TLN Player Power Rankings: Pre-Preseason Edition

Your long wait is finally over. I have finally been told that it’s time to start writing Player Power Rankings again. And since it’s been such a long time since the last one, I’ve forgotten that I usually stick to relatively brief snark before giving you that giffy goodness you crave so much.

Since there are a number of new faces in the lineup I figured each player deserves a bit more of my attention than usual, and with the upcoming TLN Player Profiles this week, this is also my chance to weigh in on the players that I don’t get the chance to write about at length. 

So sit back and relax as we embark on the first of many Player Power Ranking adventures we will take together this season.

1. Morgan Rielly

It seems unlikely that either Mitch Marner or William Nylander are going to crack the Leafs lineup this season, and with their absence there’s a need to look towards a young player for some sense of hope for the future. Much like the last couple of seasons that responsibility will fall on Morgan Rielly. This time it’s entirely possible that Rielly will have first pairing duties to add to his pressure and since the team around him is exceptionally bad, some people might feel the need to turn him into a goat. If you feel that need, please slip on your Luke Schenn jersey and punch yourself in the face instead.

Rollin’ with my homies

2. James van Riemsdyk

While much has been made of how JVR isn’t particularly good at defence, he’s now inherited Kessel’s offensive role by default. With that I assume that we now overlook all the obvious flaws in his game and realize that without him the Leafs are probably shut out every night.

3. Jonathan Bernier

Bernier’s stretch run was about as difficult as a Grade Nine history exam would be for him, but there is some need to give him the benefit of the doubt. Bernier has been a really good goaltender at times and while he’s been a Leaf he’s never had a good team in front of him. If Bernier can put up league average numbers and make it so we blame the offence for losses, he’s worth keeping around (or worth flipping to a team that’s desperate for a number one goaltender)

On set. Shooting for a good cause. Things are gonna get hairy in November. @movember @visaca

A photo posted by Jonathan Bernier (@jobernier45) on

Bernier’s haircut is already in midseason form.

4. Jake Gardiner

Jake Gardiner has been one of the most polarizing Leafs players over the past couple of years. His supporters will cite his strong possession numbers when not paired with an AHL defenseman, or his blinding speed, strong shot, and general likeability. His detractors will remind you that he has little interest in engaging physically and appears lost in his own end sometimes. I’d argue there’s truth to both sides, but on a blue line as bad as the Leafs it’s worth being excited about the things that Jake does well and hopefully Mike Babcock knows how to use those abilities better than Carlyle did. Just kidding. There’s no way anyone can be worse than Carlyle for understanding how to use Jake Gardiner.

When your stuffed animal game is on point. #carnivalgames

A photo posted by Jake Gardiner (@jgardiner272) on

It’s entirely possible that the best thing about this season will be Jake Gardiner’s instagram feed.

5. Nazem Kadri

Looking at Kadri’s point totals from last season it appears he didn’t play very well. Looking at footage from last season it appears Kadri didn’t play very well. Looking at Kadri’s contract it appears the organization isn’t entirely sure he’ll ever truly play very well, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kadri is one of the few truly gifted offensive players on the Leafs and should get a chance to showcase what he can do this season. I for one don’t believe he’ll disappoint, but I am quite interested to see how Kadri’s relationship with Babcock works out as Nazem is a very different center than anyone Babcock used in Detroit.

6. Dion Phaneuf

We managed to get through the summer without hearing too many stories about taking the captaincy away from Phaneuf. I’ll take that as a win. We also didn’t have too many trade rumours involving Dion and that’s a bit more of a loss. What that has left us with is the need to believe that Mike Babcock’s excitement for Phaneuf in the past means that he’ll get the most out of him this season and (if necessary) beyond. I really hope that it pans out because otherwise Phaneuf’s contract will quickly become even more regrettable than it already is.

7. Daniel Winnik

The return of Daniel Winnik is one of the better stories of the off season. Local boy returns home after landing the team a couple of draft picks and Zach Sill. Best of all, Zach Sill isn’t here to ruin our happiness high.


8. Shawn Matthias

Shawn Matthias gives the Leafs a solid option for the middle six of their forward group. Whether he’s on wing (most likely) or at center, Matthias represents the third in a string of Canucks UFA forwards that were brought in at an affordable price. If Matthias has anywhere near the success that Raymond or Santorelli did, this is a strong argument for signing Radim Vrbata next summer.

9. Martin Marincin

There are a lot of things that don’t make sense to me. Vine Stars. Energy Drink stickers that block out truck rear windows. Arguments over which Friend was the best or worst (They were all the worst). The thing that doesn’t make sense to me at the moment is why the Oilers, a team short on competent defencemen, chose to give up Marincin, who would easily be welcomed on any roster in the league. We’ll ignore how they claim they improved their defence by adding Sekera and Reinhart while they gave up Petry and Marincin in other deals and focus on the Leafs. The Leafs also have a bad blueline. Marincin should help make it a little better, and he’s young too. That’s exciting.

