Turning over Leafs: The March (post deadline) Leafs Player Power Rankings
By Jon Steitzer8 months ago
I’m back for the second last trip through the roster of the season. Next up will be the playoff preview player power rankings. Can you feel the excitement? No. I get it. You’re sitting around reading a blog. Let’s keep things in perspective.
Anyways, here are last month’s rankings for a bit of perspective and with that out of the way, let’s dive into some power rankings that feature some new Leafs but a very familiar top three.
1. William Nylander (steady at #1)
Welcome back to the number one spot, Bill from ‘berta. It really says a lot that not only has Nylander been the best Leaf for much of this season, he’s consistently been one of the best. He’s also done it while doing a lot of the heavylifting, either centering lines, playing on lines centered by Pontus Holmberg or Sam Lafferty, and generally doing a bit of everything. Over the past month Nylander again has been the Leafs top scorer, but if we are going to find some criticism of him it’s that he’s so much more dominant at home than on the road. I wonder if we’ll see Nylander playing with Matthews at home in the playoffs and see Marner replace him on the road.
2. Mitch Marner (steady at #2)
This really is a 1A, 1B thing, but honestly there is never a shortage of people praising Marner, TLN can be one of those fun little corners that gives Willy the edge from time to time. Marner tied Nylander for points over the last 10 game stretch, and has once again been one of the better defensive forwards in the league this season. Throw in a couple of highlight reel moments and it’s been a pretty good month for Mitchie.
3. John Tavares (steady at #3)
JT rounds out the group of Leafs who were point per game players since the last time we ranked them. He also has one more goal than Nylander, Matthews, Marner, and Bunting with 5 over that time and that makes him a whole goal better than that group.
Tavares also took on the challenge of moving over to the wing once Ryan O’Reilly arrived, so there’s that too.
4. Auston Matthews (up from #5)
There have been some ups and downs to Matthews game over the past 10 games but he is also still Auston Matthews and a couple of underwhelming nights are normally erased quickly with a reminder that he is one of the best players in the game. I don’t know if Matthews and Nylander Freaky Friday’d each other when it comes to optically being good on nightly basis, but we are now at the point where Nylander has become the gold standard for that and Matthews needs to get back to where he was last year.
5. David Kampf (up from #16)
It’s a big jump for Kampf and it probably came at the right time. If things had been going poorly for him we’d be talking about how the Leafs brought in a bunch of players who can replace David Kampf. Instead we are talking about how the Leafs brought in a bunch of players to compliment David Kampf.
Kampf has been the Leafs 6th leading scorer over the last 10 games, and his three goals are a positive sign that bottom six scoring might have finally come back to Toronto.
6. TJ Brodie (not previously ranked)
When it comes to carrying the defensive load it seems like the burden often falls on TJ Brodie. No Leaf skater has spent more time on the ice over the last ten games and TJ has once again inherited a new partner in Jake McCabe.
It seems likely that the plan is for McCabe and Brodie to become the Leafs shutdown pairing taking on the tough assignments that Keefe & Co. have rightfully acknowledge can’t involve Morgan Rielly.
7. Ryan O’Reilly (not previously ranked)
I often prefer to skip past the injured Leafs in these rankings but given the proximity to the trade deadline my options are either players with only a few games with the Leafs or bringing in some of the injured players for the rankings. Given that Ryan O’Reilly (pre-injury) was delivering on exactly what was asked of him, it seems worth putting him this high. I mean a hat trick to raise hopes and then a broken finger to deflate everyone, it doesn’t get more Leafy than that. He immediately fits the blueprint.
8. Mark Giordano (down from #7)
Giordano has become the NHL’s all-time leader in blocked shots, or at least the leader since the stat began being tracked and with the acknowledgment that it’s been inconsistently tracked as well. All those qualifiers are loser talk though. Giordano has consistently put his body out there to make the play needed for his team and that’s huge. The fact that he did it while being a Norris calibre defenseman who offers a high level of play in each zone is a bonus. Another strong month from Giordano is a reminder what a bargain the contract is that he signed and his age doesn’t yet equate to a massive performance drop off.
9. Noel Acciari (not previously ranked)
I feel like Acciari is what the Leafs thought they’d be getting with Zach Aston-Reese. It’s not that ZAR has been a disappointment, he hasn’t been, but Acciari seems to have the team defense to go with the high energy hits and the fact that he can play center is an extra bonus for the Leafs.
10. Ilya Samsonov (steady at #10)
It wasn’t a great stretch of games for Samsonov. There were solid moments, but there are also inconsistencies sneaking into his game that could be a result of the increasing workload. Much like with Campbell before him, Samsonov might only be able to handle a certain workload and he has seemed to be tired when Toronto has had to go to him more frequently. He seems like he’ll easily get to his 41 games of a true tandem over the course of the remaining 18 games, (he only needs 8 more games to get there) and he’ll pass it to some degree, but takeaway should probably be the Leafs will need some help for him and if the plan is to lean on him in the playoffs to start, they need to get Murray into more games in the remaining month.
