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Grades: Nylander, Bunting best Toronto Maple Leafs through first 10 games




Doing this review after six or seven games might have been a lot more uncomfortable. Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs are on a three-game winning streak, there is a little more optimism than might have been around this team a week ago.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have scored 2.34 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, which ranks 13th. During 5-on-4 play, the Maple Leafs have 6.83 goals/60, which ranks 17th. They have allowed 5.86 goals/60 during 4-on-5 play, which ranks 14th. This looks relatively mediocre.

They rank fourth in score-and-venue-adjusted Corsi (55.4 CF%) and fourth in score-and-venue-adjusted expected goals percentage (55.4 xGF%). Those are the numbers of a team that should be a contender. The results have not been there yet, as a 5-4-1 record is still relatively mediocre, but there has been recent progress and that should be acknowledged, too.

Expectations play a part in these grades. If a player is expected to be a fourth-line checker, those expectations are different than if the player is a first-line scorer.


RW William Nylander (4 G, 4 A, 36 SOG, 61.1 CF%, 63.3 xGF%, 10 GP)

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ best player in last season’s playoff loss to Montreal, William Nylander has been Toronto’s most consistently dangerous player early in this season. He is playing a career-high 19:07 per game and has 36 shots on goal in 10 games, easily the best shot rate of his career. Grade: A

LW Michael Bunting (3 G, 3 A, 24 SOG, 59.6 CF%, 60.9 xGF%, 10 GP)

A hometown kid who took a while to find his way to the NHL then burst onto the scene with 10 goals in 21 games for Arizona last season. He signed as a free agent with the Maple Leafs and has been every bit as good as advertised. He was never going to score at the same rate that he did last season, but Bunting is tenacious, agitates opponents, and drives hard to the net. That puts him in position to contribute offensively and he has been bumped to the top line. Grade: A

G Jack Campbell (4-2-1, .929 SV%, 8 GP)

Given the opportunity to be a starting goaltender, Campbell has thrived in the role. His team has not always provided enough support. Provided he stays healthy, Campbell should have a strong season. Grade: A-

C Jason Spezza (3 G, 2 A, 15 SOG, 52.6 CF%, 56.7 xGF%, 10 GP)

Getting Spezza to keep signing team-friendly contracts has offered the Toronto Maple Leafs great value and he continues to be a great fourth-line contributor because he can play on the power play and, in a pinch, move up in the lineup. Grade: B+

D Rasmus Sandin (0 G, 3 A, 11 SOG, 61.8 CF%, 66.0 xGF%, 10 GP)

Might not be the biggest or fastest but a heady defender who makes crisp passes. His on-ice numbers have been tremendous and offer some hope that Sandin might be able to move up the depth chart at some point. Grade: B+

D Morgan Rielly (0 G, 6 A, 25 SOG, 55.8 CF%, 52.7 xGF%, 10 GP)

Rielly’s play has been as expected. He generates offence from the blueline, and the Maple Leafs got him signed to an eight-year, $60 million contract extension. He is driving play and generating more shots than last season. Grade: B

D T.J. Brodie (0 G, 2 A, 6 SOG, 57.3 CF%, 52.1 xGF%, 10 GP)

A reliable veteran defender, who has moved to pair with Jake Muzzin after starting the year with Morgan Rielly. Brodie has assists in the past two games, his first points of the season and while he is not the dynamic presence that he was in his most productive years with Calgary, he can push play in the right direction. Grade: B

C John Tavares (3 G, 5 A, 34 SOG, 55.6 CF%, 56.5 xGF%, 10 GP)

The captain struggled early in terms of scoring, but his all-around game was solid. It should come as no surprise that the offensive numbers have started to come around. Seems to be a better fit in the second-line centre spot. Grade: B

D Timothy Liljegren (0 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, 61.2 CF%, 72.4 xGF%, 4 GP)

Before getting inserted into the lineup two games ago, Liljegren would have bordered on an incomplete grade. With two very strong performances, he suddenly becomes a really interesting piece on this blueline. If Dermott is injured, Liljegren might be asked to move up the depth chart. Grade: B

D Travis Dermott (0 G, 1 A, 11 SOG, 56.3 CF%, 60.9 xGF%, 9 GP)

Played well on the third pairing and was recently moved up to partner with Morgan Rielly but was injured Tuesday against Vegas. Not a massive impact to this point but solid and reliable. Grade: B-

RW Wayne Simmonds (1 G, 2 A, 19 SOG, 54.1 CF%, 59.3 xGF%, 10 GP)

