Leafs Rookies Dominating at the All Star Break

USATSI_9768336
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.

Individuals

Pts Rk Player YR TEAM POS GP G A PTS +/- PIM PTS/G
2 Auston Matthews 2016-17 TOR C 47 23 16 39 2 10 0.83
3 Mitchell Marner 2016-17 TOR C 47 11 28 39 -5 26 0.83
4 William Nylander 2016-17 TOR C 46 10 21 31 -2 22 0.67
11 Connor Brown 2016-17 TOR R 47 11 10 21 7 6 0.45
12 Zach Hyman 2016-17 TOR C 47 7 14 21 4 22 0.45
16 Nikita Zaitsev 2016-17 TOR D 47 1 19 20 -3 22 0.43
66 Nikita Soshnikov 2016-17 TOR R 37 2 3 5 1 6 0.14
86 Frederik Gauthier 2016-17 TOR C 17 2 1 3 3 21 0.18

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

Rk TEAM GP G A PTS +/- PIM PTS/G
1 Toronto Maple Leafs 335 67 112 179 7 135 0.53
2 Carolina Hurricanes 82 17 21 38 -12 10 0.46
3 Colorado Avalanche 46 8 13 21 -18 16 0.46
4 Calgary Flames 98 10 30 40 5 150 0.41
5 Detroit Red Wings 112 14 31 45 7 64 0.4
6 New York Rangers 137 19 36 55 -3 47 0.4
7 Winnipeg Jets 157 27 33 60 -2 68 0.38
8 Pittsburgh Penguins 55 9 11 20 -2 30 0.36
9 Philadelphia Flyers 145 15 35 50 -10 65 0.34
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
13 Edmonton Oilers 128 14 24 38 14 39 0.3
14 Chicago Blackhawks 201 28 30 58 18 54 0.29
15 Montreal Canadiens 109 15 16 31 7 38 0.28
16 Dallas Stars 155 17 26 43 -3 64 0.28
17 Arizona Coyotes 208 24 31 55 -31 116 0.26
18 New Jersey Devils 134 18 17 35 -24 77 0.26
19 Anaheim Ducks 135 10 23 33 -3 80 0.24
20 Tampa Bay Lightning 103 4 20 24 -18 35 0.23
21 Nashville Predators 56 7 5 12 2 14 0.21
22 Florida Panthers 154 14 16 30 -15 41 0.19
23 Los Angeles Kings 83 2 14 16 13 50 0.19
24 Boston Bruins 154 10 19 29 -14 62 0.19
25 Vancouver Canucks 133 3 21 24 -5 88 0.18
26 Minnesota Wild 77 6 5 11 4 39 0.14
27 Buffalo Sabres 74 7 2 9 -3 27 0.12
28 Washington Capitals 35 1 3 4 1 6 0.11
29 Ottawa Senators 33 0 3 3 -6 4 0.09
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.

  • LukeWarmWater

    Jeff one of your better recent articles. As indeed we have the pleasure of watching so many young talented kids all arrive on our team in the same year. I just have to state that damn I look good in my new Auston Matthews sweater.