Anaheim DucksArizona CoyotesBoston BruinsBuffalo SabresCalgary FlamesCarolina HurricanesChicago BlackhawksColorado AvalancheColumbus Blue JacketsDallas StarsDetroit Red WingsEdmonton OilersFlorida PanthersLos Angeles KingsMinnesota WildMontréal CanadiensNashville PredatorsNew Jersey DevilsNew York IslandersNew York RangersOttawa SenatorsPhiladelphia FlyersPittsburgh PenguinsSt Louis BluesSan Jose SharksSeattle KrakenTampa Bay LightningToronto Maple LeafsVancouver CanucksVegas Golden KnightsWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets

MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – Team Preview – Player Profiles

Review: With a 50-21-11 record, the Maple Leafs earned 111 points in 2022-2023, the second-highest point total, and fourth highest points percentage in franchise history. Although Toronto was mediocre in terms of shot attempts, ranking 12th with 52.2% score-and-venue-adjusted Corsi, they did manage to have strong shot quality results, ranking sixth with 54.3% of expected goals. Toronto ranked 11th with 3.40 goals per game, and for a team that gets criticized frequently for their defensive play, the Leafs finished fifth with 2.71 goals against per game. They also won a playoff series for the first time since 2003-2004 but losing in five games to Florida in the second round put a quick halt to any optimism generated by Toronto’s first-round victory over Tampa Bay. The Leafs have been a strong team, legitimate contenders, but their lack of postseason success looms over everything, and it will be that way until they start delivering results.

What’s Changed? The Maple Leafs replaced GM Kyle Dubas with Brad Treliving, previously of the Calgary Flames, and the Leafs did complete some tidy business in free agency, getting Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Dylan Gambrell, and enforcer Ryan Reaves up front. They took a chance on veteran defenseman John Klingberg, whose defensive play has been plummeting in recent seasons, but has plenty of experience as a puck-moving blueliner who can quarterback a power play. There is obviously a focus on the Maple Leafs adding grit with Reaves, Bertuzzi, and Domi, though the potential offensive impact of Bertuzzi, Domi, and Klingberg, may be more valuable.

What would success look like? After so many years of losing in the first round, or not making the playoffs at all, the Maple Leafs have reached a point at which winning a playoff round is the minimum and for the season to be considered a success, that will likely require winning at least two rounds, some kind of postseason achievement that goes beyond their frequent disappointments. The good news for the Leafs is that they have the horses to do it. Whether they advance or not, there is little doubt that Toronto has enough talent to achieve more, but until they actually do it, questions will linger.

What could go wrong? It is possible that the Maple Leafs could have a great regular season, playing at an elite level, and they could still get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. That’s easy enough to imagine. If things were to really go wrong for Toronto, it would probably mean a long-term injury to Auston Matthews. It’s not as if the Leafs don’t have other valuable players, but Matthews is the premier goal-scorer that is most difficult to replace. Toronto has enough depth that it can handle some injuries, but if the injuries involve more than one of The Core Four, that could make it more difficult for Toronto to remain a playoff team.

Top Breakout Candidate: On a veteran-laden Maple Leafs team, rookie winger Matthew Knies is the player most likely to have a breakout season. Knies flashed exciting potential in his first taste of NHL action last season, with one assist in three regular-season games before adding four points in seven playoff games. He is a winger with good size and can be a real handful for opposing defenders when he is working down low in the offensive zone or along the boards. Knies may be ticketed for the third line to start the season but has the potential to fill a spot in the top six and if he does that, the rookie could have an instant impact.


