the best GMs in the league. Most importantly, the Leafs hired Mike Babcock, who is widely considered the best head coach in the NHL. Now the Leafs are about to make the playoffs. Babcock is a big reason for the Leafs getting to the next level. From a fantasy perspective, this is the right time to get on the Leafs bandwagon, now more than ever.

Since the Leafs were bad for those 3 years, they were able to draft a lot of top picks that have been the key to their success this season. In 2014, they drafted William Nylander as the 8th overall pick. In 2015, they drafted Mitch Marner as the 4th overall pick. And in 2016, they drafted Auston Matthews as the 1st overall pick. Most likely, you already know all about Auston Matthews. As of March 29th, Matthews has 67 points in 79 games. That’s 39 goals and 28 assists. Matthews has just set the Leafs rookie franchise record of 34 goals and a bunch of other rookie franchise records. He will likely be drafted in the first round in one-year leagues next season and if you don’t have him in your keeper or dynasty league, get used to it. Any Matthews owner will keep him or ask for a very high return if any at all.

However, if you missed out on Matthews, not too worry. There are a couple of Toronto sleepers you can draft next season to get in on the Leafs bandwagon. Marner, and Nylander, who’ve I mentioned, been battling for the 3rd spot in rookie scoring. Marner has 61 points (19 goals, 42 assists) in 74 games. Mitch Marner is 19 years old and has quickly become an assists machine in his first NHL season. This is all important for next year’s draft where he’ll be projected to go in the 6th to 8th round. Same with William Nylander, who has 60 points in 78 games (22 goals, 38 assists). It will be tough to tell who will be the best of the three in the long run but at the moment, Matthews is on .85 points per game pace. Marner is pretty close with .82 points per game pace and Nylander has .77 points per game. This is proof that these two are about on par with Matthews. Although the secret is out on Matthews, you can likely get Nylander or Marner in the middle rounds. Who knows? They might be just as good as Matthews, if not better when all is said and done.

[the_ad id=”693″]Another impressive thing about these three rookies on the same team is they are not always on the same line. They can score independently when the others are either injured or in a slump. When Marner was injured, Nylander had 5 points and Matthews had 8 points in 6 games. The scary thing is they are all teenagers and thus haven’t hit their prime yet, which means they are only going to get better in time. It won’t be long before Toronto will become a cup favorite, year in and year out.

Now, there is a chance you might not get Marner or Nylander. But the Leafs have a number of other young players that won’t be as sought after. You can get these guys in the final rounds of your draft unless your die-hard Leafs owner gets him first. Every league has that guy. Connor Brown and Zach Hyman who have played on Matthews wing and you can reap the benefits. Another player with potential is Nikita Soshnikov. He isn’t having a great season this year but that can be explained from the injuries he’s had this season. He could take a huge step forward next season.

Speaking of the Leafs future, Kasperi Kapanen will likely have a bigger role next season. Kapanen was the Penguins big prospect before he got traded to Toronto in the Kessel trade. He has played 9 games late last season but he didn’t get a point.  He has been recalled to Toronto, and we can see what he has to offer. He should be ready to go the full season next year and will be hotly anticipated on how he does with this Toronto youth movement. Lastly, Jeremy Bracco, who had a phenomenal World Juniors (5 points in 7 games) could make the leap to the pros next season, if he has a good training camp.

There is a chance that Toronto won’t be as good as hyped. Especially with how unlucky the Leafs have been throughout the years. But they have had really good drafts these past 3 years and with Babcock and Lamoriello at the helm, it is likely they will be good for years. Especially, if Matthews, Marner, and Nylander grow and get better. Like it or not, the Leafs are here to stay and you might as well join the party before it’s too late.

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