Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
We all know the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookies are killing it. We’ve been singing the praises of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov, and Frederik Gauthier throughout the year, but with the All-Star Break giving us a break from tracked hockey, I decided to take a look at where this group of eight lands compared to other rookie squads across the league.
While Patrik Laine continues to have the lead rookie lead in points and points per game, the Leafs rookies as individuals are absolutely crushing it. All eight of them are in the top 90 in rookie scoring, six of them are in the top twenty, and the big three are 2-3-4 in rookie scoring despite playing on three separate lines. Nikita Zaitsev is in the top twenty, despite being a defenceman on a line mostly used to shut down tough competition (and still only trails Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov in rookie scoring as a defenceman). At this point, it seems that the biggest threat to a Leafs player winning the Calder Trophy is the fact that their abundance of rookies might cause a vote split.
As A Team
|1||Toronto Maple Leafs||335||67||112||179||7||135||0.53|
|5||Detroit Red Wings||112||14||31||45||7||64||0.4|
|6||New York Rangers||137||19||36||55||-3||47||0.4|
|10||San Jose Sharks||65||11||11||22||8||20||0.34|
|11||Columbus Blue Jackets||149||17||33||50||24||43||0.34|
|12||New York Islanders||98||10||21||31||8||37||0.32|
|18||New Jersey Devils||134||18||17||35||-24||77||0.26|
|20||Tampa Bay Lightning||103||4||20||24||-18||35||0.23|
|23||Los Angeles Kings||83||2||14||16||13||50||0.19|
|30||St. Louis Blues||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
TSN and Sportsnet have made reference to the combined scoring race a few times in their broadcast, but nobody’s really touched on it on here, or expanded it to the full list of 30 teams. So I added every skater up this season to see where very team stood.
Toronto, unsurprisingly, is at the top of the point list. In fact, they’re just one point away from tripling the second-ranked Winnipeg Jets, who are getting 2/3 of their rookie contributions from Laine. To put this all in perspective…
- The fourth-line pair of Nikita Soshnikov and Frederik Gauthier are significantly dragging down Toronto’s rookie points per game, likely as a byproduct of their role. If you stick to the Top 6, Toronto’s combined rookie Points/Game goes up to 0.61. Put another way: Toronto’s top six rookies are averaging a 50 point pace.
- Interestingly, while Soshnikov and Gauthier are a drag, if they were their own team, they’d still finish ahead of the bottom five (St. Louis, Ottawa, Washington, Buffalo, Minnesota) in rookie points per game.
- If you pull the Top 3 out of the sample as well and make it just Hyman, Brown, and Zaitsev, Toronto would still rank 9th in Rookie Games Played and 4th in Rookie Points. Granted, they’d probably not score as much without the big three surrounding them.
- In fact, if you only had any combination of two of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Brown, Hyman, and Zaitsev, the Leafs would still stay out of the Bottom 10 in Rookie Games Played, and anywhere between 10th and 1st in Rookie Scoring.
What to make of this all
The Leafs are actually good, and the rookies are no small part of that. Toronto has attempted one of the biggest injections of unproven youth in the history of the sport at this level, and not only has it worked, they’ve become the nucleus of a rapidly rising team. It’s been fun to watch, and we’ve all been aware of how special this project has been since it started, but when you lay it all out like this, it’s simply jaw dropping.
Hopefully, this won’t be a one-and-done thing, and Toronto will continue to trust quality young players with additional responsibility as long as they’ve got them in the cupboards.