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An analytical deep dive into the Maple Leafs after 15 games

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
3 months ago
The Leafs have already played 15 games this season, if you can believe that.
That begs the question, who have been their best players? Who has underachieved? Who are the surprises? Let’s take a look.

The core players:

Here, we’ll look at the best players on the team.
William Nylander:
When looking at Nylander’s point totals (10 goals, 22 assists), we can see that he’s already on pace for a career season. That career-year came last season, scoring 40 goals and 87 points in 82 games. As it stands, Nylander is on pace for 54 goals and 120 points, which would decimate his previous totals. Nylander has also dominated even strength play, scoring five goals and nine points in 212:09 minutes on the ice..Some how, he only has a goal share of 45.45% according to Natural Stat Trick, but still has been among the league’s best players in 2023-24.
Nylander’s common linemates have been Tyler Bertuzzi on the wing (112:10 minutes), and John Tavares anchoring the line (166:28).
Auston Matthews:
Matthews is once again scoring at an insane clip. In the 15 games played this season, he has 13 goals and 19 points. Those 13 goals are tied for the league scoring with fellow American-on-a-Canadian team, Kyle Connor. Taking a deeper dive into some of his advanced analytics, he has a goal share of 56.52% in 5v5 play, which is his lowest total since 2018-19, really proving how elite Matthews is. Moreover, nine of his 13 goals have come on even strength, which is second only behind Connor’s 10.
Matthews has spent 210:13 minutes with Mitch Marner, with a revolving door of wingers such as Calle Jarnkrok, Bertuzzi, and Matthew Knies.
Mitch Marner:
So far in 2023-24, Marner has five goals and 17 points in 15 games. The 26-year-old winger is on pace for 27 goals and 92 points, which would be below his 30 goals and 99 points he had in 2022-23. Still, Marner has excelled in his playmaking role on the first line, scoring four even strength goals while adding seven assists (four primary). So far this season, he has a goal share of 53.85%, which like Matthews, would be his lowest in quite some time (2017-18).
Since he’s on the same line as Matthews, he’s had the same left wingers that we looked at in Matthew’s section.
John Tavares:
The 33-year-old centre has done nothing but live up to his seven-year, $77,000,000 deal. So far this season, Tavares has six goals and 16 points, which is slightly below his goal pace last season, and slightly above his point per game pace last season. All but one of Tavares’ goals have come via even strength, while six of his 10 assists have come when the team were even. As for his goal share, it currently sits at 52.17%, the highest mark since the 2020-21 season. If you want to look at full seasons, it’d be his highest since 2018-19.
His right-winger is Nylander, while the left-wing position has seen a revolving cast, mainly Bertuzzi, but Knies has seen some time on his wing as well, playing 35:09.
Morgan Rielly:
The ever-steady defenceman is on pace for one of his best seasons in his career. In terms of points, he has two goals and 12 points in 15 games for a .80 point per game. This is slightly below his 2021-22 average of .83, and .87 marker in 2018-19 where he had 20 goals. However, he’s never had a season defensively as he’s having in 2023-24. His goal share is at an insane 66.67%, surpassing his 56.93% total in 2018-19. Not just that, but his shot share of 53.67% is also the highest total in his career, beating his 52.27 total in 2020-21.
In 2022-23, Rielly played 339:19 even strength minutes with T.J. Brodie, the most he played with any defenceman, but still played 517:25 minutes away from him. This season, he has played 204:58 minutes with Brodie, only 124:43 minutes without him, and far less with other defencemen. This is to say that Reilly has a consistent partner which has helped excel his game.

Underachievers:

Here we’ll look at the handful of players who haven’t quite lived up to what they were supposed to bring to the team.
John Klingberg:
When signing a power play quarterback, you know what you’re getting: a defenceman who needs to be paired with a steady defensive defenceman who’ll pick up points on the power play.
In even strength play, Klingberg has three assists in 240:09 minutes played, but has a sub par goal share of 42.86%. Now, if he were playing on the top pairing, this wouldn’t be all too bad, but he’s playing second pairing minutes and has the sixth lowest GF% of any player with over 100 minutes on the team. How’s he doing on the power play? Not so great. In 47:30 minutes on the man advantage, he has two assists, one of them being a primary assist. This is despite the Leafs’ sixth best power play in the league, and for further context, Reilly has a goal and two assists in just 24:24 minutes on ice.
What’s worse is that he’s sinking the ever steady Mark Giordano. Last season, Giordano had a 60.38 GF% in 1255:01 minutes, but so far in 2023-24, Giordano has a 41.67% goal share. Not even a former Norris Trophy winner can save Klingberg right now.
Ryan Reaves:
You don’t need advanced stats to tell you that Reaves hasn’t been great this season. He signed a three-year deal worth $4,050,000 to protect players, but nothing was done about Brad Marchand’s trip on Timothy Liljegren.
Reaves isn’t contributing on the score sheet, and isn’t doing what he was brought in to do. He’s got to be better.
Tyler Bertuzzi:
The 28-year-old left wing is in a weird place where he probably doesn’t deserve to be in this category, but he just hasn’t scored enough to avoid it. So far in 15 games, he has three goals and six points along with 12 penalty minutes. He hasn’t been bad per se, but it’s a far cry from his 30 goals and 62 points in 68 games with Detroit in 2021-22. The underlying numbers for Bertuzzi have been quite good as well, owning a goal share of 56.25% in even strength play, and a similar shot share of 56.54%. It feels like at some point soon, he’ll click with either the Matthews line or Tavares line.
Bertuzzi hasn’t scored enough to make him worth the money he signed for, but with three points in his last four games skating alongside Nylander and Tavares, there’s reason to believe his offence is coming.
Ilya Samsonov:
It’s been a tough season for the 26-year-old goaltender. After posting a .919 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average in 42 games in 2022-23, Samsonov has an .870 save percentage and 3.79 goals against average in eight games so far.
Like Reaves, you don’t really need to go into advanced analytics to notice that Samsonov just needs to be better.

The surprises:

Here we’ll look at the surprises on the Leafs.
Max Domi:
For a guy with inconsistent line mates, Domi has put together a pretty solid season. He has nine points, all assists, in 15 games so far this season. Centering the third line, he has a goal share of 56.25%, which is his highest since the 2018-19 season with the Montreal Canadiens. As for his linemates, he’s mainly played with a combination of Calle Jarnkrok, Knies, and David Kampf, recently discovering some chemistry with Nick Robertson after he was recalled and added to the third line.
In terms of third line centres, Domi has done a good job so far earning his $3,000,000 salary.
Joseph Woll:
Samsonov was set to be the starting goaltender for the Leafs this season, but his early season struggles have forced the Leafs to turn to Woll. So far in nine games, Woll has been up to the task, posting a .908 save percentage and a 2.91 goals against average. The former third-round pick in the 2016 draft has only played 20 games in the National Hockey League, but he’s already shown a lot of promise. He has a .917 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average in his young NHL career.
Ideally, Samsonov starts to figure it out again, because if he plays like he did in 2022-23, the Leafs will have a great tandem between the two goaltenders.

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