30 games into the 2018-2019 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are fighting for a chance to contend for the cup once more. Currently, the Leafs are 20-9-1 and 2nd place in the Atlantic division after the Tampa Bay Lightning. So far their season has been on the rocks with Nylander’s contract signing being drawn out till the last day but there has been an extra push by some to keep the Leaf’s heads above water. Now let’s back track to this summer.
July 1st, free agency day, is a stressful time for all NHL fans. Computer constantly refreshing twitter and NHL.com, seeing which players are signing where, and this year all eyes were turned to the New York Islanders. Their captain John Tavares was up for free agency and there was no word on where he was signing. Until finally, the announcement came that Tavares would be signing a 7 year deal with $11 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leafs fans everywhere rejoiced. Tavares, in the 669 games he played as a Islander, scored 272 goals and picked up 349 assists. Per game, Tavares averaged 20 minutes on the ice and is an offensive force to be reckoned with, as the Leafs has seen so far this season.
Tavares’ signing wasn’t the only major signing on fans’ minds this summer. It was a long, dry summer as fans awaited any news about the resigning of star centre William Nylander. Nylander was drafted 8th overall by the Maple Leafs, way back in 2014 and has been nothing but hungry to deliver. Nylander is an influential player. He’s a speedy skater, has soft hands, and racks in shots of net, left and right. Nylander was dearly missed during the beginning of the season. Nylander didn’t sign his contract until December 1st and if he did not sign it then, he would forfeit the rest of the NHL season.
Now let’s get back to the Leafs current play.
So 30 games into the season, a 20-9-1 record, is a terrific start for this team. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Auston Matthews was out a month with a shoulder injury. In that time the Leafs went 11-5, keeping their head above water thanks to players like Mitch Marner and Kasperi Kapanen. Recently, Zach Hyman was suspended for a hit against Boston’s Charlie McAvoy, and will remain out for 2 games. Hyman has 15 points this season and a whopping 36 minutes in penalties.
Mitch Marner has 40 points in 30 games so far this season, the bulk of them are from his 34 assists. Marner is a presence on the ice, taking up space and being an overall pest in order to get his team a point. Marner plays on a line, most of the time, with John Tavares and most of his assists come off Tavares’ goals (12 to be exact).
Kasperi Kapanen has been another important Leaf this season. Last season, Kapanen only appeared in 38 games with the Leafs, snagging 7 goals and 2 assists, ending with a -1 rating. This season and only 30 games in, he’s picked up 11 goals, 10 assists, and a +16 rating. Kapanen is off to the races and if he stays healthy, it’ll be a sight to see. Kapanen is a talented winger and a speedster at that.
(Insert his goal against Chicago but as a Chicagoan I don’t have the heart to do it)
Today, the Leafs have been busy. Calle Rosen, a defenseman, signed a two-year contract extension with the Leafs while he’s playing for the Marlies, Toronto’s AHL team. Rosen is a two-way player who has definitely proved his worth to the Leaf’s organization.
Another move has been the trade for Adam Cracknell for Steve Olesky, of the Anaheim Ducks. Olesky is a seasoned defenseman who has served his time on different teams, most recently the San Diego Gulls. So far this season, Olesky had 2 assists in his 15 games with the Gulls.
The Maple Leafs are looking to add another W to catch up with Tampa Bay in tonight’s game. The Maple Leafs will be taking on the Carolina Hurricanes starting at 7 P.M. CT.
Featured Image: Sports Illustrated