The Toronto Maple Leafs will head into the Christmas break riding high. Their star rookies, which are led by the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, are carrying the team and consistently find themselves in the highlight reels.
Frederik Andersen, the former Anaheim Duck, has settled in and has been the model of consistency that the Leafs fans hoped he would be. Leafs fans will also be happy to note that the Centennial Classic against the Detroit Red Wings is on the horizon.
Leafs Rookies Are Shining Bright
The Maple Leafs are blessed to have an abundance of young up and coming talent all throughout their roster. There are names like Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Carrick, who have all been incredibly solid for the Leafs this year. Then there are the more recognizable names such as the aforementioned Matthews, Marner and Nylander.
Matthews is thriving under the added pressure that has been bestowed upon him by Mike Babcock. The big centre is doing everything right, from hitting the scoresheet to being a responsible defensive presence in his own zone. Marner continues to be a threat offensively and with his three point night against the Avalanche, he is now tied for the team lead in points at 26.
Goal droughts make you forget sometimes, but William Nylander is pretty, pretty good. Leafs up 4-1 thanks to this little deke. pic.twitter.com/tDSsFPySaL
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) December 24, 2016
Nylander has also been solid for stretches but has seen some time further down the lineup as well. Wherever he plays, his offensive instincts make him a threat to set up a teammate or score a goal himself. He has seven goals and 22 points which are good for fourth in team scoring.
Maple Leafs Prospects at the World Juniors
The annual IIHF World Juniors tournament, which will be held in Toronto and Montreal this season, is only a few short days away. The Maple Leafs will be sending a few representatives to the games this time around with goaltender, Joseph Woll and forward, Jeremy Bracco making the American team. Forward, Martins Dzierkals, will also play for Latvia and forward, Carl Grundstrom, was recently named an assistant captain for Sweden.
Jeremy Bracco and Joseph Woll make final roster for USA's World Juniors team. Bracco snubbed last year, now he'll compete in Toronto.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) December 24, 2016
Nikita Korostelev, a promising forward the Leafs drafted in 2015, was slated to play for Russia. However, in a surprise move, the Sarnia Sting forward was one of the last cuts.
The Maple Leafs do have a couple of eligible forwards that could be sent to play, but the chances of them releasing Matthews and Marner for the tournament is next to impossible.
Leafs Win Back-to-Back Games
For the first time this year, the Maple Leafs have won back-to-back games. The Leafs started by beating down the Colorado Avalanche to the tune of 6-0. They then proceeded to head to Arizona where they defeated the Coyotes 4-1. Frederik Andersen got the start for both games and was a force in net.
Frederik Andersen is now in the Top 15 for Save Percentage in the NHL with a .923%. Currently a 2.49 GAA. Record is 14-8-0-6. #Leafs
— Leafs Hub (@LeafsHub) December 24, 2016
The Leafs were able to win both of these games while playing on the road. They collected an extremely valuable four points, which they desperately needed to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot. Now that the Leafs have proven that they can indeed win these types of games, it will be interesting to see what Mike Babcock’s plan is for future situations.
The Leafs will now have a short holiday break followed by back to back games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. In the spirit of the holidays, the Leafs roster just keeps on giving. Sit back and enjoy the ride!