Maple Leafs’ Trevor Moore: Is He Ready For a Breakout Season?

Trevor Moore plays every shift like it might be his last, but with Zach Hyman still recovering from a knee injury and starting the season on injury reserve, there’s a good chance Moore’s last shift won’t be this season. If injuries take a toll on the Toronto Maple Leafs, he might even win a job in the team’s top-six forwards. How good would he look, for example, with John Tavares and Mitch Marner?

A perfect example of Moore’s style: During the playoffs, he simply refused to pick on someone his own size and threw a hit on Boston Bruins, 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara (who’s almost a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier). Chara was toppled, and the hit was perfectly executed.

Undrafted and Inexpensive

The Maple Leafs’ 24-year-old, left-winger is from Thousand Oaks, California. That, in itself, makes Moore unique. Although Auston Matthews was born in California, he was raised in Arizona. Two players from the southwest United States on one team is rare.

Moore’s size, or lack of it, is also notable. He’s 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds. You wouldn’t know that from his play; he plays much bigger.

Moore played college hockey at the University of Denver but signed with the Maple Leafs as an undrafted free agent on July 26, 2016. He joined the AHL’s Toronto Marlies Maple for the 2016-17 season and helped them win the team’s first Calder Cup in 2017-18.

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Moore’s contract is a bargain, with an average annual cap hit of $775,000, ($750,000 in 2019-20, $800,000 in 2020-21). He’s the kind of reasonable contract the Maple Leafs need to balance its upstairs/downstairs, Big-4 salary structure of Tavares, Matthews, Marner, and William Nylander, who make over $40 million of the team’s $81.5 million salary cap.

Moore’s Had to Fight for Space

Moore’s a determined young player. As one hockey commentator noted, he’s “fought for every second of ice time he could get in his three years with the Marlies, moving his way up the lineup from a scratch to a first liner who helped lead the team to a 2018 Calder Cup, just like he had done in every league he had played in growing up.”

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Trevor Moore and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Joe Hicketts
Toronto Maple Leafs left winger Trevor Moore and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Joe Hicketts. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Paul Sancya)

Those who have watched Moore rise up the ranks of the Marlies, know that he plays with a will to succeed. He scored 39 points in 46 games for the Marlies during the 2018-19 season and he’s been successful at every level he’s played. Last season, when he made the big team’s roster, he didn’t look out of place.

His Skills Fit the Maple Leafs Style

Knowing how the Maple Leafs operate and the kind of players general manager Kyle Dubas likes to pick up for the team, Moore fits perfectly. He’s fast enough to keep up with the other speedy, offensive players on the roster and that ability will give him a chance to create a role for himself.

This season, Moore will have to compete for significant ice time with Ilya Mikheyev who, as Matthews noted after a preseason game, plays a lot like Pavel Datsyuk. He’s also up against recent training-camp additions like Nick Shore, Jason Spezza, Nicolas Petan, and Kenny Agostino.

Toronto Maple Leafs Trevor Moore Par Lindholm
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Trevor Moore and Par Lindholm (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Even if he doesn’t find a regular role this season, Moore has the potential to be an impact player, but he must score regularly. He’s a spark plug who might just become a star. He’s in the position that Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson were at this same time last season, and look what happened to them.

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Given the sport’s physical nature, the hockey gods can raise their ugly heads at any time and injuries will happen. If it does, there’s a good chance Moore will fill in at any number positions on offense – from the first to fourth line. If he plays well enough, he could earn ice time to stay above the fourth line. If that happens, a 20-goal season is not out of his reach.

At the very least, Moore’s a replacement for Connor Brown on a much cheaper contract (by about $1.3 million), and his emergence on the scene last season helped make Brown expendable.

Moore Reminds Me of Tyler Bozak

There’s also some similarity between Moore and former Maple Leaf Tyler Bozak. Both are University of Denver alumni and they both wore number 42, although Moore might be a bit grittier and have more offensive skill.

Tyler Bozak Maple Leafs
Tyler Bozak, former Toronto Maple Leafs player, Dec. 12, 2017
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If I’m right, that isn’t such a bad thing for the Maple Leafs. Bozak played nine steady seasons with the Maple Leafs at a time when they weren’t the offensive powerhouse they are today, and he’s still going strong with the St. Louis Blues. If Moore can average close to the 42 points per season Bozak averaged with the team, he will add value to the roster.

Will Moore Make the Maple Leafs Roster?

There’s a good chance that Moore will make the final roster because I believe Dubas and Babcock realize he has too much potential value to risk trying to sneak him through waivers. If Kapanen doesn’t work out playing with Tavares and Marner, Moore might get a shot in Hyman’s place. However, he’ll probably – at least for the start of the season – settle into a third or fourth-line role.

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Moore might not score 20 goals this season, but he’s a blue-collar kid who comes to work every game. With that combination of work ethic, speed, and the willingness to play both ends of the ice, with or without the puck, he has a chance to become a Babcock favorite.

If he can score at all, which he’s had success doing with the Marlies, he’ll get more and more ice time. And, that could mean Maple Leafs fans will be watching a player with potential emerge into a star. It wouldn’t be the first time for this Maple Leafs team.