Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Kerfoot, Tavares & Mikheyev

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share recent news items about different players on the team. In this post, I’ll look at Auston Matthews’ great month of December. Second, I’ll look at John Tavares, who just celebrated playing his 900th NHL game.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Marner, Bunting & Mikheyev

Third, I’ll look at some of the contributions Alex Kerfoot has made to the Maple Leafs. Finally, I’ll look at Ilya Mikheyev’s second game of the season and wonder what his emergence might mean for Nick Ritchie’s tenure with the team.

Item One: Auston Matthews Kept Out of Practice

There’s been good news and bad news for Auston Matthews recently. Yesterday he was named as the NHL’s first star for the month of December. However, today it was announced that Matthews won’t take part in practice as a precaution.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This morning the Ottawa Senators added a few more players to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. Given that the two teams met on Saturday both Matthews and assistant coach Dean Chynoweth won’t be taking part during today’s practice. There’s no news whether there are test results that suggest either might be positive, so fans should simply read it as it was announced – a precaution.

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Getting back to Matthews’ good news, on Sunday the NHL’s Public Relations announced Matthews had been named the first star for the month of December. Ironically, it came the day after Matthews’ 10-game point-scoring streak was broken after the 6-0 win over the Senators. 

Obviously, the 10-game span where Matthews scored 13 goals and added five assists (for 18 points) was a big consideration in his honor. Matthews’ seven games prior to the Senators’ game were even more prolific. In those games, Matthews had scored 10 goals with four assists for a two-points-per-game average.

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Max Pacioretty from the Vegas Golden Knights was December’s second star and goalie Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks’ was third star. 

Item Two: Alex Kerfoot Broke Out of His Six-Game Point Drought

During the Senators’ game, Alex Kerfoot contributed three assists to the winning effort. He was also a plus-3 on the night. Kerfoot’s assists were on Ilya Mikheyev’s shorthanded goal, T.J. Brodie’s first of the season, and one of William Nylander’s two scores. 

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Those assists were good news for the 27-year-old Kerfoot who had come into the game trying to end a six-game point-scoring drought. On the season to date, Kerfoot has four goals and 15 assists (for 19 points) in 31 games. He also leads the team with a plus-16 rating.

Item Three: John Tavares Has Had a Great 900-Game NHL Career

John Tavares registered the primary assist on William Nylander’s third-period goal in Saturday’s game, but that wasn’t his most notable accomplishment. Congratulations go out to him for playing in his 900th NHL career game. 

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Although a number of Maple Leafs’ fans believe general manager Kyle Dubas’ signing of Tavares to his large contract has been bad for the team, few thoughtful fans have anything but praise for what Tavares has brought to the team since he’s come. He’s the captain and he’s been as consistently a solid player for the Maple Leafs as he’s been throughout his entire career. 

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In 900 regular-season games over his career, he’s registered 852 points (377 goals and 475 assists). This season, he’s scored 13 goals and added 20 assists (for 33 points) in the 30 games he’s played.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

After all the talk about Ilya Mikheyev not being able to hit the broad side of a barn with his shot, he scores two goals in his second game of the season. It will be interesting to see what becomes of him on the team, but the fact that head coach Sheldon Keefe played him on both the penalty kill – where he has to be great with David Kampf – and on the power-play units speaks highly of what the team thinks of his potential contributions.

Related: Maple Leafs Should Pursue Ilya Mikheyev Extension Now

I can’t wait to see how he plays over the next while. I just love the young Russian as a player. My admission is that Jason Spezza is my current favorite player, then Mikheyev. By the way, like all Maple Leafs’ fans, I also think Jack Campbell is an amazing player and person. 

It can’t be good news for Nick Ritchie if Mikheyev comes in and plays lights out. That will be an interesting issue for the Maple Leafs going forward. I’m anxious to see what happens next.