The Toronto Maple Leafs made a number of trades this past offseason, which have yielded varying degrees of success. One such trade was the deal that sent Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen to the Colorado Avalanche for Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot.
Through 17 games, Kerfoot has been the Maple Leafs’ best acquisition. He is currently sitting in second place on the team in goals with five but he has been proving his worth with his consistency. Not only has he been Toronto’s best new player, but he has been one of the best forwards on the team, period.
From Add-On to Attraction
When the Maple Leafs acquired Barrie and Kerfoot from the Avalanche, it was no secret that Barrie was the centrepiece of the deal. A top right-handed defenceman was Toronto’s biggest need going into the offseason and it was addressed in this deal, although with mixed results so far this season. Many Maple Leafs fans likely heard Kerfoot’s name for the first time when the deal was announced.
For all intents and purposes, Kerfoot was expected to be a solid replacement for Kadri at centre. He was by no means the big get for the Leafs, but he is quickly rewriting that narrative.
Kadri had been one of the most productive Maple Leafs for a long time, highlighted by a pair of 32-goal seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Kerfoot was not expected to replace that level of production but if he maintains his current pace he should finish the season in the neighbourhood of 25 goals. This would be a career high for the Vancouver native and a tremendously pleasant surprise for the Maple Leafs.
Toronto has been off to a less than ideal start to their season. Key forwards such as Kasperi Kapanen and Mitch Marner have struggled to solidify their place in the Maple Leafs’ lineup as frustrations and sloppy play have limited their performances. Kerfoot has been one of a few Leafs who have stepped up during this time of struggle for the team.
He has quickly become a player that fans need to be aware of while he is on the ice.
His Strengths Make the Leafs Stronger
Kerfoot has shown that his game is based on speed and finesse. He has illustrated his ability to go from end to end and make highly skilled plays on a fairly regular basis. These qualities allow him to fit right in with the young and fast Maple Leafs team. His skillset complements the makeup of the team and vice versa.
Kerfoot notably created a play by stealing the puck in the neutral zone against the Los Angeles Kings before blowing past the opposition and scoring his fifth goal of the season. He fits in well with other highly skilled puck-movers on the team and has the ability to play both centre and wing, depending on Toronto’s needs.
Steven Stamkos once talked about how focusing on your strengths 80% of the time and your weaknesses 20% of the time leads to you being consistently above average. This motto can be used to describe the Maple Leafs’ offseason acquisitions over the last few seasons. Toronto has been known for their speed and offence since going through a scorched-earth rebuild in 2015-16. Each offseason the team has added offensive contributors to further solidify their position as a strong offensive team, and adding Kerfoot has been the latest example of that.
He has been taking too many penalties, as admitted by himself, but that should be a problem that is easily addressed. Taking penalties is most often a mental issue, usually due to a lack of discipline or a lapse of judgment. Within reason, it should be expected that upon acknowledging that he has been taking too many penalties, Kerfoot should make the effort to clean up his game.
He has spent time primarily on the third line this season. He has slid into the vacancy left by Kadri and has performed adequately. Because Toronto has had a number of injuries this season, Kerfoot’s role has varied. When John Tavares broke his finger, it forced Kerfoot to take on a larger role for the Maple Leafs.
Throughout his brief tenure as a Maple Leaf, Kerfoot has had many different linemates. They have ranged from Marner to Ilya Mikheyev. Whether his linemates have been a $10.8 million player or a rookie, Kerfoot has consistently produced stellar performances. If he continues his current pace, he could end up being one of the biggest steals the Maple Leafs have acquired in recent years.