The Toronto Leafs hit the 20-game mark of the 2021-22 regular season Sunday with a 3-0 road win over the New York Islanders. This game marks as close to the first quarter pole of the 82 game season as we can get. With the victory, the team finds itself in a virtual tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division.
The 13-6-1 Maple Leafs have 27 points in 20 games, which works out to 110.7 points over an 82 game season. The 10-4-3 Lightning have 23 points in 17 games, which works out to 110.9 points in 82 games. Both teams trail the 13-2-3 Florida Panthers, who are putting up points at an astounding pace and would have 132 points if they continued this pace throughout the season.
Maple Leafs’ Top Players Over the First Quarter
Who have been the team’s best three players been to this point of the season? Here’s our take. We encourage you to add your own in the discussion section if you think we’ve missed someone.
Maple Leafs First Star of the Quarter: Jack Campbell
We don’t think anyone can dispute that Jack Campbell has been the best player on the team to this point of the season. In 16 games played, he’s 10-4-1 with three shutouts, a save percentage of .944, and a goals-against-average of 1.66.
Campbell leads the NHL in several categories. He’s first in games played, first in save percentage, and first in goals-against-average for any goalie who’s started more than five games. He’s also second in wins, one behind his former teammate Frederik Andersen.
Not only has Campbell been the Maple Leafs’ best player, but he’s also been arguably the best goaltender in the NHL to this point this season.
Maple Leafs Second Star of the Quarter: William Nylander
Although he’s cooled off, with only a single point in his last five games, William Nylander has been consistently the most productive forward for the Maple Leafs through the first quarter of the season. He’s second on the team with seven goals, as well as second in points with 16. If we expand those numbers to an 82-game season, it works out to 29 goals and 65 points.
Nylander also leads the team with four game-winning goals. Of equal importance is the overall improvement in his all-around game. Last season Nylander had 30 takeaways in 51 games. At this point in the 2021-22 season, he has 20 takeaways in 20 games. His work ethic and play without the puck have also noticeably improved.
Choosing the Maple Leafs’ Final Star Was Difficult
The team’s Third Star is a tougher call. After a rough start, Mitch Marner is leading the team with 17 points. John Tavares has been good throughout the first 20 games and leads the team with eight goals. Austin Matthews has also bounced back from a slow start to score seven goals and 15 points in 17 games.
We also considered the tandem of David Kampf and Ondrej Kase. Both should garner consideration as the best of the new Maple Leafs’ players. Together, they have played stellar defensively and have helped Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe establish a true checking line.
Kampf’s shut-down third line is also at an even plus/minus. Kase has five goals, which is one less than Michael Bunting.
Maple Leafs Third Star of the Quarter: Morgan Rielly
We ultimately decided on Morgan Rielly, who has now scored three goals and collected 13 points in 20 games. Rielly’s on pace for 12 goals and 53 points, his best totals since his 20-goal and 72-point 2018-19 season.
Rielly’s also has a 62.5% Goals For Percentage at five-on-five play. He’s been on ice for six more goals-for in five-on-five than goals-against (15 goals-for and nine goals-against) on a team that’s surprisingly struggled to score goals playing at five-on-five. Finally, Rielly’s a key part of the first power-play unit that is off to a great start this season and has averaged just over two minutes per game on the much-improved penalty kill.
Will Matthews and Marner Step Up to Win a Star During the Second Quarter?
The big question mark on the Maple Leafs’ roster is when the stars will become the stars. We considered both Matthews and Marner on this list and surprisingly didn’t include either of them. We say surprisingly because we can’t recall a time in the past few seasons where at least one of them would not have made it.
Our call is that, when we name the three stars of the second quarter, there’s a good chance that either or both of Matthews and Marner will be named. If Campbell is the other one, it probably means the team is doing very well.
[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