Goals and expectations for every left winger on the Toronto Maple Leafs depth chart

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
8 months ago
Welcome back to my goals and expectations series here at The Leafs Nation. We’ve slowly but surely been making our way through the depth chart over the past week and a bit, and after tackling all the goaltenders, all the defencemen, and all the right wingers, it’s time to skate across the ice and do a deep dive on all the left wingers in the system. And with Michael Bunting and Alex Kerfoot out the door, there are some new faces to learn about.
Tyler Bertuzzi
The Maple Leafs underwent some significant roster turnover this offseason, namely in terms of the depth. There was obviously some name-replacing to be done, and with the departures of the aforementioned Bunting and Kerfoot, a gaping hole on the left side of the top-six presented itself. And, hours after new general manager Brad Treliving left his fanbase thinking that Ryan Reaves would be the only significant addition, he signed Tyler Bertuzzi to a one-year contract. 
Considering Zach Hyman hadn’t hit his prime when he walked away from the Maple Leafs, Bertuzzi has potential to be the best winger that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have played with to date. After a strong 2021-22 campaign that saw him score 30 goals and tally 62 points in 68 games, he started off on the wrong foot last season. A pair of injuries held him back at the start of the season, tallying only 14 points in 29 games for the Detroit Red Wings.
Then, the trade deadline came around, and the Bertuzzi we saw with the Boston Bruins was far different than the one on the Red Wings. He finished the season with 16 points in 21 games, and led the Bruins in scoring during their disappointing playoff run, scoring five goals and finishing with ten points in seven games. 
Bertuzzi is only here for one year (for now), and playing for a long-term contract should give him some extra motivation to go along with the opportunity to play alongside some of the most skilled players he’s skated alongside to date. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Bertuzzi eclipse 70 points, especially if he stays on the first line all season, and beyond his point totals, his expectation should be to give the whole team a jolt of energy in addition to offensive production.
Max Domi 
Talk about a feel-good story on day two of free agency. After years and years of speculation, he finally came home to play for the team his dad, Tie, spent so many years with. Coming off a season that saw him put up 56 points in 80 games and 13 points in 19 playoff games for the Dallas Stars, Max Domi will finally put on the Maple Leafs jersey for the 2023-24 season. 
While he’s probably gonna be one of the worst defensive players on the team, and his physical impact might be misunderstood considering his namesake, he’s far and away a better option offensively than somebody like Kerfoot. He can also play all three forward positions, so there’s a chance we see him take some reps up the middle in the top six if Matthews or John Tavares get hurt. If not, he can play all around the ice and up and down the lineup.
I mentioned Domi in the piece covering the team’s right wingers as somebody who could potentially help Calle Jarnkrok this season, and depending on how the lineup shakes out, that match could do wonders for the third line. Most of Jarnkrok’s linemates last season were checking forwards, such as David Kampf and Pierre Engvall, so the addition of somebody like Domi could perhaps bring some more offensive production out of his game. He’s probably going to be good for at least 40-50 points, so if he can bring that along with strong hustle and a loud voice in the dressing room, the Maple Leafs will be getting their money’s worth.
Matthew Knies
When Knies made his NHL playoffs debut in Game 2 of the first round, he looked like anything but a rookie getting into his first few NHL games. After a couple of great seasons with the University of Minnesota, Knies made his NHL debut with three games left in the season and tallied one assist. Most people were conservative with their hopes regarding him, given how tough it is to transition from college hockey to the NHL alone, let alone mid-season.
Not only did Knies meet expectations, I think you could ask anybody and they’d tell you he exceeded them. There was a lot of excitement leading up to his debut, primarily because he was bringing a style of play that they desperately lacked, especially in their top-six; a strong power forward with good offensive instincts. To further win over the fanbase, he turned a new gear in the playoffs, scoring his first goal and finishing the run with four points in seven games.
Another thing that was so impressive about Knies’ performance was how often he happened to be on the ice for crucial goals. He was on the ice for both the game-tying and game-winning goals in Game 3 against Tampa Bay, the Game 4 overtime winner against Tampa Bay, the series-clinching overtime goal in Game 6, count them us. If there was a big goal, there’s a good chance Knies was on the ice for it. 
While it would be foolish to expect him to come in and be a top player from Game 1 to 82 next season, his play away from the puck indicates to me that he’s going to be a regular in 2023-24 and will likely get plenty of looks with the big boys in the top six. If he stays healthy and gets an appropriate amount of ice time, a 20-goal, 40-point campaign should be considered successful and an achievable goal for him. 
Nick Robertson 
We’re nearing a point with Robertson where any expectations or goals regarding his play will come down to one question – can he stay healthy? 
