Maple Leafs’ Forwards Ranked for 2022 Postseason Play 

Our Toronto Maple Leafs forwards rankings for the regular season included the top twelve forwards. We also tracked the numbers for Colin Blackwell and Kyle Clifford as the 13th and 14th forwards. Although we didn’t include their numbers in the rankings, we did acknowledge that their numbers placed them outside the top twelve forwards, in thirteenth and fourteenth place.

In the playoffs, the Maple Leafs used Kyle Clifford for only 25 seconds in Game 1 before he was ejected and subsequently suspended for one game for a major boarding penalty on Tampa Bay Lightning player Ross Colton. Clifford did not dress again for the remainder of the playoffs. 

Colin Blackwell Toronto Maple Leafs
Colin Blackwell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Wayne Simmonds played in two games with a total of 10:40 of ice time. Despite his lack of playing time, we will include him in the rankings for the playoffs, giving us 13 players to rank. 

In an attempt to keep this as concise as possible, we once again won’t show the actual stats for each of the six categories we are basing our rankings on. We will just show how each player ranked offensively, defensively, and then overall.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Forwards Ranked for Overall Play – 2021-22 Season

The six categories we’re going to base our rankings on are Shot-Attempts For and Against, Shots For and Against, Scoring-Chances For and Against, High-Danger Chances For and Against, Goals For and Against, and Expected-Goals For and Against, all for five-on-five play, per 60 minutes played. 

Overall Ranking Offense By Forwards Playoffs

Overall RankPlayerAverage Rank
#1Jason Spezza1.8
#2Auston Matthews2.3
#3Mitch Marner2.7
#4Michael Bunting3.7
#5Alex Kerfoot6.0
#6William Nylander6.8
#7Ondrej Kase7.2
#8Pierre Engvall8.3
#9David Kampf8.7
#10Colin Blackwell9.2
#11John Tavares9.7
#12Ilya Mikheyev10.5
#14Wayne Simmonds12.2

Overall Ranking Defense By Forwards Playoffs

Overall RankPlayerAverage Rank
#1Michael Bunting2.5
#2David Kampf3.0
#3Mitch Marner3.8
#4Auston Matthews4.0
#5William Nylander4.2
#6 TieJason Spezza7.0
#6 TieIlya Mikheyev7.0
#8Pierre Engvall7.7
#9John Tavares8.7
#10Ondrej Kase8.8
#11Alex Kerfoot9.0
#12Wayne Simmonds12.2
#13Colin Blackwell12.5

Overall Ranking Forwards Playoffs

Overall RankPlayerAverage Rank
#1Michael Bunting3.1
#2Auston Matthews3.2
#3Mitch Marner3.3
#4Jason Spezza4.4
#5William Nylander5.5
#6David Kampf7.4
#7Alex Kerfoot7.5
#8 TieOndrej Kase8.0
#8 TiePierre Engvall8.0
#10John Tavares8.7
#11Ilya Mikheyev8.8
#12Colin Blackwell10.9
#13Wayne Simmonds12.2

Observations and Conclusions about Maple Leafs Forwards

Michael Bunting

Using advanced statistics, the best Maple Leafs’ forward in the playoffs was Michael Bunting. We know that isn’t true, but these analytics do show that Bunting was a positive influence on the top line and could keep up with Matthews and Marner. Looking at the overall averaging ranking in the righthand column, all three players on that line were very close, only separated by a single decimal point.

Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

We repeat what we stated previously. Bunting gives the Maple Leafs fantastic value for his minimal salary-cap hit. The bad news is if he keeps this up next season they won’t be able to afford him on his next contract.

Auston Matthews

I don’t think we can possibly say much more about Auston Matthews. It might be better to just sit and watch him. We don’t think the Maple Leafs have ever had a player who can do the things that Matthews does

Related: Auston Matthews Is Better than Leon Draisaitl

Mitch Marner

Mitch Marner is not at the same level as Matthews. He’s not a generational player, and we could argue all day long about whether he is worth his big contract (yet). Still, there’s no denying he’s one of the best players on this team. 