11. Michael Bunting (down from #9)
Bunting seems to be finding his way into Sheldon Keefe’s doghouse. This is likely due to some undisciplined retaliatory penalties. I don’t pretend to know Sheldon Keefe’s exact thoughts on retaliatory penalties, but given the Leafs tendency to not react strongly when teams push them around, I think he prefers they avoid them. Bunting definitely isn’t. He does have 4 goals in the past ten games which fits him in perfectly with the top six forward group, but that hasn’t been where he’s played recently. It will be interesting to see if Keefe wants Bunting as a bottom six muckraker or back as the guy who shovels garbage for Auston Matthews.
12. Timothy Liljegren (down from #4)
The honest to goodness truth is that it isn’t a huge surprise that Liljegren has sat a couple of games now that Toronto has nine defensemen on their roster. The past ten games haven’t been Liljegren’s best. Of course there are still defensemen that he has clearly been better than and sitting him does seem silly and when he is on his game he’s the best right shot defenseman on the team.
13. Jake McCabe (not previously ranked)
He’s still new to it, but coming in and immediately stepping into a top pairing role shows the organization values him and since the Edmonton game there has been steady progress towards the Leafs having a good fit with their discount defender.
14. Sam Lafferty (not previously ranked)
Did you think that you’d see Sam Lafferty as the second line center for the Leafs after a couple of games? Okay, that’s not what anyone wanted but Lafferty did a good job of fitting in with Nylander and it wasn’t the worst. The versatility of Lafferty is a good fit for Toronto and he’ll bring a lot of energy and a lot to prove to the team.
15. Morgan Rielly (steady at #15)
I’ll start by saying that Rielly isn’t as bad as he is often made out to be. He’s an offensive defenseman and while it’s amazing that he manages to play every odd man rush exactly wrong, he also does a lot of things right including keeping the puck moving in the right direction a lot of time. At least at home.
Rielly has an interesting month to come as the Leafs seem to be moving towards sheltering him and seeing if there is a fit with him and Luke Schenn. Even if Schenn doesn’t work out, but the McCabe-Brodie pairing does, the Leafs will be in a better position to use Rielly with someone like Liljegren.
16. Calle Jarnkrok (down from #6)
Jarnkrok has had some ups and downs over the course of the year and February was a bit of an offensive down. Overall his season seems like a success and he’s fit in as a solid third liner that can step up into the top six as needed. For the purpose of balance throughout the lineup it seems like the second line is where he’ll primarily reside for the rest of the year.
Jarnkrok is the more offensive version of the Leafs’ Swiss Army Knives.
17. Joe Woll (not previously ranked)
He’s back with the Marlies now, but Woll had a solid stretch with the Leafs to go with his lights out season with the Marlies. Woll being on a heater is a great safety net for the Leafs if things go sour with either of the Leafs goaltenders. He’s also making a strong case for an extended look at the Leafs next season.
18. Alex Kerfoot (steady #18)
I don’t know if we’ll ever see 50 point Alex Kerfoot again. Well…I do know we’ll see it next season when he’s in Detroit or Florida or wherever. For now, Alex Kerfoot is a pretty solid defensive forward and the Leafs need to steer into that. What Kerfoot is doing on the top line is beyond me, but late in the season there are going to be some wild line combos and we’ll have to take the bad with the good.
19. Justin Holl (down from #8)
If Holl and Kerfoot taking up space at the bottom of your roster is your biggest concern, your team is in great shape.
That being said, Holl with Rielly is a high event trainwreck that the Leafs keep on going back to. They’ve produced a lot of offense, but they’ve given up just as much. Giordano and Holl have worked and now they may not need to work as a top pairing. It will be interesting to see if the Leafs lean on him in any other way as those have been his primary partners, but Erik Gustafsson might be a new option for him.
20. Zach Aston-Reese (down from #19)
There are no real knocks on Zach Aston-Reese other than the arrivals of Lafferty and Acciari has bumped him down the depth chart a little. Couple that with the imminent arrival of Matthew Knies and a lot of what the Leafs relied on Aston-Reese for is being provided elsewhere.
If the Leafs get a bit more Pittsburgh ZAR than Anaheim ZAR, they’d feel pretty good about the bottom six heading into the playoffs.
The next month should be interesting as we see Knies potentially come in at some point. See the return of O’Reilly. We’ll learn where Luke Schenn fits in, and if Gustafsson is more than a depth guy.
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