Nobody is denying Robertson’s talent. When you draft a guy who rattles off 55 goals in 46 OHL games the year after getting selected, you know there’s NHL talent in there. It’s just a matter of how easily it can be extracted. And he’s shown that he’s well capable of translating this talent to the NHL. But, the fact of the matter is, ever since he made his NHL debut in the bubble, he’s had any progress he’s made shattered by a new injury. 
Whether it’s his knee, his shoulder, or something in between, Robertson simply hasn’t been able to gain any sort of momentum without getting hurt. And that’s not to say any of these injuries are his fault, but at some point, the fortunes have to turn the other way. He hasn’t played more than 40 games in a season since the year after he was drafted, and it’s going to be hard for him to make any sort of progress from a developmental standpoint if he keeps getting hurt. 
With that, his goal this season should be to combat that very occurrence. It’s obviously a lot easier said than done, but the Maple Leafs are kind of past the point where they can set aside a roster spot for him to grow and develop, simply because he can’t be relied on to stay healthy. If he can figure out a way to play an entire season, perhaps a job opens up for him on the NHL team and he adds to what’s already one of the deepest offensive teams in the league. But that can’t happen until his body starts to work with him.
Kyle Clifford 
Not much to say about our pal Kyle here. With former Toronto Marlies captain Rich Clune retiring following the 2021-22 season, it would appear that Clifford is poised to assume his role of “vibes champion”.
With 46 games in the AHL last season and only two in the NHL, I wouldn’t expect to see Clune with the Maple Leafs at any point. But, given the toughness to his game and his experience in the NHL, he’s the perfect player to play for a Marlies team that will see a massive influx of young talent this season. Keeping the vibes high should be his main goal this season, any added offense or help winning games is gravy at this point. 
Roni Hirvonen 
Drafted alongside fellow Finn Topi Niemela in the 2020 NHL Draft, Hirvonen will be heading to North America with his fellow countryman to join the Marlies full time in 2022-23. It’s been a rough couple of months for him, between a concussion suffered in development camp after taking a hit from defenseman Nolan Dillingham, and then the loss of his father a couple of weeks later. 
Hirvonen will be coming to training camp with a chip on his shoulder, and for a Marlies team that’s shaping up to be a very young one, he’ll have every opportunity to get some meaningful ice time. The fact that he’s already got four full seasons’ worth of playing against grown men should work in his favour, and like every other European player coming to play a full season across the pond for the first time, his goal for 2023-24 should simply be having a smooth transition over to North American hockey. If he excels in his first season, it will only accelerate his development. 
Ty Voit 
Another skilled forward set to make his AHL debut, Voit might be the best playmaking prospect the Maple Leafs currently have in their system. If not that, I’d say if nothing else he’s got the highest ceiling as a playmaker. 
Selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NHL Draft, Voit was drafted without a body of work to evaluate from the previous year, given the delay and eventual cancellation of the 2020-21 OHL season due to the COVID pandemic. The following year, he showed Maple Leafs management that he probably shouldn’t have slipped to the fifth round, potting 80 points in 67 games for the Sarnia Sting. The following year, he absolutely obliterated his totals, finishing the season with an absurd 81 assists and 105 points in 67 games. 
There’s a clear strength to his game, and although he doesn’t have the benefit of experience against grown men like some other players do, his passing will quickly become one of the Marlies’ biggest weapons if he’s paired with the right players. For now, though, the expectation should just be to continue developing. The Maple Leafs aren’t rushing to get him into the NHL, and he shouldn’t be in a rush to get there either. 
Joe Miller 
If you don’t follow prospects, you might look at Miller’s HockeyDB page, see that he’s listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, and deem him a classic Kyle Dubas pick. And while the 2020 sixth round pick is certainly going to have to put on some muscle if he wants a true shot at the NHL later in his career, he’s a textbook example of why, when you’re that deep into a draft, you take the best player available. 
After tacking on an extra 50 points in his second season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel, he made his debut with Harvard University in 2022-23 and had a really nice freshman season, scoring 13 goals and finishing with 28 points in 33 games. Miller is likely a ways away from the NHL, and doesn’t even have an entry-level contract yet, so the goal for him should be to repeat the success he had last season, and try and improve on it as well. If he does that, he’s likely looking at an entry-level deal in the near future. 
Brandon Lisowsky 
Selected in the seventh round of the 2022 draft, you could pretty much write the exact same script for Lisowsky as you did for Miller. He’s undersized, standing at 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds, but he’s got some offensive prowess, specifically his shot, that made him worth a flier in the late rounds of the draft. 
After scoring 33 goals en route to 58 points in 68 games for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings in his draft year, he took a step forward and scored 38 goals in addition to 71 points in 68 games. While his shot is strong for his age, his footspeed could use some work, especially for somebody of his size. The Maple Leafs already know what his strengths are, so his goal for the 2023-24 season should be to improve on the parts of his game that need improving, and better his chances at an AHL job the year after.

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