Jason Spezza

We know that Spezza’s ice time was limited. He only played a little over 29 minutes at five-on-five in the playoffs and was a healthy scratch the first two games. When he did play, it was almost exclusively fourth-line minutes.  

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Still, looking at his numbers and how he ranked, it screams that he should have played more. His offensive stas were #1 on the team. His overall rank of fourth, and his average rank of 4.4 were excellent. 

William Nylander

Whether you go old school and see that Nylander had seven points in the seven games, or use the analytics to see he was the ranked fifth overall on the team, it shows that Nylander had a good playoffs. His average rank of 5.5 was much better than his average rank of 7.5 in the regular season. 

Related: Wayne Gretzky and a Season Like No Other

Part of Nylander’s higher ranking could be his usage. While he was on the second line throughout the regular season, he spent the majority of the postseason on the third line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall.  

Unlike the regular season where Nylander ranked fifth in offense but only 11th in defense, in the playoffs he ranked higher in the defensive stats (fifth) then he did in the offensive numbers (sixth)

David Kampf

David Kampf’s playoff rankings generally reflect his regular-season ranking. In the regular season, he was 12th in offense and third in defense. In the playoffs, he was ninth in offense and second in defense. With Kampf’s lack of offense he is never going to be more than a bottom-six player, but he is definitely a solid third-line center.

Alex Kerfoot

Alex Kerfoot was slightly better in the playoffs with an average ranking of 7.5 compared to 8.0 in the regular season. But, he’s still a top-six forward who is putting up bottom-six analytics. By the numbers, it appears the best spot for Kerfoot would be either centering the third line or as a winger on that line. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, they cannot afford to pay a third-line player $3.5 million.

Ondrej Kase

Ondrej Kase’s overall rank of eighth in the playoffs was much better than his rank of 11th in the regular season. But, that ranking was accomplished in a lesser role. In the regular season, Kase spent the majority of his time on the third line. 

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the playoffs, he was used exclusively on the fourth line, where it appears he is better suited. If the Maple Leafs do bring him back we feel it needs to be at or near the league minimum salary, with the plan to use him primarily on the fourth line. We don’t know if Kase would be happy with that role though.  

Pierre Engvall

Pierre Engvall’s overall rank dropped in the playoffs to eighth place from fifth in the regular season. By the numbers he was not as effective. He was still in the top nine though, which would place him on the third line, right where he was. 

John Tavares

John Tavares’ ranking in the playoffs also dropped, to 10th from eighth in the regular season. Part of that could be the fact that for the majority of the playoffs head coach Sheldon Keefe swapped out Tavares’ main right-winger, Nylander, for Mikheyev. Mikheyev did not put up nearly the numbers he did in the regular season.  Still, though, we feel that Tavares needs to be better. 

Ilya Mikheyev

As a third-line winger in the regular season, Mikheyev put up analytics that were so good he ultimately ranked second overall for Maple Leafs forwards in the regular season. He was rewarded for that by being moved up to the second line for the playoffs. Unfortunately, his numbers as a second-line winger in the playoffs suffered greatly, dropping him all the way to 11th. 

Wayne Simmonds and Colin Blackwell

After putting up poor numbers in the regular season, Wayne Simmonds only saw about ten and half minutes of ice time in two playoff games. His stats were not any better in those two games. Colin Blackwell played in all seven games in the playoffs but his statistics were not any better than Simmonds. 

Related: Canadiens Strike Gold With Hiring of Marie-Philip Poulin

If the Maple Leafs want to finally take the next step, especially in the playoffs, they need better results from their fourth-line players than either of these players showed this season. 

We have now covered our rankings for both the defense and forwards in the regular season and playoffs. All we have left to look at is the goaltenders. The interesting thing to note is that we rank the goalies using the same numbers we do for the skaters.   

[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.]