The 2019-20 Regular season was a bit of a step back for Kerfoot. His ice time was trending up at the end of 2018-19 with the Avs, he had established his self as a consistent .5 point per game player, and while his ice time remained consistent in 2019-20, his point per game production dipped. Alex couldn’t really hold firmly onto the 3rd line center role, and instead was shuffled up into the top six to play wing. The results didn’t yield any more offense for Kerfoot either, and the one player, Ilya Mikheyev, that he seemed to have some chemistry with, was injured for most of the season and they didn’t get a chance to build on their strong start.
Kerfoot getting a camp in under Keefe before the playoffs will hopefully be beneficial and might determine if he is in fact a fit with the Leafs. Otherwise this summer could be the last we see of Kerfoot, who is very much priced out of Toronto already and there is little doubt the Leafs could benefit from a stronger presence at center on the third line.
By the numbers
So, yeah, it’s not that Kerfoot was bad, it’s just that he was underwhelming and combined with Barrie being underwhelming, the Kadri trade doesn’t look great at the moment. Especially since Kadri was an absolute dream as a third line center (save for the annual playoff suspensions.)
Kerfoot isn’t enough of a physical presence to offset his lack of production, and his low penalty differential isn’t ideal for a bottom six forward.
When it comes to usage, Kerfoot is a regular contributor to the second power play unit, although he only picked up 3 points in his over 80 minutes. When it comes to the penalty kill the Kerfoot had the 7th most icetime of forwards still on the Leafs, kind of an odd situation for 3rd line center to be excluded from.
What we’ve seen so far
Well, the best of what we’ve seen so far is that Kerfoot is versatile. He’s been able to move throughout the lineup as injuries have popped up, and popped up they have. Kerfoot’s versatility and steady presence in every situation is a positive, but he hasn’t found a situation that looks like a perfect fit for him. Playing with Mikheyev, Kerfoot seemed to be on the same page as him, but under Keefe it looks like Mikheyev will be inheriting Kerfoot’s left wing role in the top six and Kerfoot will be back to playing center on the third line.
How will he do against Columbus?
The fact that Kerfoot didn’t pick up any points in the two games against Columbus this season isn’t ideal, but it’s also just two games. Two games at the beginning of the season. Alex is once again being put in a position where he’s going to be leaned on to be a quiet but stable presence capable of chipping in some secondary offense as well. There really isn’t any reason to believe that Kerfoot will struggle in his match ups against the Blue Jackets, and based on depth it seems likely that Kerfoot will be playing with Engvall and Kapanen. That should make for a solid shutdown line which is capable of biting Columbus if they make a mistake.
As much it would be nice to expect more from Kerfoot the reality of the situation is that he will continue to provide an unexciting but stable presence that is neither a stand out defensively or offensively. If Kerfoot is used in more sheltered situations he could help drive the Leafs offensively, but there is a better than not chance that Kerfoot will spend the majority of his time shutting down the second line.
A potential factor in playoff success for Kerfoot is if he develops some chemistry with Nick Robertson and they get a chance to work together. The potential return of Andreas Johnsson could also benefit Kerfoot as it means he’d get a stronger left wing option in either Johnsson or Mikheyev.
If Kerfoot wishes to remain a Leaf beyond this return to play, this is his audition. Salary needs to be shed in some capacity, and Kerfoot along with Johnsson and Kapanen are the most obvious candidates for that. While Kerfoot has the advantage of being a capable center, the other two both seemingly have more upside to their game and Kerfoot could be the odd man out because of it.