Auston Matthews

After becoming the first player to score 60 goals in a season in the prior 10 seasons during the 2021-22 season, Auston Matthews took a step back in 2022-23. He only managed 40 goals in 74 games this time while recording one fewer assist at 45. Perhaps, one could consider this a floor for the 26-year-old veteran. As he enters his eighth season, last season’s 12.2% shooting percentage is by far his career low. If he had shot his career average of 15.7% last season, he would have scored 51 goals on his 327 shots. While his shooting percentage may fluctuate, he has ranked no lower than sixth in the NHL in shots on goal per 60 among regular skaters over the last three seasons. Moreover, regression to the mean should not be the only thing driving a bounce-back year for Auston Matthews, as the addition of Tyler Bertuzzi in place of Michael Bunting offers Matthews another elite playmaker as a potential linemate at even strength, and a contributor on the powerplay. Matthews is entering the 2023-24 season with 299 regular season goals, and he does not want it to end with fewer than 350.

Mitchell Marner

Mitch Marner ended his seventh NHL season just one point shy of 100 – a feat he has not accomplished yet in his career thus far. The 26-year-old started his career exclusively known for his playmaking abilities. His shot was seen as weak, although his selection of shots brought him up to a respectable shooting percentage. In the 2021-22 season, Marner jumped to a 35-goal season, converting 15.6% of his shots on goal. Marner followed that up with another 30-goal season with a shooting percentage of 15.3%. This additional threat to opponents that Marner has crafted has brought his game to another level, securing his spot as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game. It may have also contributed to Toronto’s ability to split the duo up at times. In the 2021 shortened season, Marner spent 84.7% of his 5-on-5 minutes with Matthews. Last season, he spent only 47.3% of his full-strength time with Auston Matthews, spending slightly more time with John Tavares and a combination of wingers. The defensive side of Marner’s game is also well-crafted, enabling Sheldon Keefe and the Maple Leafs coaching staff to use him on the penalty kill as well. He has been on the ice for 44.0% of the Maple Leafs shorthanded time over the last four seasons in games that he has played. The 2023-24 season could be the year Marner surpasses 100 points.

William Nylander

The 2022-23 season featured 19 players with 40 or more goals, and William Nylander was one of them. His 40 goals and 47 assists were career-highs, and his 82 games played was his second complete season of his career. While much of the narrative surrounding Nylander is that he is inconsistent, that only applies to his defensive effort and attention to detail. He has recorded around a point-per-game since seeing an increase in his powerplay usage in the 2021-22 season. He has also been a healthy player most of his career, missing the most time in the 2018-19 season where he held out from signing an extension until December. While his lack of injury history and consistent dual-threat offensive production should make projecting Nylander’s 2023-24 season rather easy, the addition of Tyler Bertuzzi could threaten his powerplay time and therefore his production. A demotion to the second powerplay unit would likely cost around 0.2 points per game. With Nylander’s contract expiring after this season, and with the Maple Leafs intending to re-sign him to an affordable price before he goes to unrestricted free agency, a tie for the first unit time probably goes to someone else.

John Tavares 

John Tavares ended the 2022-23 regular season with 36 goals and 44 assists – the first time he cleared the 30-goal mark since his first season as a Maple Leaf in 2018-19. In a saturated Toronto market, the Maple Leafs captain is due to receive scrutiny. However, that scrutiny generally revolves around the comparison of how much he is paid relative to the value he provides on the ice. He ranked 30th in points last season, and 42nd the season prior, reflecting a player that is still very good. When the 2023-24 season gets underway, Tavares will be 33 years of age. The forward-thinking Maple Leafs have already begun reducing his time-on-ice over the years. Last season, he played 1.8 fewer minutes per game in all situations, and 2.1 fewer minutes per game at 5-on-5 than he did in the shortened 2019-20 season. The risk to his ice time being cut much further is the latest addition in Toronto of Tyler Bertuzzi. The Maple Leafs coaching staff may conclude that Bertuzzi is the better option at the front of the net on the first powerplay unit, forcing Tavares to win a spot at the bumper or move to the second unit. While it may be best for the team, a demotion off the first powerplay unit would hurt Tavares’ individual stats dramatically.