He is no longer a big scoring threat, like he was during his best years in Philadelphia, but as a fourth line winger who will bang bodies and can generate some offence in that limited role, Simmonds has been effective. He has benefitted from having a playmaker like Spezza on his line. Grade: B-

LW Pierre Engvall (1 G, 2 A, 21 SOG, 55.5 CF%, 51.7 xGF%, 10 GP)

An effective depth forward. Is not necessarily going to produce a lot but creates enough chances that maybe there could be more than three points in 10 games. Nevertheless, a quality start to the season: Grade: B-

C/LW Alexander Kerfoot (2 G, 3 A, 12 SOG, 54.6 CF%, 54.5 xGF%, 10 GP)

In the past couple of games, Kerfoot is starting to get on the same page with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. His early results were not great, and his shot rate is much too low, but that worm might be starting to turn. Grade: C+

RW Ondrej Kase (1 G, 1 A, 24 SOG, 54.3 CF%, 47.6 xGF%, 10 GP)

It’s a positive that Kase has been able to stay healthy and he has shown some tenacity as a forechecker and shot generator, but his skills might be better utilized with more offensive talent. That just might not be possible at the moment. Grade: C+

C David Kampf (1 G, 0 A, 10 SOG, 54.7 CF%, 50.6 xGF%, 10 GP)

A one-dimensional checking forward, Kampf is effective in a defensive role but there is more to the game and it’s hard to imagine that a forward playing more than 14 minutes per game can’t produce more than one point in 10 games. Grade: C+

RW Mitch Marner (2 G, 4 A, 30 SOG, 54.9 CF%, 55.5 xGF%, 10 GP)

After finishing fourth in the league scoring race last season, Marner’s playoff struggles put him in the spotlight for critics and a slow start to this season had the wolves howling at the door. But even when he was not scoring, head coach Sheldon Keefe was supportive. As Toronto is emerging from their slump, so too is Marner and while the first 10 game segment won’t go down as ideal, there is understandably more optimism about Marner’s performance right now. Grade: C

C Auston Matthews (3 G, 1 A, 31 SOG, 62.9 CF%, 66.4 xGF%, 7 GP)

Missed the first three games while recovering from wrist surgery and struggled to find his form immediately but scored two goals in Tuesday’s win against Vegas, the first of which looked like his most dangerous version of launching rockets from the faceoff circle. Grade: C

LW Nick Ritchie (0 G, 1 A, 12 SOG, 53.2 CF%, 48.2 xGF%, 10 GP)

A power forward who has played with elite offensive linemates in the past, Ritchie had that opportunity at the start of the season, with John Tavares and Mitch Marner but it did not take long for the Maple Leafs to shuffle lines once Auston Matthews returned. That put Ritchie on the fourth line, and he can still be effective in that space. Grade: C

D Jake Muzzin (1 G, 2 A, 13 SOG, 53.2 CF%, 55.3 xGF%, 10 G)

Expected to be the rock, providing stability on the Maple Leafs blueline, Muzzin was a mess early in the season, with partner Justin Holl. There may have been some bad luck involved but there was some poor decision-making and subpar defensive play, too. Getting paired with T.J. Brodie is an attempt to get Muzzin’s game back on track. Grade: C-

C/LW Michael Amadio (0 G, 0 A, 2 SOG, 43.1 CF%, 48.5 xGF%, 3 GP)

Claimed by Vegas off waivers, Amadio played the first three games of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Auston Matthews was out. He was not especially effective and the fourth line improved when they looked to other options. Grade: C-

D Justin Holl (0 G, 0 A, 5 SOG, 50.2 CF%, 49.1 xGF%, 7 GP)

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a big statement in the offseason when they chose to protect Holl in the expansion draft, while leaving Jared McCann available. Seven games into the season, Holl was a healthy scratch. He has been out of the lineup for three straight Maple Leafs victories. Holl and Jake Muzzin were not effective together to start the season and now Holl might need an injury to get him back into the lineup. Grade: D

G Petr Mrazek (1-1, .877 SV%, 2 GP)

Injured in his first game of the season, Mrazek will likely play a bigger role as the season progresses and should be a fine part of the goaltending tandem. Tough to grade a goalie on five periods, though. Grade: Incomplete

G Michael Hutchinson (0-1, .857 SV%, 2 GP)

Pressed into action when Mrazek was hurt, Hutchinson did not have a great start but expectations should be relatively modest. Again, tough to grade a goaltender on 79 minutes of play. Grade: Incomplete

G Alex Bishop

Called up to be an emergency backup in the wake of Mrazek’s injury, Bishop was outstanding in the backup role that day. Grade: A

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