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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

TLN Top Ten Plays: Matt Hunwick

Here at the Leafs Nation, we’re starting up a new series where we look at some of the Leafs, and count down some of their best goals and assists throughout the 2016-17 regular season and playoffs. We look at every player who had enough points to actually make a list, so everyone with at least 10 points, excluding Roman Polak, who had 11.

So, let’s start off with the Leaf that was definitely the guy you want to see a top ten highlights list, and that’s the Leafs offensive phenom on the blueline, Matt Hunwick. While not the flashiest player by any means, Hunwick always seemed to pull up something when he was needed most, even if it was usually just a basic pass or shot. Without further ado, let’s see what Matt Hunwick goal or assist is the best of the year.

Also, quick shoutout to Goal Leafs Goal, who is behind all of the videos you’ll find here.

10. Secondary Assist on Kadri Goal vs. Ottawa (Jan. 14)

What really makes this play is Matt Hunwick’s fake slapshot turned pass to William Nylander that really fooled Bobby Ryan. He didn’t see it coming! Sure, Nylander had a low key juke on Kyle Turris, and Kadri made a nifty pass to himself before sniping it, but Hunwick was the glue that held that play together.

9. Secondary Assist on van Riemsdyk Goal vs. Nashville (Nov. 15)

Despite getting a bit of a hard time from Craig Smith, Hunwick managed to still get a nice outlet pass off to Bozak, who makes a nice pass himself to JVR, who scores his second of the three he’d bury that night. Just ignore the fact that Mattias Ekholm actually gets Hunwick’s pass out of mid-air.

8. Primary Assist on Hyman Goal vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 12)

Nothing too special about this one, but if Hunwick was trying to get this on Hyman’s stick and in, he made that pass from a pretty tight angle, and an accurate one at that. But, it’s Matt Hunwick, so he probably was just throwing it on net, and it happened to go in.

7. Primary Assist on Kadri Goal vs. Tampa Bay (Apr. 6)

Pretty much the same as #8 on this list, but – wait for it – he was skating backwards while shooting it. I can’t even do that!

6. Secondary Assist on Nylander Goal vs. Rangers (Jan. 13)

Hunwick makes the grittiest play that you’ve ever seen someone grit on this goal. The puck’s about to leave the zone when Hunwick denies it, and then manages to keep it there amidst not one, not two, but three forechecking Rangers. Right as Kadri swoops by, Hunwick makes a nice soft pass to him, and Kadri sets Nylander up for the goal. If that wasn’t kept in by Hunwick, Kadri and Nylander would’ve had to skate past the blueline in order to start again.

5. Secondary Assist on Kadri Goal vs. Detroit (Mar. 7)

Another keep-in play, this one has a little more finesse to it. As Helm attempts to clear it, Hunwick doesn’t even try to corral the puck first, he just swings for the fences and succeeds, putting it right on Nylander’s stick, who sets Kadri up for the goal. A bold move from a defenseman who’s more known for playing it safe, but impressive none the less.

4. Primary Assist on Matthews Goal vs. Sabres (Mar. 25)

Noticing a pattern? That’s right, another keep-in play. Hunwick cuts it close on this one, as he snags it just before it’s going to cross the line. After Nylander gives it back to him, Hunwick makes a pin point accurate pass to Matthews right in front of the net, who gets his own rebound and buries it to break the Leafs rookie goal scoring record. Obviously, the pass is what gets it this high, but the keep-in play on the blueline is also an impressive play.

3. Primary Assist on Kadri Goal vs. Anaheim (Dec. 19)

As I mentioned before, Hunwick is more of a play it safe defenseman, so it’s quite rare to see him attempt stretch passes in a game, especially in a close game like this situation. But, he pulls this one out of his bag of tricks, right on to the stick of Kadri, who does a little dangle before wiring it from the blueline. A surprising play from Hunwick, but it paid off in the end, even if the Leafs still lost.

2. Goal vs. Islanders (Feb. 14)

The only goal that makes the list, mostly because it was his only goal. That’s also why it ranks this high, because you have to pay respects to the less skilled players when they bury one. Even if it had to bank off an Islander, Hunwick still got credit for it. Considering he had 73 shots on net that season, one had to go in eventually, so raise your glass for Matt.

1. Primary Assist on Kapanen Goal vs. Pittsburgh (Apr. 8)

Now this one is a beauty! After Matthews makes a nifty pass from behind the net, Hunwick makes a cross crease pass so nice, the only person who was prepared for the puck to be at the back door was Kapanen, who took that present from Hunwick and cashed it in for his first NHL goal. Also, the climate of the game made it all the better, considering the team was going to potentially lose the game if not for the tying goal, which might have cost them a playoff spot.

Honourable Mention

This play isn’t even that impressive for Hunwick, I just thought I’d share with you guys that Hunwick got an assist by butchering an outlet pass.

So, Hunwick shows us how even on the prettiest of goals, the little things that go into the goal like keeping the puck in and tossing the puck on net are just as important as the toe drags, spinoramas, and through the leg dekes. Hunwick is no Datsyuk, but he had a decent share of solid plays that turned out well for the Leafs. He’s gone now, for better or worse, but he always be my “favourite defenseman who was signed because Babcock liked his work ethic in a random gym several years back”.