Goal and Point projections for the Maple Leafs

Jon Steitzer
8 months ago
If there is one thing I love about the summer, it is that it gives me the time to sit down and do more math. Who doesn’t love a good session in Excel? Most people. That’s fair. Given that my day job involves a lot of time in Excel I’m often reluctant to keep it as far away from hobby as possible. Nevertheless, there isn’t much going on in hockey at the moment and without important things like Nick Abruzzese signings to react to, we might as well do some simple point projections.
These point projections are just that, very simple. There is no accounting for potential linemates, who was on a worse team last year, and shots and shooting percentage is factored in. Instead, it’s a simple short time trend projection based on production of the last three seasons, weighted to the most recent year. There is a modest adjustment for age and the assumption that players approaching the age of 28 tend to still be improving while players begin to decline after 28. Really simple stuff and the stuff that people a lot smarter (or at least people who have more time to commit to things like this) than me can vastly improve upon.
Still, if you like projections, predictions, or whatever you choose to call them, here is a quick rundown of some the Leafs players projections:

Mitch Marner: 77GP|33G|101Pts

Once again Mitch Marner is expected to lead the Leafs in scoring and he is one of the only players that my approach predicted a career best for. The math doesn’t say whether or not he’ll consistently show up in the playoffs but it does expect him to have a year that will force a concerning payday.
Putting the numbers into reality, Marner is likely to continue seeing a lot of time with Matthews, and if not him, he’ll be playing with Tavares which is about as good a consolation prize as you can get. Putting players like Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, or Matthew Knies on the left wing also seems like it could benefit him as does the increased depth on the powerplay which could be using him as the critical puck mover if John Klingberg is brought onto the top unit as more of a shooter than Rielly is.

Auston Matthews: 74GP|53G|98Pts

Perhaps the good news here is that the projection has Matthews crossing 50 goals again. This seems like the potential norm for him and the projections are weighted by his “down year”. When looking at the entire range of projections for Matthews, the high water mark was 58 goals with 107 points, which could be attainable for him, but is still setting the bar high.
Like Marner, Matthews should benefit from the beefing up of the top six, as well as the Leafs heading in an overall more offensive direction that offers the chance to try new linemates in cold spells or at the very least could result in fewer targeted matchups against top pairing defenders.

William Nylander: 80GP|36G|82Pts

Nylander in his contract year might not match his career year last year, but at the very least will show it’s not an outlier and that he deserves to be paid. Maybe not $10M AAV paid, but he’s certainly due for a raise.
With the Leafs bringing in more forward depth and having a couple of upstart offensive options like Robertson and Knies also available, Nylander seems like a player that could find himself on any of the top three lines on a given night as he is capable of driving his own line as the Leafs best puck carrier. If he finds himself in regular “third” line duty to spread the offence around his numbers might not live up to what they were previously, but the team should be better off for it.

John Tavares: 80GP|30G|75Pts

I’m not ready to predict the demise of John Tavares. He’s never relied on speed and with the rest of the Leafs slowing down to his level and adding a heavy shot from the point that should benefit his net presence ability, JT will do just fine.
The Leafs were trying Tavares on the left wing after the arrival of Ryan O’Reilly but given the Leafs current cap situation and depth chart, it’s safe to say that Tavares will be spending the majority of his time in his usual centre spot on the second line.

Morgan Rielly: 74GP|7G|51Pts

What can really be said about Morgan Rielly that hasn’t applied to the rest of his career. He’s one of the best at moving the puck up the ice at 5v5 and creates offensive chances off of fast zone exits. He’ll continue to do that.
His style of play doesn’t really make him a fit on the Leafs top powerplay unit that already has plenty of people to move the puck around the offensive zone and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take a step back to the second unit to make room for John Klingberg who can offer something the Leafs haven’t had and that’s a heavy shot from the point.

Max Domi: 77GP|15G|45Pts

Domi’s numbers are a bit all over the place in the past three seasons given the amount of movement he has had as well as the inconsistencies in his game. He had a strong year last year with 20 goals and 56 points and if the Leafs see Max as someone they want in their top six group rather than just their top nine, maybe he exceeds expectations.
Reality is that Domi is likely going to be trying to help get offense out of 3rd line forwards that don’t always excel in that regard and relying on second powerplay unit opportunities for the rest. In times of injury, and there will be injuries, Domi is a lock to be the player who moves up to fill top six openings and that is another way he could make these projections (and me) look foolish.

John Klingberg: 72GP|8G|41Pts

It seems like I’ve already talked about John Klingberg a lot in the Rielly, Marner, and Tavares writeups, and that is because Klingberg has the opportunity to be very impactful on the Leafs powerplay. In many ways he is a better Tyson Barrie and generally when talking about Klingberg’s game the Barrie comparison is the one that best suits him, despite Klingberg having a better shot, usable size, and simply being better in most regards. Still, there are a lot of flaws that generally come with that style, but that’s not what we are discussing here. Klingberg puts up good point totals for a defenceman and that’s why he was brought in.

