As the Toronto Maple Leafs head into the 2016-17 season, the team and it’s fans have plenty of reason to be excited for the first time in about a decade.
The Leafs will be celebrating their centennial season in the NHL with several exciting events that commemorate the past, present, and future of the franchise while engaging fans from all over the globe.
Their 100th season in the league comes at an opportune time, as the team will look back at many of the legends that have donned the Maple Leaf since 1917, but can also look forward to a very exciting future with a number of their top prospects likely to play their rookie season during 2016-17.
Once a dismal 2015-16 campaign earned Toronto the right to make the 1st overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, the team added a highly coveted centerman in Auston Matthews, who has long been heralded as a potential franchise cornerstone player. Along his side will be both Mitch Marner and William Nylander playing their rookie season’s as well. The three combine to be Toronto’s top prospects and the face of the team’s future, so needless to say, the fans will be pumped to see how they fare with the Leafs.
Centennial Season Celebrations
On July 7th, Toronto announced their anniversary plans at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The team laid out a list of events and ceremonies that will celebrate their 100th season in the NHL, as well as the promise for many more surprise celebrations which will take place during the season and up until December 19th, 2017, the organization’s official 100th birthday.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Detroit Red Wings on January 1st, 2017 in the NHL Centennial Classic. The game will be played at BMO Field, the home of Toronto FC (MLS) and the Toronto Argonauts (CFL) which seats 30,991 and can hold upwards of 34,000.
- Brendan Shanahan unveiled the Leafs Centennial Logo, their new logo in silver with the number 100 in the center. The logo will be worn on the team’s Centennial Classic jerseys.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) July 7, 2016
- Three more players will be added to Legends Row. Turk Broda, Tim Horton, and Dave Keon will be unveiled alongside Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Johny Bower, Ted Kennedy, Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler, and Mats Sundin.
- Toronto will sport a throw-back look when they wear the Toronto St. Pats jerseys against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 18th, 2017. The team was previously named the St. Pats from 1919-1927 directly before being named the Maple Leafs from then on out.
- A list of the Greatest 100 Maple Leafs of All-Time will be made up by members of the hockey community, media, and fans. Each of the 100 players will be honoured throughout the centennial season.
- Brendan Shanahan promised, “there will also be many surprises throughout the season that our fans can look forward to, including a historic opening night celebration,” which will come against the Boston Bruins on October 15th.
A Young, Promising RosterThis year’s version of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 100th version in its history, promises to be a very young but talented group. The team is entering the second year of its official rebuild, and have already put together an exciting prospect pool. Among the players which are sure to receive plenty of attention are Matthews, Marner, and Nylander. The trio represents what management hopes can be the core of the club through the rebuild and into the glory days. All three are exceptionally talented forwards who have the potential of giving the Leafs some top-tier scoring for the first time in a decade.
The blue-line is also expected to see a notable improvement throughout the course of the season, as Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner continue to mature into leaders of the team. Newly acquired Nikita Zaitsev, 24, and Connor Carrick, 22, are also set to play much more significant minutes in 2016-17. The future core of the Leafs’ defence is finally coming together with superstar potential at the top and exciting depth throughout, all the way into the Marlies of the AHL.
Aside from the young guns, fans are anticipating the debut of goaltender, Frederik Andersen. The Dane was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2016 1st round pick and a 2017 2nd round pick on June 20th. The move set forth a motion which eliminated the process of developing and searching for a legitimate starting goaltender. Andersen, 26, has spent three seasons with the Ducks putting up very solid numbers each year and taking the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.