Maple Leafs’ Kerfoot: What Should Fans Know?

Of all the new players the Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired over the last week, I’m most intrigued by Alexander Kerfoot. In truth, I knew very little about him before he was included as part of the trade between the Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche. Furthermore, as a hockey card collector, I’m sure I don’t even have a single card of him.

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So, who is he? And, what might Maple Leafs fans expect from him during the season?

Who Is Alexander Kerfoot?

What we know by reading his background is that Kerfoot is a center, who’ll be 25 years old on Aug. 11, and who was born in Vancouver. He was drafted in Round No. 5 of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (150th overall) by the New Jersey Devils, but he didn’t sign with them. He’s on the smaller side, at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, and his first season with the Maple Leafs will be his third season overall.

Martin Jones, Alexander Kerfoot
San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones blocks a shot by former Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Kerfoot isn’t a household name, and he might be new to Maple Leafs fans. Although Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said much about Tyson Barrie (the right-shot defenseman who came to the Maple Leafs for Nazem Kadri), he revealed little about Kerfoot, only saying: “We would like to thank Alexander for his two seasons, as he helped our turnaround in making the playoffs the last two years.” Really, that doesn’t say much. Obviously, Barrie was the focus of the trade for both the Maple Leafs and the Avalanche.

Kerfoot’s Time at Harvard

Before joining the Avalanche, Kerfoot played two seasons with the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League, then went to Harvard University and played four seasons with the NCAA’s Harvard Crimson. He was the team’s co-captain during his senior year and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2016-17. He also earned NCAA (East) Second Team All-American, ECAC Hockey First Team, All-Ivy League First Team, and New England D-I All-Star recognition.

Perhaps more importantly, he also helped his team win the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship. It was the first NCAA Frozen Four for the Crimson since the year Kerfoot was born (1994). In 121 career NCAA games, he recorded 123 points (36 goals and 87 assists).

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During a 2017 interview with the Colorado Avalanche, he was asked about his time at Harvard. He noted,

“It was great. I really don’t have anything but good things to say about Harvard, the school and the hockey program there. If I had any advice to give to anyone going to school right now, going through that process, I would tell them to go there. They’re competing nationally year-to-year right now. They have great facilities, great program, great coaches and on top of that you are getting the education at Harvard. So, it’s pretty special.”

Colorado Avalanche Alexander Kerfoot and Florida Panthers Aaron Ekblad
Former Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot and Florida Panthers
defenseman Aaron Ekblad (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Kerfoot outlined his biggest takeaway from his college experience. “Honestly, I would say it’s away from the rink. Just the people that you meet there. It’s a pretty special place to go to school. Just talking to people in classes, there are a lot of special people and really intelligent people that go to that school.”

Drafted, but Not Signed by the New Jersey Devils

Interestingly, although he was drafted by the Devils, Kerfoot exercised his right not to sign with them and returned to Harvard to complete his degree. As a result, he became a free agent and was free to sign anywhere he chose. Obviously, he chose the Avalanche and played two seasons with them, scoring 43 points in 79 games during the 2017-18 season and 42 points in 78 games in 2018-19. He scored five points in 18 career playoff games.

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Before he signed with the Avalanche, people expected Kerfoot to return home to Vancouver and sign with the Canucks. However, although he was from North Vancouver and his father Greg is a majority owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, at the time the Canucks were loaded at center and it looked as if he would head to the Utica Comets, so he looked for other options. The Avalanche were interested.

Other Interesting Things About Kerfoot

During a 2017 interview with Kerfoot, he was asked about his life outside of hockey. He noted that his favorite music was country. If he weren’t an NHL player, he’d probably be doing something with his business degree from Harvard. And his all-time favorite movie was Wedding Crashers. He likes comedy.

Colorado Avalanche Alexander Kerfoot and San Jose Sharks Joonas Donskoi
Former Colorado Avalanche Alexander Kerfoot and former San Jose Shark Joonas Donskoi
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Kerfoot on the Ice

Kerfoot’s a skilled forward who’s crafty with the puck and has “elite processing abilities” (which means he’s intelligent, something one might expect of a Harvard grad), with terrific vision. He doesn’t have blistering speed, but he’s elusive, shifty, and slips around defenders.

Related: Was It Time for the Maple Leafs to Trade Nazem Kadri?

Barrie, who was traded with Kerfoot, was effusive about his teammate. “He’s a great kid, smart kid, and he’s a tremendous playmaker.” He added, “I think you guys are really going to love him. I was really happy to see him come with me. He’s going to be a good player in this league for a lot of years.”

Not stopping there, Barrie added, “He’s got some of the best vision I’ve ever played with, so he’s a sneaky player.”

The numbers suggest potential growth for this young, third-year player. Kerfoot had 34 goals and 85 points in his first two NHL seasons, and he’s good at both ends of the ice. He’s great in the faceoff circle (ranking 12th in the NHL at 56 percent, among players who took over 400 draws during the 2018-19 season).

Finally, he’s a strong defensive player. Perhaps the Maple Leafs have a future Selke Trophy winner (the annual award given to the NHL forward who demonstrates the most defensive skill). Maybe Kerfoot can turn the third line into a true shutdown line.

What Maple Leafs Fans Might Look Forward To

In Kerfoot, the Maple Leafs have acquired a young forward with offensive potential, but who’s already adept on the defensive end. Kerfoot has the reputation of being intelligent with great vision and is a player who makes everyone he plays with better.

I believe general manager Kyle Dubas made an astute trade. He traded third-line center Kadri almost straight-up for top-pair, right-shot, puck-moving defenseman Barrie, got the Avalanche to pay half of Barrie’s salary, and got Kerfoot as a throw-in.

When Kadri left the team, he was in his prime; when Kerfoot begins next season he’ll only be starting to reach his prime. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, Kadri’s first seasons with the Maple Leafs, he scored only eight goals. Prior to Kerfoot’s third season, he’s already scored 34.

Related: Avalanche RFA Alexander Kerfoot Is a Valuable Player

Obviously, the circumstances were different. Kadri grew up playing for the Maple Leafs while Kerfoot grew up playing at Harvard and was nicely seasoned when he began his NHL career.

That said, expect Kerfoot to improve this season. I, for one, can’t wait to see how he performs with the elite forwards the Maple Leafs can ice. One thing I’ll wager: Kerfoot won’t get suspended during the playoffs.