As it’s been previously mentioned in Five Keys for Leafs Success in 2017-18, the trio of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner must continue to dominate. Which is exactly what I predict they will all do. You could go through the rest of the team and predict the season and their numbers, but the truly important numbers lay on those three. Below, I’ll cover how they did last season, how I believe they’ll do this season, and why. For this, we are also going to assume that all three players play a full 82 game season.
Let’s begin with the obvious leader of the three, Auston Matthews. The 6’3, 216 pound center absolutely destroyed expectations anyone could have had for him. Matthews put on a clinic in the regular season where he scored 40 goals and 29 assists totaling for 69 points in all 82 games. He then continued that great play with four goals and an assist in six playoff games. One stat of Matthews that is under appreciated is his minuet 14 penalty minutes. He plays a very disciplined game at both ends of the ice. Matthews’s season was good enough to earn him the Calder trophy for Rookie of the Year. With a release as quick and lethal as Matthews, expect him to be putting up big numbers for many years.
Although the rest of the league knows what Matthews is about now and will key in on him far more, I still believe he will improve off of an incredible rookie season. Matthews has the raw skill to put up insane numbers by himself but being able to play on a line with Nylander and now possibly Patrick Marleau as well. We could very well see a huge jump in Matthews already bolstered numbers. As far as games played, Matthews plays a smart game and really doesn’t put himself in too many vulnerable spots to get injured. If he can stay healthy, everyone should be ready for an insane year from Auston Matthews.
Point Projection: GP – 82 G – 44 A – 33 P – 77
Swedish forward William Nylander is the oldest of the trio at a whopping age of 21 years old. He had a fantastic year last year posting 22 goals and 39 assists for 61 points in 81 games. That single game he missed wasn’t really a big deal either, as he missed that game with the flu. Regardless, those are very impressive stats to have. Nylander plays a very fast and high paced game where you have to already be ready for the puck, because he has a great, quick pass. There were so many times last year where Nylander would find Matthews across the ice and hit him with a beautiful feed right before Matthews one-timed it into the net. It’s almost magical to watch. The top end skills that Nylander have are perfect for the power play. With those wicked passes, and a highly dangerous shot, he could have elite production on the PP.
Kind of the same deal with Matthews, Nylander’s point totals will also climb if he plays with a player more skilled than Zach Hyman. Although Nylander definitely has the potential to lead the team in points, it is far more realistic to assume that he finishes behind Matthews and Marner. This is not a knack on Nylander, by any means, just a display of the Leafs’ talent. Nylander is also coming off of an MVP performance at the world championships in May, which will surely give him a confidence boost heading into the season.
Point Projection: GP – 82 G – 27 A – 41 P – 68
Out of the trio, Mitch Marner is definitely the most fun to watch. He’s got fantastic edgework in his skating, great hands, excellent vision, and above all otherworldly creativity. Marner is always found on the highlight reel doing something nobody has seen before.
He had a great rookie season playing on a line with Tyler Bozak and James Van Riemsdyk, where he posted a fantastic year scoring 19 goals and 42 assists for 61 points in just 77 games. Marner has always been known for getting insane amounts of points in every league he’s played in before the NHL. His last season for the London Knights in the OHL, Marner posted a jaw dropping 116 points in 57 games.
For the years to come it is very realistic that Marner could lead the team in points. He definitely has the elite skills, although it will take him a few years to further develop his skills as well as build chemistry with his line mates. It will certainly help him to get a little bit bigger as well. He’s not small right now, but some more muscle will help him get through a full season healthier. The transition this year to the NHL was seamless. The only thing holding him back from furthering his development and production would be a bad injury. *knocks on wood* I’m anticipating everyone to see a big year from Marner and more importantly, I think he’ll be consistent.
It is inevitable to have a few people who like to talk about a sophomore slump, but I believe Marner will keep those conversations on the absolute minimum. Marner will play on the power play with either Matthews, Nylander or Marleau, or potentially all four. With this being the case, he could see a huge jump in his point totals. He’s a natural playmaker and would absolutely flourish on a power play with goal scorers of that magnitude.
Point Projection: GP – 82 G – 22 A – 47 P – 69
Training camp has just started and pre-season games are right around the corner, anticipation for the year couldn’t be higher. It’s great to think about how even if one of our superstar rookies gets hurt or sick, we still have another two to rant and rave about. Leafs season opener is October 4th against the Jets and I really can’t wait to get to watching this trio of kids continue to dominate the NHL.