It’s possible there will be five Toronto Maple Leafs All-Stars at the game in San Jose on January 26th. But it’s not very likely due to the mandate that each NHL team has a representative. If the All-Star game really picked the players who until this point in the season were the best, the Maple Leafs would be sending five.
Possible Toronto Maple Leafs All-Stars
The Maple Leafs have three forwards, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares in the league’s top-25 point per game producers. And they have the only defenseman in that group with Morgan Rielly. No other team has even three players in the top-25, whereas the Maple Leafs have four. On top of those four, Frederik Andersen leads the Eastern Conference with 20 wins. That’s four more wins than Sergei Bobrovsky, who is second in the conference.
Matthews has already been chosen to be the Atlantic Division’s captain. He’s is fifth in the league in points per game with 1.46. He’s just a hair behind the NHL’s leading goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, in goals per game at .792 to Ovechkin’s .806. Ovechkin was named the captain of the Metropolitan Division.
Matthews was voted in by the fans as captain. Nikita Kucherov may have been more worthy though. Kucherov leads the NHL in points per game at 1.61, and he leads the league in points with 61. Matthews is the only lock from Toronto to be making his way to San Jose. But at least one more player will join him, probably two.
Marner is fifth in league scoring with 53 points, first on the Maple Leafs and he’s seventh in points per game at 1.39. He has been the Maple Leafs best skater on most nights. And he’s helped Tavares set a goal scoring pace that would see him hit 56 goals if it keeps up. That’s 18 goals better than his best season. Other than Kucherov and Matthews, Marner has been the most capable offensive player in the Atlantic Division. There’s even a debate as to who is the better player for the Maple Leafs, Marner or Matthews. Although it’s still Matthews until Marner can score goals like Matthews can. Marner is very likely packing his bags along with Matthews.
Tavares is second in the NHL with 26 goals. He’s only three behind the NHL’s leader, Ovechkin who has 29. He’s 22nd in points per game with 1.16. Tavares is having a career year and he’s been to the All-Star Game five times already. On just about any other team, Tavares would be assured a spot on the All-Star roster, but since the Maple Leafs already have two forwards attending the game, assuming Marner is selected, there’s a very likely chance Tavares will be sitting out this year in favour of someone like Dylan Larkin or Gustav Nyquist so the Detroit Red Wings have someone attending.
Rielly has already set a career best in goals with 13 and with 44 points, he’s only eight points off his career-best points total. That’s with 44 games left to play. He’s 22nd in points per game with Tavares at 1.16. Rielly leads all defensemen in the NHL in points, goals, points per game. He’s also tied for first in the league in assists and game-winning goals. As a top candidate for the Norris trophy, Rielly should be the third member of the Maple Leafs to attend this year’s All-Star Game.
Andersen is seventh in the league in save percentage at .923 for goalies that have played at least 15 games. But he’s third in the Atlantic division behind Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jaroslav Halak. But he’s close to those two and beating them both in wins by a fair margin. In fairness to Vasilevskiy and Halak, they’ve both played far fewer games than Andersen.
Andersen may be the Maple Leafs MVP. Toronto is 23rd in shots against and Andersen is able to give the Maple Leafs a chance to win every night. But the All-Star Game isn’t a game of most valuable players. If the Maple Leafs didn’t have such prolific scoring, Andersen could be the one that represents the Maple Leafs. But it’s easy to see the team’s goaltender get overlooked with Matthews, Marner, and Rielly all impressing with their offence. Especially when he doesn’t have the best statistics in the division.
If it were up to Rielly, Andersen would be representing the Maple Leafs in San Jose.
“Our goalie. Freddy, for sure. No question.” Morgan Rielly on which Maple Leaf should attend the All-Star Game.
The Three Amigos
It should be Matthews, Marner, and Rielly going to the All-Star Game. Tavares and Andersen have good cases to attend, but they’ll likely be left out to make room for players from the other teams in the Atlantic Division. There are many deserving players in the Atlantic to fill the spots. It’s in no way a snub to Tavares and Andersen if they stay home. Instead, it’s a testament to the quality of players Toronto has brought into the organization over the years. It’s also another indication of just how difficult the Atlantic Division is to play in.
While he’s not in consideration for the All-Star Game this year, William Nylander is destined to be in the conversation in future years. That is if he can regain his scoring touch. In the ten games since his return to the lineup, he has two assists and zero goals. The Willy Watch has turned from when will he sign to when will he score.
It’s not unexpected that he would struggle in his return. He missed training camp and 28 games. It’s going to take some time to shake the rust off. He’s looked better of late and it’s only a matter of time till he starts finding the back of the net and gets promoted to Matthews’ wing. Nothing to worry about here.
While all eyes are on Nylander’s goal totals, his defensive numbers are looking good playing alongside Nazem Kadri. Nylander has a Corsi-For of 55.9 percent and a relative Corsi-For of +3.7. That’s good news. While he waits to regain his timing and confidence, he’s still contributing to the defensive side of the game. Or at the very least, he’s not a liability. As Mike Babcock likes to say, do good things and good things will happen. It’s just a matter of time.
Main Photo: DETROIT, MI – APRIL 01: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs prepares for a first period face off while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on April 1, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)