2023-24 Maple Leafs predictions: Nylander & Klingberg make PP1, Tavares settles for PP2
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney24 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs finished last season ranked second in the NHL with a conversion rate of 26% on the power play. Next season look for the Leafs to be closer to 30%.
Welcome to another installment of our predictions series and this time around it’s time to zone in on the Maple Leafs power-play units. Toronto heads into the 2023-24 season with a roster which underwent a nice facelift during the summer months and now head coach Sheldon Keefe has some more options to consider with the man advantage.
Along with the piss and vinegar general manager Brad Treliving added, the Leafs are now nicely equipped to move some pieces around on the power play. It’s time to shake things up from the norm these past few seasons and balance it out more.
The Maple Leafs should open up next season with this set up:
PP1: Nylander, Matthews, Marner – Klingberg, Rielly
PP2: Bertuzzi, Tavares, Knies – Liljegren, Domi
William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are the Maple Leafs best three players. They should 100% be playing together on the power play and some would even argue all game long. While Keefe shifted Nylander to the second unit and it worked out once in awhile in the later stages of last season, John Tavares is the player to move this season. This isn’t a knock on the captain, it just allows for Keefe to ice a more balanced attack.
John Klingberg has a massive chance to hit the reset button on his career with the Leafs and it starts by getting on the score sheet via the power play early on. Klingberg 100% deserves a shot on the top unit. He thinks the game from an offensive lens and while sometimes it gets him in trouble 5v5, he can get away with taking a few chances on the power play. Having his shot could be a huge addition for the Leafs PP and especially for Morgan Rielly. As we all know, Rielly doesn’t possess a booming clapper and rarely takes any to begin with. Having Klingberg to feed one-timers to will do wonders for Rielly’s game and take some pressure off him on the power play. The Leafs first unit will be a handful.
Lots of Competition for the Second PP Unit
Should Matthews and company take a serious jab from the opponent and be stopped on the power play, the Maple Leafs second unit will possess a solid counterpunch. How much ice they get is another story.
Keefe should give Matthew Knies and Tyler Bertuzzi first crack with Tavares. Both are versatile and can be effective along the half wall and of course, in front of the net. Knies has a great shot and has the potential to score 20 goals in his upcoming rookie year. Potting a few early with the man advantage could do wonders for his confidence.
Bertuzzi deserves a shot at some extra minutes early on and likely is a lock for the second unit. Having Tavares down the middle is a nice luxury and something Keefe should be strongly considering. Calle Jarnkrok and Nick Robertson are two other forwards to watch as possible candidates to replace anyone who struggles. Jarnkrok is likely set for a much more defensive role in Toronto next season thanks to the new additions. It’s not a bad thing. The Swiss-army knife for the Maple Leafs.
As for the back end, Max Domi is a bit of a wildcard but if the Leafs want to maximize what they can get out of the veteran forward, who is on a one-year deal at $3 million, they need to give him a look on the second unit. In 60 games with the Chicago Blackhawks before he was dealt to the Dallas Stars, Domi put up 49 points in 60 games. The Blackhawks were playing him an average 3:17 on the power-play. It helped, he recorded 18 of his 49 points during this time.
While Domi is a bit of a wild card, Timothy Liljegren should be a lock for the second unit. ‘Lilly’ is going to have a nice year.
While his game is far from perfect and at times last season it just felt like he had a hole in his stick, the good parts of Liljegren’s game have developed very nicely and he’s on the brink of taking the next step. This includes playing more, in all situations, and hitting the score sheet on a more consistent basis. 30 points is within reach in 2023-24. Some regular time on the second unit could be a nice confidence booster early on. Let’s hope the mental gaffes are behind him and he takes off right where he left his game at the World Championships for Team Sweden.
There we have it folks, something to ponder while we all enjoy the last bit of the summer. Training camp is around the corner and the Maple Leafs head into the 2023-24 as one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup. Could you imagine….? More predictions to come, stay tuned.
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