Tyler Bertuzzi

Tyler Bertuzzi likely entered his contract year in Detroit knowing it would be his last there. He would also miss two of his last five months with the Red Wings out with upper body injuries, the latest being a wrist injury in December. On March 2, Bertuzzi was sent to Boston to chase a Cup with the Boston Bruins. There, he would find success with David Pastrnak. His playmaking abilities from all areas of the offensive zone at even strength and on the powerplay made a dangerous Bruins offense even more dangerous. Bertuzzi was able to score four goals and 12 assists in 21 games with the Bruins as opposed to his four goals and 10 assists in 29 games with the Red Wings. With the lethal shooters that the Maple Leafs have, Bertuzzi’s gritty playmaking style will fit right in. He could be a reasonable option for the first powerplay unit, as the Bruins saw with Jake DeBrusk out of their lineup. The question surrounding Bertuzzi is how much his shooting percentage will rebound. Bertuzzi converted over 16% of his shots on goal in each season from 2018-19 thru 2021. Last season he shot only 7.5% and suffered a wrist injury. If his recent wrist injury has hampered his shooting form, the Leafs did not sign the 30-goal scorer from the 2021-22 season, but a much lesser version of Tyler Bertuzzi.

Max Domi 

Following the 2019-20 season, Max Domi left Montreal for a two-year contract in Columbus. Despite the Blue Jackets team lacking forward depth, particularly at center, Domi immediately saw a two minute drop in time on ice per game. During the 2021-22 season, he was traded to the Hurricanes for their playoff run, before signing a one-year contract to be a rental again, going from Chicago to Dallas. Last season could’ve been considered a slight revival for the 5’ 10” forward, scoring 20 goals for the second time in his career. This was partially due to being a shark in a small pond, seeing a hefty amount of powerplay minutes and receiving ice time while behind on a tanking Chicago roster. His biggest weakness is his poor defensive play. This is something that caused him headaches in Columbus and could cause headaches once again with Sheldon Keefe. He is also not an individual play-driver, passing the puck to teammates too quickly at times. And his career faceoff percentage of 48.2% is far from optimal. The Maple Leafs are hoping that Domi can be an effective middle-six passenger at even strength, and a staple on their second powerplay unit. With that, he should see his minutes drop back down again this season, as well as his point total.

David Kampf

For his third season in a row, David Kampf did not miss a single game last season. He also posted another new career-high with 27 points in his 82 games. New general manager Brad Treliving must have thought so highly of the Czech forward that he signed him to a four-year extension in June, days prior to him entering unrestricted free agency. Toronto acquired Kampf from Chicago as a distressed asset in 2021, after he scored only a single goal in 56 games. The Maple Leafs turned around and used him as a staple defensive center in their bottom six. He is a smart player with efficient skating. That duo has led to his success at even strength as well as on the penalty kill. He won’t offer much offensive flare, only crossing 100 career points in his sixth season, but his health, ability to stay out of the box, effectiveness in the faceoff circle, and dependability on the defensive side of the game will keep him in the lineup for years to come. And while you shouldn’t expect too much, perhaps he has a few goals left in him this season.

Calle Jarnkrok

After eight seasons with the Nashville Predators, the Seattle Kraken selected Calle Jarnkrok in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. In his last season in Nashville, he recorded 28 points in 49 games, the highest pace of his career. As a part of an underperforming Seattle team, and a deep Calgary team that pushed him down the lineup, the Swede would fall back to 30 points in 66 games. However, when he explored free agency, Toronto showed interest, signing him to a four-year contract. With the Maple Leafs, Jarnkrok is expected to be an effective, dependable passenger to play-driving linemates. He bounced around from linemate-to-linemate last season, spending no more than 33.9% of his minutes with any forward. He spent some time alongside John Tavares and Auston Matthews with Mitch Marner, but also played down on the third line with the likes of Pierre Engvall and Alex Kerfoot. He scored 20 goals for the first time in his career last season, but he had a massive jump in shooting percentage at 18.9% compared to a career 12.5%. Will his linemates be able to keep his production high, possibly helping him break 40 points, or will he regress back this season?

Sam Lafferty

A fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Pennsylvania-native Sam Lafferty scrapped his way into the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, playing 50 games in his rookie season in 2019-20. However, it was a move to the Blackhawks early in the 2021-22 season that would help Lafferty break out and make a name for himself in the league. In Chicago, Lafferty would become a regular penalty killer. After scoring four goals and an assist in 99 shorthanded minutes in Chicago last season, the Maple Leafs traded for his services for their playoff run. His breakout wasn’t just limited to his penalty killing prowess, but respectable production at even strength as well, tallying 12 goals and 15 assists in all situations. Lafferty is a speedy bottom six forward, posing a threat to opposing defensemen trying to move the play up the ice against him. His speed may also give him the opportunity to find a spot on the third line at either wing or center in the case of injuries. However, with a healthy lineup, Lafferty should see a slight fall in his production, moving down the lineup in a more defensive role with the Maple Leafs as opposed to the unassigned role with a tanking Blackhawks team.


Morgan Rielly

Following the November 21st game against the Islanders, news broke that Morgan Rielly was expected to miss six weeks with a knee injury. His main competition on the roster, Rasmus Sandin, would see an increase in minutes in his absence. The young, Swedish defensemen would play well with the increased minutes, scoring two goals and six assists in the 13 games he played before sustaining a small injury himself. Sandin’s offensive skill set on the back end posed a threat to Rielly’s powerplay and even strength usage. However, come trade deadline, Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs elected to move Rasmus Sandin for a first-round pick and a rental. With Sandin gone, there is even more certainty that Morgan Rielly will own the greatest share of powerplay minutes amongst his teammates on the back end. This offers security to his production, as Rielly has not had fewer than a half a point per game since the 2016-17 season where he only recorded 72 minutes on the powerplay. Morgan Rielly has been seen as the best offensive defenseman on the Maple Leafs roster for some time now, and Toronto reassured their view of that last season.

John Klingberg 

Following the 2021-22 season, John Klingberg tested free agency for the first time after not coming to an agreement with the Dallas Stars. With only a small increase in the cap, a market for a long-term extension at the price he wanted dried up. His solution was a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks, with the understanding he’d likely move to a playoff team come trade deadline. Unfortunately for Klingberg, he is left with another one-year deal, but on a contending team this time. The 6’ 3” Swedish defenseman has the box score stats of a defenseman who normally would sign long term. And while market conditions may have forced him into a short-term deal again, his extremely poor defensive play has also reduced his market value. Klingberg is looking for a bit of a revival in Toronto. A once free to roam, mobile defenseman became trapped in conservative and unorganized systems at the end of his tenure in Dallas and his short time in Anaheim and Montreal. With a system that is likely a better fit, and a reduction in his usage, Klingberg could find success on the bottom two pairs and on the second powerplay unit.

Timothy Liljegren 

After a breakout rookie season with the Maple Leafs in 2021-22, Timothy Liljegren followed it up with much of the same. He scored six goals and 12 assists in 67 games this time, a five point decrease from the year before due to six fewer secondary assists. Liljegren is arguably the best puck-mover on the right-hand side of Toronto’s defensive core, electing to move the puck away from his own net as soon as possible as his main form of defending. But his lack of traditional defending and physical nature is one of the reasons the Maple Leafs coaching staff hasn’t allocated more minutes to him in the past. Liljegren did see a slight uptick in both even strength and special teams minutes last season, but his security in a top four spot was not there as witnessed by being scratched in the playoffs. With Justin Holl out of the picture, Liljegren’s competition for that secured spot will be John Klingberg. If he can prove that he is worthy of taking a spot from a fellow Swede seven years his senior, he could make a big jump. If he fails to do so, at least in the eyes of his coaching staff, then we can expect more of the same from Liljegren, or even a move at the deadline.

