2023-24 Maple Leafs predictions: Ilya Samsonov wins 35 games & finishes top-5 in Vezina voting

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
10 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs enter the 2023-24 season with Ilya Samsonov labelled as the number-one netminder. He’ll be given the shot to take the ball and run with it after a very impressive first season in Toronto where he showed he can handle himself not only on the ice, but off of it.
It’s never easy being a goalie for the Maple Leafs, as the circus can get the best of a lot of people. “Sammy” handled things with grace, dry humour and a positive outlook. He’s the perfect carefree spirit the team needs in net, so look for Samsonov to have a big season, winning more than 30 games and finishing top-five in the league for year-end Vezina voting as the NHL’s best goaltender.
Samsonov had an interesting summer as he was taken to arbitration by the Maple Leafs, and in his first real interaction with new general manager Brad Treliving, had to hear about why he wasn’t worth the number he was asking for. The arbitration process can be a tough one for the relationship between players and teams, but by all accounts, the Leafs’ netminder came out of the process unfazed and appears set for a mega season in 2023-24. The fact is, the one-year $3.5 million contract after going through the awkward process with no feelings hurt was a great outcome for both sides.
The 26-year-old 6-foot-3 Russian netminder appeared in 42 games last season and posted 27 wins, to go along with a very respectable 2.33 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. These were career highs across the board for Samsonov, and you can expect much of the same and more for next season. The team is more balanced, they will have some moments defensively, but at the end of the day, their goaltender is talented enough to bail them out when needed.
Last season, the Vezina crown was captured by Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark, but don’t expect the same result this season, as the Bruins aren’t nearly the team they were in 2022-23. Rounding out of the top five last year were Ilya Sorokin, Connor Hellebuyck, Juuse Saros and Jake Oettinger. There’s no reason at all why Samsonov can’t be in this conversation after the 2023-24 campaign. He has the game for it, the Leafs will be improving, while the same can’t be necessarily said for a few of the mentioned goalies and their respective teams.

New Feel to This Season

Last season, there were a lot of unknowns for Samsonov. He was joining a new team, he didn’t know who the number one goalie was between himself and Matt Murray, and he didn’t know much about the city or organization for that matter. This season it’s a much different vibe and that should help the performance on the ice.
Samsonov can enter the year knowing he’s the guy. He’s the number one goalie, he’ll be starting most games, and he really doesn’t have much to worry about. Joseph Woll and Martin Jones will battle it out for backup minutes and while both are capable of starting themselves, they are not on the talent level of Samsonov when he’s at the top of his game. If he’s able to stay healthy and get past knee troubles that have plagued him before, there’s a lot to like for the Maple Leafs’ number one goaltender.
To summarize my prediction: Samsonov wins more than 30 games, a new career-high, and finishes in the top five for Vezina voting as the league’s best goaltender.
Our prediction series continues. We’ve covered Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, the power-play units, Tyler Bertuzzi, John Tavares, and now Samsonov. Be sure to keep coming back to The Leafs Nation for plenty more predictions before the puck drops on a new season come October.

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