The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the youngest teams in the NHL and that may be one of the reasons that they are off to a 5-5-3 start to the season.
The team has had its up and downs this season, but there are four rookies that have stood out in the 13 games played so far this year. Those rookies include two 19-year-olds, a 20-year-old and a 24-year-old free agent signing in the offseason. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Nikita Zaitsev have been producing in the offensive zone for most of the young season.
Matthews, the highly touted 1st overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, started his career off with scoring four goals in his first NHL game against the Ottawa Senators on October 12. He went on to register a total of 10 points in his first six games. The forward also scored multiple points in three of those six games. Matthews registered his first multi-assist game on October 22 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and then went out and scored another goal and added an assist on October 25 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has cooled off since the hot start and only has one assist and zero goals in his last seven games played. Even during his rough stretch of late, he has been getting his shots and chances, but he just can’t find the back of the net.
Matthews has six goals, five assists and 11 points on the season. His 11 points rank third among rookies, and his six goals are second among the rookies. The forward’s four power play points are fourth among rookies in scoring and his 54 shots lead the way for the rookies this year. He is tied for first on the Leafs with six goals, and his 11 points are second on Toronto. His one power play goal is tied for third on the team, and his four power play points are tied for second on Toronto.
William Nylander played some with Toronto at times last season, and earned his spot with the big club. The winger’s line mates are fellow rookies, Zach Hyman and Matthews. Nylander has been a consistent offensive threat for a majority of the young season. He has only been kept off the score sheet in five of the 13 games that Toronto has played, and his longest pointless streak of the year is two games. He has four multiple point games including opening night against the Senators, where he had two assists. The other three multi-point games came against the Winnipeg Jets, the Blackhawks and the Lightning.
He has four goals, eight assists and 12 points in 13 games this season. His 12 points rank second among all rookies and his four goals are fourth. The eight assists rank second among this year’s rookies, while his three power play goals and seven assists are second among the rookie class. Nylander’s four goals are fourth on the Maple Leafs, while his eight assists rank first. He leads the Leafs with 12 points, three power play goals and seven power play points. Nylander has shown that he can be a playmaker, but also put the puck in the net when needed.
Mitch Marner made the team after having a good training camp and preseason. He had three total points in his first five games, but has seven points in his last eight games. In the last eight games played, Marner has three multiple point games including a three assist game against the Florida Panthers. He also had his first multi-goal game on November 3 against the Buffalo Sabres. Marner has been kept off the score sheet in seven of the 13 games, but the effort is usually there even if he isn’t producing.
The forward has four goals, six assists and 10 points on the season. His four goals are fifth on the Leafs, and his six assists are second. Marner’s 10 points are third on the team and his three game-winning goals are leading the way for the Maple Leafs. Marner ranks 6th among rookies with 10 points, and his four goals are fifth. The forward’s six assists are ranked fourth among rookies, and the three game-winning goals are first among the rookie class this year.
Nikita Zaitsev was a free agent signing in the offsesaon, and the signing seems to be paying off so far. Zaitsev is the oldest of the four rookies at 24-years-old, who can move the puck. He is second among the Leafs’ defenseman in points (6), and is tied for first among defensemen with six assists. He had a point in the first five of his seven games played, but only has one point in his last six games.
The kids basically carried the Leafs for the first couple of weeks of the season until the veterans could get their games going. The kids will learn-on-the-go this year and will have to battle through some scoreless droughts, but this team has a bright future.