4 Ex-Leafs to cheer for in the 2016 Playoffs

Photo credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Photo credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL Playoffs are only days away which means we’re about to witness the best non-tanking hockey of the year. For the Nation Network, it also means we’re launching a new playoff fantasy hockey draft at nationdrafts.com. Although I plan on spending most of my time tirelessly over-analyzing who we should draft with our two first round picks this June, I always make time to follow a few big series and inevitably watch my fantasy hockey team fall to pieces.

Aside from watching my fantasy team turn to ash, it’s always fun to keep tabs on past Leafs. I’m not talking about the really good players that blossomed after we gave them away (I’m still lamenting the departure of Alex Steen and Anton Stralman) but the players who gave us their all and went on to greener pastures, leaving behind assets for our rebuild. 

Here are four former Leafs that’ll be on the radar for the next two months:

James Reimer: It’s still hard to see James Reimer in another NHL jersey but it’s been one of his most productive years and it’s good to see Reimer get a shot at some more playoff hockey. In his last five starts for San Jose, Reimer has gone 4-1-0 with two shut outs. The Sharks may have thought they were getting a back-up goalie when they traded for Reimer in February but his play down the stretch will certainly give Peter DeBoer something to think about when it’s time to choose his starter this Thursday. 

San Jose has the imposing task of facing off against Los Angeles in the first round so even if Martin Jones gets the first start, Reimer could very well see some time in relief.    

Phil Kessel: Kessel has been instrumental to Pittsburgh’s success down the stretch notching 38 points in his final 45 games. Now that he’s settled in alongside Nick Bonino on the Penguins second line, Kessel is proving his worth on the score sheet. A little over two weeks ago Kessel set a career high with a 5 point night against the Detroit Red Wings that ultimately led to him earning a spot in the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week. After a rough start to the season, you can’t help but feel happy for Phil Kessel. Of course, the soft spoken sniper has always found himself at the center of controversy in Toronto and these playoffs will be no different. 

The Leafs now own the Penguins’ first round draft pick from the Kessel trade which means the higher that Pittsburgh finishes in the post season, the lower that first round draft pick becomes. 

Daniel Winnik: We all owe Daniel Winnik a standing ovation. Over the course of the past two years Winnik has been the essential piece in two trade transactions that have landed the Leafs two 2016 second-round draft picks, a 2015 fourth-round draft pick, enforcer Zach Sill, veteran nice guy Brooks Laich and prospect Connor Carrick who is already looking like a good piece of the Leafs’ future. All of this loot for a depth winger. If you need any more reason to cheer on the gritty Mississauga native, consider that he may be charged with the task of shutting down Phil Kessel’s line if Pittsburgh and Washington meet later in the playoffs. 

Luke Schenn: It’s been four years since our former shut down defenceman of the future laced them up for the blue and white but it’s still good to see Luke Schenn finding new life in Los Angeles. The Leafs fifth overall pick in 2008 is now playing in the second defensive pairing with Jake Muzzin, a role that no one could have expected back in October when he was on the bubble and scratched for three games as a member of the Philadelphia flyers. 

The Western Conference is always tough but with the Kings coming off two Stanley Cups in the last four years, this will undoubtedly be Schenn’s best chance at a ring to date. Admittedly, my Nation Drafts team name is called “Can’t Bet Against Quick” so I could be a little biased in predicting success for LA.  

Will you be cheering on any former Leafs? 

Honourable mentions: Roman Polak (SJS), Carl Gunnarsson (STL), Nick Spaling (SJS), Mikhail Grabovski (NYI), Nikolay Kulemin (NYI), Richard Panik (CHI), David Bolland (FLA), Zach Sill (WSH), Mike Santorelli (ANA), Korbinian Holzer (ANA)

The top 20 teams win prizes in this year’s Nation Drafts including a $1,000 Visa Gift Card grand prize for our first place winner. Entry fee is $20 with partial proceeds going to support Earth Group. To enter your team visit nationdrafts.com
  • MatsSundin#13

    GO OPTIMUS REIMS GO!!!!!! LET’S GO SHARKS!!!! the leafs get a 3rd for reimer instead of a 4th if they reach the cup finals and i want reimer to win a cup after years of mistreatment by the leafs! i would love for phil to finally earn a ring but we need the highest pick possible so i’m hoping for a quick 1st round exit.

    • MatsSundin#13

      COULDN”T HAVE SAID IT ANY BETTER!!!!

      So happy for him to finally show the doubters he is more than a back-up.. he’s been awesome this year…and behind a good team, he shines

      Never doubted it for a minute

      GOOD LUCK REIMS AND SHARKS 🙂

  • MatsSundin#13

    I will cheer for those ‘dirty rats’ first.
    San Jose second and the Caps third.

    Caps because I am surprised they still had a team after the 70’s and 80’s.

    Thank you Bernie Wolfe, Ron Low 🙂 ….that must of been a living hell lol