Jake McCabe

After missing most of the 2021 season due to injury, Jake McCabe left the Buffalo Sabres for the Chicago Blackhawks in unrestricted free agency. In his first season in Chicago, he would set a career-high 22 points for himself in 75 games. Last season, he finished with another career-high with 25 points in 76 games split between Chicago and Toronto. Jake McCabe earns his NHL minutes with his defensive prowess. He has received top four minutes at even strength and is a main stay on the penalty kill. His 151 blocked shots ranked 21st among defensemen last season, and his 163 hits ranked 23rd. Playing his first full season in Toronto, McCabe can expect to take the heavy minutes with defensive zone deployment and tough matchups. In his 350 minutes in Toronto last spring, he spent 169 with fellow defensive-defenseman TJ Brodie. However, he spent limited minutes with Timothy Liljegren who may complement his style of play by assisting with breaking out the puck and following through in transition with the forwards. There is a chance that McCabe’s point production falls if he is put in a dramatic role, but his time on ice will certainly be high.


Ilya Samsonov

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in an intriguing situation to start the 2023-24 season in net, and Ilya Samsonov remains just one piece of the somewhat uncertain puzzle.

Samsonov is quick on his feet, prefers to keep his body moving as he challenges plays, and still maintains the wider stance that has characterized his game – and set it apart from so many other goaltenders in the NHL – since he first crossed the pond as a Washington Capitals prospect. That makes him fast, exciting, and good at accessing some of those higher-danger shots that slower and more methodical goaltenders just don’t seem capable of reaching. But it also makes him less predictable, both for opponents and from a statistical standpoint. And although he finished last season with one of the league’s most respectable save percentages, he remained a little too injury-plagued to feel altogether comfortable tabbing him as a long-term option for success in Toronto. He’s the reclamation project that came out on top, with tandem partner Matt Murray likely out of the picture entirely, but he’s still not a sure shot for Toronto. It seems the team knows that, too; while they could have started the season with just him and wunderkind Joseph Woll as their options to roll out, the cap-strapped Leafs went out and brought in some veteran insurance at the last minute in the form of yet another reclamation project. Martin Jones will join Woll and Samsonov to start the season, and while he’s likely the odd man out, the fact that Toronto signed him in the first place suggests that they aren’t completely sold on the tandem they have to work with just yet.

Projected starts: 40-45

Joseph Woll

It seems all but impossible that Toronto goaltending prospect Joseph Woll would clear waivers if the Leafs tried to hide him away in the AHL for another season, and his lack of waiver exemption status this year forces their hand a bit; it’s do or die time for the team and the former Boston College standout.

That’s not super concerning from a technical standpoint, since Woll has been one of the most impressive young goaltenders in North America for a handful of years now. He was the confident and collected predecessor at BC to Spencer Knight, controlling his crease at the collegiate level in a way that suggested he’d be a perfect candidate to make a short stop in the minors before taking over at the NHL level almost immediately upon going pro. Then, he suffered multiple consecutive injuries, and his development arc derailed just enough that Toronto was left scrambling; now, they’re stuck trying to navigate a need to get him into games, a starter who has been streaky over his career both in numbers and in health, and an aging Martin Jones who hasn’t hit league average stats in over half a decade. The good news, though, is that he plays the kind of game that should make it easy for Toronto to integrate him into their lineup whenever they need; he plays a game that focuses on keeping control of his depth and angles from his feet in order to eliminate the need for extra movement, serving as an interesting foil to Samsonov’s wild style. It’s unclear just what Toronto wants his role to be next year, but we’re likely only a season or two away from seeing Joseph Woll as the team’s clear-cut number one – it’s just a matter of figuring out how Toronto wants to handle the passing of the torch.

Projected starts: 30-35