Regardless of what moves Toronto Maple Leafs’ General Manager Kyle Dubas does or does not make from this point forward, the fate of the Maple Leafs rests on their core players.
With that in mind, we thought we would look back to look ahead. That is, we’ll use the past performances of the core players as a base to determine how these players might fare during the upcoming season.
Considering the Parameters and Variables for Our Predictions
As with any study, we had to create reasonable parameters we could use to compile the statistics. We decided to use each of the core player’s production for the past three seasons, including their progression or regression. Then, based on their totals from the 2021-22 season, we could predict how many goals, assists, and points we think each player will score in the 2022-23 season.
Of course, there is no way to accurately predict the future. We can’t know if any of the core players will suffer injuries; and, if they did, how serious those injuries would be. Obviously, a number of surprising circumstances could rise up to affect a player’s future performance.
We also can’t account for a player having a season that might be considered an anomaly, or whether a player’s performance has peaked. There are too many variables to come up with a true prediction of future performance.
We did, however, take into consideration past injuries and games missed by each player. For example, of the 208 games the Maple Leafs played the past three seasons, Auston Matthews played 195 of those games. He missed eleven games due to injury and two games because of a suspension. Based on games played over the past three seasons, we’ve predicted Matthews would play in 77 of the 82 games in the upcoming season. We based his production on those 77 games played.
2022-23 Scoring Predictions for Key Maple Leafs Players
We believe the Maple Leafs’ core includes Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares. With Morgan Rielly considered the team’s number one defenseman and the rear guard responsible for the bulk of the Maple Leafs’ offense from the defense, we have also included him in this group of core players.
Here are our scoring predictions for each player for the 2022-23 season
Using the parameters we determined at the beginning of this exercise, we predict that Matthews will play 77 games. This season, he’s predicted to set a new career best in goals with 70, and a new career best in assists with 51 for a total of 121 points. That would be 15 points more than last season.
The biggest increase we see for Marner is his goals. After scoring at a 0.32 goals per game pace in the three seasons previous, Marner’s goal production increased to 0.49 goals per game last season. The parameters of our study predicted Marner would score 40 goals in the upcoming season. That’s based on his large increase last season.
The question is whether Marner’s 35 goals were an anomaly. The 63 assists this study has predicted is exactly the same assist pace he has had the past three seasons. His increased goal total will help him break the 100-point barrier for the first time in his career.
The prediction that Nylander will score 90 points in 79 games might be skewed a little by his poor season in 2018-19 right after he signed his new deal. He only scored seven goals in 54 games that season. As a result, his goal production increased by 0.35 goals per game from 2018-19 to 2019-20. He might actually score more than the parameters we used suggested.
It makes sense that, at the age of 32, we would expect to see a dip in Tavares’ production. His 20 goals in 78 games would be the lowest of his career. That will be balanced a little by his assists total going slightly from 49 to 51. Altogether the parameters we used in this study predict his point totals will drop by five points from 76 to 71, mainly because of his predicted drop-off in goals from 27 to 20.
[One thing about Tavares that’s interesting is that his shooting percentage last season (11.4 percent) was far lower than normal (13.1 percent career average) last season. If he returns to his normal shooting percentage, he could surprise.]
Rielly is another player that our parameters predicted would see a regression in his scoring totals, from 10 goals and 68 points to six goals and 59 points. Part of the reason for that regression is taking into account the games he’d missed due to injuries in the previous two seasons (26 games). He played in all 82 games last season but is only predicted to play in 73 games in 2022-23.
Another factor in Rielly’s numbers was his career-best 20 goals and 72 points in 2018-19. As a result, between 2018-19 and 2019-20 his goals-per-game dropped by 0.18, his assists per game dropped by 0.12 per game, and his points-per-game dropped by 0.30. That drop had a negative effect on Rielly’s predicted production for next season.
Keep in mind that these predictions were based solely on each player’s production for the past three seasons, and not on anyone’s opinion.
Stan and Jim’s Opinions About the Maple Leafs Core Scoring
Stan’s personal predictions are that Matthews will come close to the 70-goal total, but won’t get there. However, he might end up higher than the 121 points if he can stay healthy.
Jim agrees that Matthews will not reach 70 goals and might not hit 60 goals again. He also agrees that Matthews’ total points will be higher because his assist total will rise significantly.
Stan predicts that Marner will not reach 40 goals. He thinks the 103 points is pretty much spot on.
Jim believes there’s a chance that Marner will reach 35 goals and will just edge out Matthews in points. The beneficiary will be first-line partner Michael Bunting, who will score 30 goals.
Stan doesn’t think Nylander will reach 90 points. He could score in the middle to high 30’s though. I believe he will be right around the point-a-game pace.
Jim thinks Nylander will continue to up his scoring totals. He will easily become a point-a-game player. I think he will hit the 90-point mark.
Stan believes Tavares will surpass the 20-goal, 71 points total if he stays healthy. I think he will be motivated to improve on the 27-goal and 76-point season he had in 2021-22. He might not accomplish that but should come close.
Jim believes Tavares will come close to his total in his first season with the team. He will become a point-a-game player for the second time in his career and could hit 45 goals.
Stan believes Rielly will score more goals than the six this study predicts and will have about the same number of assists. As for points, I think he will end up closer to the 68 he scored last season than the 59 predicted for next.
Jim agrees with Stan. Will Rielly total 72 points again as he did in 2018-19? Yes.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf