20 Sep Offseason Fantasy Quick Hits: Atlantic Division – Toronto Maple Leafs
10. Buffalo Sabres
12. Florida Panthers
14. Ottawa Senators
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Got: Jhonas Enroth, Frederik Andersen, Auston Matthews (!!!), Roman Polak, Matt Martin, Kerby Rychel, Nikita Zaitsev, Brandon Prust (PTO)
Lost: Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer, Scott Harrington, Michael Grabner, P.A. Parenteau, Brad Boyes, T.J. Brennan, Ben Smith, Mark Arcobello, Stuart Percy
I’ll try my best to take my homer goggles off for this one, but I’m a Toronto boy writing about his beloved Toronto team. Not just any team. I mean I love the Jays and the Raptors as well, but this is the Maple Leafs. Still I’m gonna do my best to not let my fandom cloud my judgment. So here it goes….
Auston Matthews should be a lock for the Hart and the Art Ross trophy this year…. I kid I kid. But wake me up because it still feels like I’m dreaming. He’s been called the best first overall pick (other than McDavid) since John Tavares, and that’s no joke. So I’m gonna use Tavares’ rookie season as the benchmark. I’m pencilling him in for 25 goals, and 55 points assuming he plays a full season. He’s certainly worth a late round pick in fantasy drafts. I find that most first overall picks tend to be over ranked in fantasy hockey. If he’s in ranked in the top 100 I’ll probably steer clear. But in the later rounds of your draft we all know this guy has high upside and is worthy of a draft pick. Let’s just keep our expectations a bit tempered for this year though.
Mitch Marner should be owned in all keeper league formats but in one year leagues he’s a watch list guy. I think he’s almost certain to crack the team since we know he has nothing left to prove in London, and can’t play in the AHL. He has the skill to put up points but I think he will take some time to get used to the speed of the NHL and Mike Babcock will probably shelter him on a bottom line early on. I think he could be a second half performer similar to many rookies, and potentially a mid-season pickup, but still I don’t see any situation this year where he clears 50 points. I’m assuming he will end up closer to 40 points and that would still be a great year for him.
William Nylander has the most professional experience of the top 3 prospects, and has shown he’s ready for full time NHL duty after last year’s call up. I think the fact that the Leafs have both Marner and Matthews has caused Willie to be underestimated since many now consider him to be the #3 prospect in the organization. This guy has loads of talent and has been putting up record numbers in both the SHL (Swedish professional hockey league) and the AHL. I think like Matthews he can put up 55, maybe even 60 this year. I’d guess he probably ends closer to 50, but that’s still pretty damn good. Like Matthews, I like him as a late round pick in your draft.
Nazem Kadri may increase his production a little this year as he just got a big contract extension and will likely have more responsibility this year. He should be good for 20 goals and 50 points. Maybe he can put up 55 but don’t expect much more.
I probably wouldn’t draft Tyler Bozak unless you are in a very deep league and need a 45-50 point player. At this point, he is what he is and won’t be putting up much more than that.
Mike Babcock, Lou Lamoriello and Brendan Shanahan – The Key Cogs of the “Shanaplan”.
James Van Riemsdyk was hurt last year, but I think he can do 30 goals and 60 points again like he has in the past. I don’t love him in fantasy since I don’t think he has that 80 point ceiling like we used to think he did, but I don’t mind JVR in the middle to later rounds of your draft.
As far as defenseman go, I think this is the year Morgan Rielly breaks out. It’s his fourth professional season, which is a big breakout year for many young players. I think he can do 10 goals and 45 points this year. Draft him somewhere in the middle of your draft as an upside pick.
Jake Gardiner is draftable in deep leagues. The guy can skate like the wind and we’ve all been waiting for that big breakout. He has consistently put up 30 points in the NHL. I think he can do 40 this year, but I’m not so sure that he will. For me, he’s more of a watch list guy, but I don’t hate him as a late round pick if you think he can put up 35+ points.
Other than those two, there isn’t much fantasy relevance in the Leafs’ group of defensemen. I wouldn’t draft Nikita Zaitsev, but he put up points in Russia and could become a 35 point d-man as soon as this year, although I wouldn’t count on any more than 30 really. Throw him on your watch list.
Frederik Andersen will be seeing a lot more starts this year then he has in the past (assuming his injury in the World Cup isn’t too bad). I think he will put up slightly worse ratios than he did in Anaheim since he’s behind a much worse team. The increase in starts should increase his win total this year slightly. I think he starts around 55-60 games if healthy and is an average at best #1 fantasy goalie option this year, or a much stronger option as your # 2 goalie.
I just want to say that as a 27 year old Leaf fan, this is probably the most exciting time to be a fan since I’ve been alive. The conference final runs against L.A., Buffalo and Carolina were all amazing but this time it feels different. Let’s just keep our expectations in check for this year though. I think there will be some growing pains, and I really doubt we are in contention for a playoff spot at year’s end. Having Babcock as our coach, I wouldn’t rule an 8th place in the conference finish completely out, but I realistically think we end up on the outside and finish with a draft pick next year somewhere around 10th overall. How good or bad we do this year really shouldn’t matter though, because it’s all about the long term outlook of the organization and I think we are in the very early stages of potentially witnessing something special.
I’ll end off this article with one thing left to say. Go Leafs Go!
That does it for the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference…Next article we’re taking it out west!
Your comments and questions are welcome below and I will try to answer as soon as I can. Feel free to send all your fantasy hockey related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org! Thanks for reading!!!