10. James Reimer

The days are probably numbered for James Reimer and that’s unfortunate. We can take comfort in a few things. The first being that he’ll probably be treated better wherever he winds up. Secondly, odds are he’ll be on a better team and have a chance to play in meaningful games. And finally, while he’s here the Leafs have a pretty darn good goaltending tandem. For the time being, it seems to be the one position not worth immediately worrying about. 

I’ve been missing that smile

11. P.A. Parenteau

I’m gonna call him Pappy


12. Taylor Beck

Adding Taylor Beck might have been one of the more underrated moves of the summer. Initially the excitement was generated from not having Jamie Devane any more. Imagine getting rid of Brad Ross, Jamie Devane, and Tyler Biggs in the same offseason. Neat. Anyway, it turns out that Beck isn’t a horrible hockey player and the fact that the Preds can’t fit him into their lineup is the Leafs gain. 

13. Roman Polak

Considering it’s a very real possibility the Leafs don’t get out of their zone this season, it could be Roman Polak’s time to shine.

14. Marc Arcobello

Marcobello may have been waived twice and dealt for a salary dump, but our own Cat Silverman assures me that Arcobello is good. She seems to think he can skate though, so I’m not sure I agree here, but  what we can agree on is that Arcobello has been successful at creating offense and that’s probably something the Leafs can use. 

15. Tyler Bozak

I don’t know why he’s still here and Gord help us if he’s still playing 20 minutes a night.


16. Peter Holland

It’s make or break time for Peter Holland. If I had to guess, I’m leaning towards break, but a young-ish center with a bit of size will get his chance to prove he belongs, and like Phaneuf, Gardiner, and others, I’m curious to see if Mike Babcock can get anything extra out of Peter Holland.

Little to the left… Aahhh – That’s the spot #GroupGetTogther

A photo posted by Peter Holland (@peterholland13) on

17. Matt Hunwick

Good chance you forgot that Matt Hunwick is a Leaf. I wonder if he’s forgotten too. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance he shows up at the Rangers training camp.

18. Nick Spaling

Speaking of players you forgot were Leafs, here’s Nick Spaling. When you think of the immediate return impact of the Kessel trade. Think Nick Spaling.

19. Joffrey Lupul

Fine wine, artisan cheese, your appreciation of the arts. These are all things that get better with age. Thirty-two year old wingers coming off 21 point seasons who haven’t played more than 70 games in a year since 2009 are probably not something that will get better with age. Of course, 21 points was exceptionally bad, so maybe we can hope for 30 this year.

A photo posted by Joffrey Lupul (@jlupul) on

20. Leo Komarov

Spending a fortune on something that most people only pay a small fee for: Komarov’s speeding ticket or the Leafs signing a bottom six forward?

Not So Honourable Mentions:

Richard Panik

Will we be happy to see Panik reunited with his Guelph Storm teammates or happy to see him reunited with the waiver wire?

Stephane Robidas

He’s still here. He’s not going anywhere.

    • silentbob

      I doubt it. Just because a player is playing well doesn’t mean they need too or should throw him into the NHL ASAP.

      If Shanahan is following the “Detriot model” with our prospects, guys like Nylander will have 1 or 2, maybe 3 or 4 full AHL seasons before being called up. They’ll make sure they know the systems and their roles in, know what the coaches expect of them, have had time to play in all situations, and are physically and mentally ready to be NHL players before being called up.

      Look at how the Wings handled Nyqvist – in 11-12 he has 58 points in 56 AHL games, and played 18 NHL games. The next year he played 58 AHL games (with 60 points), and he STILL started in the AHL the year after that. He was doing well, but they made 100% sure he was ready for the NHL before being promoted. I think thats how we should expect (and want) Shanahan and co. to handle Nylander, Kapanen, Marner and everyone else in the system.

      I expect a good rookie tournmant and/or camp will simply move him higher (to the top maybe?) of the call up list.

  • Gary Empey

    these rankings are what will get me and everyone else through this god awful tanktastic year. please do them as often as possible because they are the only things that will bring us joy besides the preseason and the marlies.

  • Gary Empey

    When i think of joffrey lupul, I think 1) glass bones. 2) ALWAYS on IR. 3) ONLY had ONE goal in 2015 during the THIRD LAST GAME of the year (last goal was Dec. 29) and absolutely NO ONE talked about it… HOW?! Oh yeah, they were too busy only sh*tting on Kessel and Phaneuf to realize how AWFUL Lupul has been especially this year. he had FOUR points since JANUARY. He was at the time the 3rd highest paid player on the team. People would be trashing Clarkson (deservedly so) but not one peep for Lupul. He deserves just as much criticism. Unacceptable. He was by far one of the worst Leafs in 2015, worse than Kessel offensively.