Toronto Maple Leafs: Thoughts On Rookies Since January 1st

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had an interesting 2017 so far, so here are some thoughts on the Leafs rookies since the clock struck January.

1) Only six players have more points than Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Mitch Marner since January 1st – not six rookies, six total NHL players.

The other three are Mark Scheifele, Alex Ovechkin and Brent Burns.

2) Sticking with Marner, if we’re looking not-so-long-term let’s talk about PyeongChang 2018. There are five players who Marner could easily replace on Team Canada, so long as the old boys club is willing to take the actual best players and not the perceived best players.

The five are: Claude Giroux, Logan Couture, Corey Perry, Joe Thornton and Matt Duchene. It’s the tougest team to make in the world, but only Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele probably deserve a spot more than Marner of players not named to Canada’s World cup roster.

3) Nikita Zaitsev is finding his offensive groove. After posting 17 points in 44 games (0.386 ppg), Zaitsev has seven in his last eight (0.875 ppg). Can he keep that pace up? Probably not since he isn’t Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson, but if we split the difference and end up at 0.6305 we still end up with a 51 point season over 82 games. Offensively, those are #1 defender numbers. His possession game still needs work, but it’s an ongoing transition.

4) I’ll just leave this here. Zach Hyman and Connor Brown each have 23 points on the season. Jimmy Vesey has 20 – and they’ve all played the same amount of games. Maybe it’s not strictly 2017, but still amusing.

5) Nikita Soshnikov might have three of his four total goals since the clock struck 2017, but he’s still not playing good hockey at 5v5. Tried hard is what you tell the kid who shouldn’t have made the team in PeeWee, not the reason you keep playing someone in the NHL.

6) Frederik Gauthier is running out of time. His stint with the Leafs didn’t go so well, and he’s likely not returning this season. That gives him one more year on his current ELC to give the Leafs a reason to offer him another. At his current rate of play, it’s not going to happen. He needs a huge finish to the season with the Marlies to gain some confidence in his 200 foot game.

7) William Nylander’s scoring is down from his pre-Jan 1st pace, but he’s been, maybe, the Leafs best possession player. Now, I say down, but it’s only a slight drop. He was at 0.71 before 2017 and has 0.65 since the new year started. A huge jump in his general 5v5 play is exactly what everyone wanted (read: needed) to bolster the consensus that he isn’t getting traded.

8) Finally, Auston Matthews. He’s still a Leaf, folks. It’s another great day.

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