Ever wonder what a lineup of your favourite team would look like if they didn’t trade away that young talent too soon or were able to bring back that top-end player that left in free agency? Well, look no further because this series is designed to analyze all the former and current active players that have played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and form the best lineup from that list. It will look at where the players are right now in their careers and show what a dream team of all the best players to come through the organization would look like today. This is, of course, not taking into account the salaries of the players, so think of it as ‘Be a GM’ mode in a video game where the salary cap is turned off. Enjoy.
Forwards Currently Playing for the Maple Leafs
The entire first line of the Maple Leafs is a lock for this team as Auston Matthews just won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second consecutive season and the Hart Trophy for the first time. He is undoubtedly the best goalscorer in the NHL right now and should lead the league in goals many more times before his career is over. Mitch Marner was right beside him and is one of the best point-getters in the league, as well, as he set a career-high in goals (35) and points (97), just missing the century mark. By the way, both he and Matthews are progressing, they will both reach 100 points next season. Finally, Michael Bunting, last season’s Calder Trophy nominee, fit right in and proved he can score with the best of them, so he rounds out the current players’ forward group.
The entire Maple Leafs’ second line also gets the nod for this dream team as they all recorded 50-plus points. John Tavares may be past his prime and slowing down on his feet, but he is still effective, finishing last season just under a point per game. William Nylander topped Tavares last season and hit career highs in goals (34) and points (80). Alexander Kerfoot is also an underrated part of that second line who can play the wing or centre and is a key penalty killer for the team.
The final player from the current team is Pierre Engvall, who just recently re-upped with the Maple Leafs, as he smashed his career highs and broke out in 2021-22. Next season will only see him get better as he is now firmly in a third-line role.
Forwards No Longer Playing in Toronto
The Maple Leafs have let a few good players go either in free agency or via trade. Let’s start with last season’s Stanley Cup winner Nazem Kadri. In his third season with the Colorado Avalanche after being traded, he played an integral role in the final year of his deal recording 87 points in 71 games. But another player that recently left the organization is Zach Hyman who enjoyed a ton of success with the Edmonton Oilers helping them get to the Western Conference Finals last season. He was another player who had a career year and an excellent playoff. This hard-working winger will give his team everything he has and is effective in any situation.
There are some former players that had success for the Maple Leafs, but they couldn’t afford to keep. The first is Ilya Mikheyev, who just left for the Vancouver Canucks this offseason, and when healthy, really showed what type of player he could be. He may now be overpaid because many are in free agency, but he is very fast and scored 21 goals and 32 points in just 51 games last season. Carter Verhaeghe was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the third round in 2013, was traded to the New York Islanders in 2015 before ever playing a game, and didn’t appear in the NHL until the 2019-20 season with Tampa Bay. It may have taken him a while to break out, but now he is very effective for the Florida Panthers. Connor Brown is the other depth player who has improved his game since leaving the Maple Leafs and going to Ottawa. He has been a very effective penalty killer and gets lots of time on the power play with his sneaky scoring ability.
The final member of the Maple Leafs’ dream team is Phil Kessel. He may not be the player he once was, but it is impressive to put up 52 points on the Arizona Coyotes with very little help around him in a season where the team had the fewest goals for in the NHL.
What the Maple Leafs’ Forward Group Would Look Like
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Michael Bunting – Nazem Kadri – William Nylander
Alexander Kerfoot – John Tavares – Carter Verhaeghe
Ilya Mikheyev – Pierre Engvall – Connor Brown
The first line is a look back at two seasons ago when Hyman was a part of the Maple Leafs. Since then, all three had career years and would form a deadly trio against anyone else. Bunting would be shifted down a line considering Hyman is a more impactful player. Between Kadri’s two-way ability, Nylander’s skill, and Bunting’s overall play, they have all the bases covered.
