The NHL season is almost upon us! With the football season under way and the MLB playoffs beginning tonight, that means it is also time for some hockey! Last season, we saw young players such as Connor McDavid and Sergei Bobrovksy blossom at the NHL level. We also witnessed the Penguins second straight championship run. But who will be the talk of the league this season?
Looking into the Eastern Conference, we visit the Atlantic Division. Last season, the Canadiens took home the division crown, but ended up losing in the first round. Another team who lost in the first round, who also made the playoffs, is a very intriguing one.
THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The Maple Leafs finished 4th in their division last season, and earned the last playoff spot, though falling to the Capitals in the first round. It has been 50 years since Toronto has lifted the Stanley Cup. It has been a rough going for Toronto fans over the years. I can tell you, Maple Leafs fans have reasons to be excited this season.
The Maple Leafs feature one of the brightest young stars in hockey, Auston Matthews. This team also has a great supporting cast along with Matthews, such as Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner. The team also features defender Jake Gardiner, and the outstanding goalie, Frederik Andersen. And there is one thing all those players I listed have in common, consistency and contributers. Offense, defense or even both, these players play at an elite level that shouldn’t be ignored. Especially in playoff play.
Toronto kicked off their off-season by re-signing backup goalie Curtis McElhinney. The team also brought in new faces as well, signing numerous veterans, such as defender Ron Hainsey, center Dominic Moore and long time left wing Patrick Marleau. Marleau is entering his 20th season in the National Hockey League. These veterans may not be big household names, but they will contribute to the team and give veteran leadership to the plethora of young talent that the Leafs have.
The Maple Leafs also extended one of those young players, center Zach Hyman. Hyman was extended to a 4 year deal. Hyman hasn’t yet solidified himself into the NHL, but remember the fact that he was extended for 4 years. This makes you think there is much improved play coming ahead for the young center.
The Maple Leafs feature so much consistency, and an almost perfect mix of young talent and energy, with the veterans who will look to add a Stanley Cup to their resume. No, the Maple Leaves, don’t have McDavid or Crosby, but they do have a stud, named Matthews, who could deliver yet another 40 goal season, and maybe even more.
The depth of this team will be a big factor this season, with the 2nd and even 3rd lines looking stronger than most teams starters and 2nd lines, and with the addition of the new veterans, this team is looking at accomplishing something that hasn’t been done in Toronto in half a century.