It’s a new year for the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is an electricity in the air regarding the boys in Blue and White. It doesn’t take long to pinpoint the source of the immense excitement.
For the first time in many seasons, the Maple Leafs have a number one goaltender in Frederik Andersen. Although he has yet to play a game, he is the undisputed man between the pipes. Morgan Rielly, who played huge minutes for Team North America during the World Cup, is back to anchor the blueline.
The most exciting part of the preseason so far surrounds three young and exceptionally talented forwards: William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are the future of the Maple Leafs. Nylander and Matthews will definitely be on the opening night roster. Marner is attempting to crack the squad and is well on his way based on his preseason play thus far.
Hockey runs in the blood of the Nylander family. His father Michael was a very talented NHL player for many seasons. William’s younger brother Alex was also recently drafted by the Buffalo Sabres.
Nylander was able to make his Leafs debut last season as part of the burgeoning youth movement. He played in 22 games and collected six goals and 13 points.
He has fantastic vision and speed whenever he’s out on the ice. He’s an excellent passer with the ability to find his linemates with spectacular feeds. He’s slated to start the year on a line with Matthews, which has the potential to be one of the Leafs’ best.
One of the most exciting prospects in the pipeline, Marner is looking to make an impact and make the Leafs’ opening night roster. The Richmond Hill-native was drafted fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. A highly skilled young player, Marner ripped up the Ontario Hockey League last season.
He had 116 points in 57 regular season games and added another 44 points in 18 playoff games. For his efforts over the season, Marner earned a plethora of awards including CHL Player of Year, the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy and the Memorial Cup.
Underrated part of that that overtime: This sequence by Mitch Marner. pic.twitter.com/xHpWg6gf8b
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 3, 2016
Marner has looked great so far in preseason games. He’s collected a handful of assists and has been able to play effectively in all zones. He has had a few giveaways, but a player of Marner’s calibre generates chances almost every time he’s on the ice; making the risks acceptable.
He’s also a rookie and it’s important to remember that there are going to be some growing pains. With Marner though, the benefits far outweigh the risks of having him in the lineup.
The most recent first overall pick has done nothing but impress since he was drafted. He represented Team North America at the World Cup and put on a fantastic performance playing alongside Connor McDavid.
Matthews saw his first taste of preseason action Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens. While he didn’t hit the scoresheet, he did all the little things right including generating some chances and controlling parts of the play with relative ease.
— Dhiren Mahiban (@dcmahiban) October 3, 2016
Having the experience of playing at the World Cup can only benefit Matthews and his development with the Maple Leafs this season. It was also a special treat for fans to see Nylander, Marner and Matthews in the lineup at the same time.
All three will have a huge part to play this season and for the future so it’s imperative that they get some time together to develop their chemistry.