Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Nylander, Campbell, Kase & Ritchie

The Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Vegas Golden Knights tomorrow night on the second game of the team’s four-game road trip. They blew a 4-1 lead to lose 5-4 in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and left Denver with only a single point.

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The team is now preparing for its game against the Golden Knights, which is another team with 47 points – the same number of points the Maple Leafs have. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the player news emerging from the team. 

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By the way, the Maple Leafs’ 47 points have come in five fewer games. Over the season, Toronto has played 33 games while Vegas has played 38 games. It’s been a good season thus far for the Blue & White.  

Item One: William Nylander Is in the NHL’s Top-20 In Scoring

Although there were nine goals and a lot of points distributed between both teams during the Maple Leafs’ 5-4 loss to the Avalanche, William Nylander surprisingly didn’t register a point. As a result, his seven-game point-scoring streak came to an end on Saturday. Still, Nylander has been racking up points at a furious pace since the end of November. During his last 13 games, he’s scored eight goals and added 11 assists (for 19 points). 

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nylander’s 35 points are now second to Auston Matthews (who has 36 points) on the Maple Leafs’ scoring list. That point total puts him in a tie for 18th in the NHL. There’s no doubt this is the best season of Nylander’s career. Should he continue on this pace, he’ll easily shatter his NHL career-best of 61 points he scored in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.

Item Two: Can Jack Campbell Set the Maple Leafs’ Record for Wins During a Season?

Currently, Jack Campbell has recorded 17 wins on the season. If I guess correctly and if the Maple Leafs don’t revert to their original plan to split goalie starts more equitably this season after they signed Petr Mrazek in the offseason, Campbell might get as many as 40 more starts on the season. Currently, the Maple Leafs’ record for goalie wins in a single season is held by Frederik Andersen (2017-18) with 38 wins. Both Andrew Raycroft (2006-07) and Ed Belfour (2002-03) are tied for second with 37 wins. 

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If he gets anywhere close to those 40 more starts, there’s a good chance Campbell will surpass the franchise-best of 38 wins during a single season. Honestly, and I know I don’t hide the fact that I’m a huge Campbell fan, I’d love to see Campbell set the record. 

I have come to appreciate the total team player Campbell is. In my book, he’s the kind of player a team could and should be built around. Even with the five goals he gave up in Denver, he’s still tied for the NHL lead in save percentage at .936. And he’s still sitting at under 2.0 (1.99) with his goals against average. 

2021-22 Vezina Trophy Power Rankings Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tristan Jarry and JackCampbell
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tristan Jarry and JackCampbell (The Hockey Writers)

Campbell also has a good chance to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie. If he did, it would be the first time during the modern era that a Maple Leafs’ goalie did so.

Item Three: Ondrej Kase Might Be Getting Close to a Return to the Ice

The word late yesterday is that Ondrej Kase, who suffered an undisclosed injury in the gym, could be ready to practice with the Maple Leafs. (from “MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: Will reinforcements make it west for back-to-back games?,” Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 09/01/22).

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kase skated on his own Saturday but was not ready to play against the Avalanche. He’s missed the last two games and, given that Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall will be out for the remainder of the week, the Maple Leafs could use Kase back in their lineup Tuesday against the Golden Knights. Kase has eight goals and eight assists (for 16 points) in 28 games. He’s also an important player on the Maple Leafs’ special teams, especially their penalty kill.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs have three more road games left on this trip and are playing with a depleted lineup. It just doesn’t seem possible that, even if both Marner and Engvall are asymptomatic, they’ll be ready to play until at least the team gets to St. Louis to play the blues next Saturday night.

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Fortunately, no one picked up Nick Ritchie on waivers. He jumped into the play and scored his second goal of the season last Saturday. I’m sure he’s anxious to continue to play and to prove he belongs on the team.

One thing that’s obvious is that his teammates are rooting for him to be successful. That speaks both to his popularity in the locker room and to how tight this Maple Leafs’ team might be.

Both are good signs.