The Maple Leafs’ dream team would have a dangerous third line consisting of three players that would be in the top-six on any real NHL team. Tavares and Kerfoot have chemistry from playing together last season and putting up 76 and 51 points respectively. Add in Verhaeghe and his underrated ability, he may get even better next season after his confidence is through the roof from his playoff performance. The fourth line is fast and would outwork any other line as well. Something to keep in mind is that these players are also efficient defensively and can put up 30-plus points with no problem. Kessel is hanging around this team for the veteran presence and because he can still put up points.
Defencemen Currently Playing for the Maple Leafs
Some of the best the Maple Leafs have to offer are currently playing for them. Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie form their top pairing, and Rielly is their number one defenceman, whether it’s their actual team or dream team. An argument can be made that Brodie shouldn’t be a top pairing defenceman, but the team is young and inexperienced on the right side.
Jake Muzzin is a solid defender, good in his own end, and physical. He is playing on the Maple Leafs’ second pairing and without a doubt makes this team, as the left side is very weak. Mark Giordano may be older, but he beats out Rasmus Sandin for a spot on the team as they are the only two left-side defencemen that had a chance. Giordano has the experience and production that Sandin just doesn’t have yet, regardless of how the young defender will turn out.
Defencemen No Longer Playing in Toronto
As for the defencemen no longer with the Maple Leafs, they could really use at least one of them on the right side next season. Tyson Barrie led all defencemen in points in the shortened season right after leaving the Maple Leafs and put up over 40 points again with the Oilers on the third pairing and top power-play unit last season.
Cody Ceci had an impressive and very underrated season with the Oilers after an underwhelming season with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20. He started with the Oilers on the second pairing but ended on the top pairing playing well defensively and putting up some points.
Sean Durzi is a name you may have forgotten was a Maple Leaf, as he was dealt in 2019 when he was just a prospect and made a name for himself as a rookie last season for the Los Angeles Kings. He was given a great opportunity when Drew Doughty and Sean Walker got injured, and he didn’t disappoint, as he gave the Kings a right-shot defender to help them make the playoffs and take the Oilers to a Game 7.
What the Maple Leafs’ Defence Core Would Look Like
Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Cody Ceci
Mark Giordano – Tyson Barrie
The top pairing for this Maple Leafs’ dream team is the team’s actual top pairing for the 2022-23 season, as they have a number one defenceman in Rielly and Brodie to complement him. The entire left side is compiled of current Maple Leafs, and it is stronger and deeper than the right side. The Maple Leafs let two defencemen go a couple of seasons ago who are currently playing on the Oilers, Ceci and Barrie. Both have done much better as part of the Oilers and are top-four defencemen. The right side is tough, but considering Durzi was just a rookie last season, he gets the final spot to at least make the team.
Maple Leafs’ Goaltending
The Maple Leafs have a very strong tandem of starting goaltenders that they have let walk in the past two seasons. It would be one of the best as both had great seasons in 2021-22 and project to have even better campaigns in 2022-23.
Of Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell, the starter would be Andersen as of now. He just won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the second time in his career and in his first season with the Carlina Hurricanes. He also finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting last season for the second time in his career. He has had a very impressive nine-year career that saw him post his best save percentage (.922) since his rookie season when he started just 24 games. He also recorded the lowest goals-against average of his career (2.17), as well as, by far the highest goals saved above average (22.1).
Jack Campbell had himself an All-Star start to 2021-22 and his first season as an actual starting goaltender. He won 31 games in just 47 starts, recorded five shutouts, and finished with a goals saved above average of 10. Pre-All-Star break, he went 21-6-3 with a .925 save percentage and four shutouts. After that was much worse, but he did manage to bounce back in time for the playoffs where he was solid. If he had kept up the pace he was on for the entire season, I may have had to swap him with Andersen. He is yet another player in Edmonton that used to play for the Maple Leafs.
This Maple Leafs’ dream team is definitely an improvement over their current team, as was to be expected. Their forward depth is amazing, and their high-end talent is strong up front and in net. The defence isn’t much of an improvement over their current team but can put up points and defend. I hope you enjoyed this fantasy team article, as there are more to come for the rest of the NHL in the coming days and weeks.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
You can find more of his work here.