Tyler Bertuzzi: 49GP|15G|36Pts

So this seems like the most controversial set of numbers out of the group, not just so far, but likely in the entire list. It’s for good reason and when projecting how often Bertuzzi is going to play, three seasons with significant time missed are going to factor into that.
Now, there is also something to be said for the fact that over a full 82 game season these numbers reflect Bertuzzi having a 25 goal and 60 point season. That again might feel conservative given that he put up better numbers in a 68 game season in 2021-22 with lesser linemates, so I don’t doubt that he can overachieve these numbers. Still, a bit of cold water on the Bertuzzi hype doesn’t hurt either.

Calle Jarnkrok: 70GP|16G|35Pts

Now for the opposite of hyped, here’s Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok is somewhat automatic for his mid to high teens goal production, and mid to high 30s point total. He’ll take up residence on the third line but he’ll have played everywhere by the time the season is done. I love this boring ass player who seems to do everything at good level.

Mark Giordano: 78GP|7G|30Pts

I feel like I’m not being too bold when I say that at 40 years of age Mark Giordano might be due for a steep step back, not an improvement in numbers. If I update my approach I’d definitely include steeper age impacts on the youngest and oldest ends of player careers.
That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised in Giordano could pull this off, I just expect him to play less both in icetime and games. That was the expectation last year too and then injuries happened, and he carried the Leafs through December.

David Kampf: 82GP|7G|24Pts

What can be said about David Kampf? He’ll play a lot. He’ll score a couple of memorable goals but not a lot of them. He’s not here for offence but he might find himself in a situation where he could produce more if he is on the third line with Calle Jarnkrok and another top six forward overflowing onto the third line.
If Kampf is on the fourth line, which he might be for part of the year, that’s where the 7 goals and 24 points could even start to feel ambitious.

TJ Brodie: 71GP|3G|20Pts

He’s on the ice a lot and secondary assists are a thing.

Jake McCabe: 64GP|3G|19Pts

See Brodie, TJ.

Sam Lafferty: 61GP|7G|18Pts

Sam Lafferty is an interesting one and one that I feel what is listed above is exactly how it could play out based on what we’ve seen from him so far. The thing is there is potentially more to Lafferty as played some nice hockey last season in Chicago and with the absence of a player like Alex Kerfoot there is a real opportunity for Lafferty to step up and fill a void in the Leafs roster.
Sam Lafferty wasn’t an everyday player until last season and as a result his projections are weighted by more limited icetime and scratches in the previous years. It isn’t ridiculous to expect that he can repeat what he did last year with 12 goals and 27 points either.

Timothy Liljegren: 52GP|5G|17Pts

Liljegren could potentially be lumped into the Brodie and McCabe group as defencemen who will get enough touches to get their points, but there are factors with Liljegren that make me feel the projections are understating what he is capable of.
A heavy influence on Liljegren’s games played projection is based on healthy scratches. Those shouldn’t really be the case for him anymore. Health might be a concern still, but he will play in more games and he’ll likely get more icetime in those games and that is going to be impactful.
There is also the matter of the powerplay. It’s hard to imagine that the Leafs will go away from Klingberg and Rielly as their options there, but Liljegren stands to be the next in line for usage, and the Leafs could even go with the bold (not so bold a decade ago) decision to use 2 defencemen on their second unit and give Liljegren a chance to be a shooter.

Ryan Reaves: 68GP|4G|12Pts

He’ll also punch through around 10 faces and hit around 200 people into oblivion. Reaves obviously isn’t on the Leafs to put up numbers, but nothing brings the building to life like when your tough guy gets a goal.

 Conor Timmins: 23GP|1G|9Pts

This year it might not be injuries holding Timmins back but just having to fight for a path an everyday spot in the NHL. There is definitely an offensive element there and one I would have maybe steered into rather than spending $4.15M on John Klingberg, but even for someone who would project as a bottom pairing defender there will need to be some work on his defensive game. Luckily he has a new defensive coach in Mike Van Ryn who likely has a soft spot for players who have seen their careers slowed or shortened from excessive injuries.

Holmberg, Knies, Robertson: ???

For now we’ll hold off on guessing what the Leafs youngsters will do. Holmberg 13 points in 37 games is the largest sample of the trio and doesn’t offer much insight because of that.
As for some other interesting notes from around the league when it comes to projections, it is unsurprising that Connor McDavid is once again favoured for the Art Ross and the Rocket Richard with Leon Draisaitl close behind on both, as well as Matthews for the Rocket and Marner sneaking into the top five for the Art Ross.

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