The Toronto Maple Leafs will be celebrating a huge milestone for the 2016-17 season. It’s the club’s 100th campaign, and the organization has a ton of plans, both on and off the ice. The Maple Leafs will be hosting the 2016 Centennial Classic, an outdoor game that will take place Jan. 1 at BMO Field. The Leafs will host the rival Detroit Red Wings.
The Buds will be adding a few more names to Legends Row. Turk Broda, Tim Horton and Dave Keon will join the likes of Ted Kennedy, Borje Salming, Mats Sundin and more. The banners hanging high in the Air Canada Centre will also be replaced and revamped in honour of the momentous season.
— SV Crew (@sfc37) June 13, 2016
The Maple Leafs will also unveil an official list of the 100 greatest Maple Leafs to play for the team in their first 100 seasons. It’s going to be an exciting season, and most of those events are off the ice.
What to Expect from the Young Guns?
The Maple Leafs finished last season with a plethora of rookies up with the big club. Many were extremely impressive, including William Nylander, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov. Nylander has the best chance of sticking out of the gate, especially because of his play last year. The young Swede finished last season with six goals and 13 points in 22 NHL games.
He’ll be joined by Auston Matthews, the most recent first overall pick. The big American centre is looking to impress in his first year in the NHL, and make no mistake, all eyes will be on him and his play. Matthews is in a good position to succeed. Head coach Mike Babcock will help guide him in the same way he did with the Maple Leafs’ other young prospects.
Matthews also has a year of pro hockey already under his belt. He spent his draft year playing for Zurich SC, a team in the Swiss-A league. He scored 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games, which is extremely impressive for such a young player.
The wild card of the Maple Leafs’ young core of forwards will be Mitch Marner, who was a stud for the London Knights this past season. After winning just about everything in the OHL this past year, Marner is looking to stick with the big club full time in 2016-17.
The highly skilled forward is one of the brightest spots in the Leafs’ prospect pool and would form an exciting trio with the aforementioned Nylander and Matthews.
I personally believe all three will stick with the Maple Leafs full time this season. I’m also of the opinion that Mitch Marner will put his abilities on display and really open some eyes this coming year. If Marner is able to play a complete season, winning the Calder may not be a far-off possibility.
Where Will the Maple Leafs Finish?
The Maple Leafs finished last season in 30th place, which is last in the league. That helped them secure the best chances of drafting Matthews, which is exactly what happened. The previous season the finished 27th, which awarded them the fourth overall pick. That resulted in Marner.
And in the 2013-14 campaign, the Buds took 22nd place. That was the draft that netted them Nylander. The Maple Leafs will be more competitive this coming season. They have some excellent young talent, newly signed forwards and defensemen, and a brand new goalie between the pipes. Babcock has a season under his belt with this club already, and the team has already bought into his system.
— SHL Prospect GIFS (@SHLProspectGIFS) March 3, 2016
Despite good stretches of play, the Maple Leafs should still finish near the bottom of the standings. The rebuild will continue and they will add a stud defenseman to their blue line with the addition of Timothy Liljegren. The steady Swede is currently playing for Rogle. He’s been described as a complete defenseman who can control play both offensively and defensively.
He is also a great skater with outstanding feel and hockey sense. Adding Liljegren into the stable of Maple Leafs prospects would position the franchise extremely well for the coming years.