The Toronto Maple Leafs had an extremely eventful hundredth season which saw them make the playoffs and give the powerhouse Washington Capitals a scare. They would eventually bow out in six games, but not before learning some valuable lessons about what playoff hockey is all about.
The team’s focus will now shift to trying to improve the club. This can be done a number of ways including developing and drafting prospects, allowing their current players to gain valuable experience and scouting other teams in the event a trade arises.
Next season should be especially interesting, as the Maple Leafs will look to build on their success from 2016-17.
Leafs Rookie Duo of Nylander and Marner Gained Valuable Experience
After the Leafs were eliminated from the postseason, the call went out to players to see if any would be interested in representing their respective countries at the World Championships.
Nikita Zaitsev wasn’t cleared to play for Russia and while Auston Matthews was asked to play for the Americans, he instead was told by Leafs’ management to get some rest after a full and very chaotic season.
Two skaters who did opt to head to Europe were none other than William Nylander and Mitch Marner. The pair were integral to the Leafs’ success this season and clearly had a little more hockey in them to finish out the year.
It was an incredibly successful tournament for both youngsters and they ended up facing off against each other in the gold medal game. It took a shootout for the winner to be declared and Nylander and the Swedes got the last laugh and medal to match the colour of their jerseys.
I put all six of William Nylander's goals (so far) at #IIHFWorlds together because, well, I needed an excuse to watch them again. #Leafs pic.twitter.com/joeAAfQb5g
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) May 19, 2017
Nylander was the Swedish team’s best forward and amassed seven goals and 14 points in 10 games. Along with winning the gold, the young forward was also named the tournament’s most valuable player. Nylander joins some pretty elite company with the win, including the likes of Mats Sundin, Teemu Selanne, and Jaromir Jagr.
Marner, who took home a silver medal with the shootout loss, was also an impact player for Canada. He finished the tournament with 12 points in 10 games and was a key component on Canada’s top power play unit. He was also able to earn Player of the Game honours in the win over Finland.
Both Marner and Nylander will be using their experiences at the Worlds in order to help the Leafs in a successful upcoming NHL season.
Leafs Brass Scouting Defensemen?
Mike Babcock, the Leafs head coach and Lou Lamoriello, the team’s general manager are incredibly busy people. Both are smart hockey minds who are looking for an advantage to make the Leafs a more competitive team.
They were recently in Nashville, scouting the postseason game between the Anaheim Ducks and the aforementioned Predators. Both organizations have a wealth of defensemen and it’s a commonly accepted rumour that the Ducks would make excellent trading partners.
The Ducks have a bevy of strong defensemen that would make the Leafs a much better team. The most popular names include Josh Manson or Finnish defender, Sami Vatanen.
Manson is a physical beast, a player who isn’t afraid to throw his body around and is a reliable defensive presence. Vatanen is a smooth-skating defender who has some great offensive tools. Acquiring either one would help the Leafs blueline, but the price would be steep.
Have to believe if Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello are in Nashville it ain't for hanging out on Broadway. There must be defenceman in play.
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) May 19, 2017
The upcoming expansion draft could open up some interesting avenues for all teams involved and you get the feeling that one or more big time trades could be in the works for the near future.
The Leafs brass has also been hard at work adding potential help for their blueline. They recently looked to Sweden and signed the likes of Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman. Both will have a chance to make the Leafs’ roster this coming season.
It’s going to be an interesting summer for the Blue and White. This management team is among the smartest and most savvy the Leafs have ever had. If there’s a move to be made to improve the team, look for them to pull the trigger.