Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
#1 – Morgan Reilly
The consensus pick to
establish himself as an elite player, Morgan Reilly is the only Leaf that can
be depended on to have a strong season.
After posting 27 points in a solid rookie campaign, Reilly followed-up
with a 29 point performance in his sophomore year – on a team that lost 40 of
the last 51 games.
This year, expect Reilly to put up bigger
offensive numbers, challenging the 40 point mark as the Leafs most talented defenceman.
#2 – Dion Phaneuf
As Morgan Reilly moves up
the ranks, it seems odd to predict a break-out year from the Leafs captain and
perennial number one defenceman. However, new coach Mike Babcock has been singing
Dion Phaneuf’s praises from day one. The former 60 point defenceman likely
isn’t going to find himself in the Top 10 for defensive scoring again but his
resume clearly says he has the ability to put up strong offensive numbers.
Phaneuf is not a sure-bet, but under Mike
Babcock’s new systems it wouldn’t be a far-stretch to see him break 40 points
for the sixth time in his career.
#3 – James Van Riemsdyk
The departure of
Phil Kessel has left James van Riemsdyk as the undisputed number one forward.
Having scored 30 goals just one year ago, ‘JVR’ is a good bet to have a respectable
season. How can ‘JVR’ be considered a break-out candidate? Well, with Kessel
and his 300 shots per year leaving town, expect van Riemsdyk to be the go-to
guy for his line-mates on the power play.
A lot of people will expect ‘JVR’s
production to dip this season but the former 2nd overall pick may
just benefit from being the number one scorer in town.
#4 – Nazem Kadri
Nazem Kadri is expected to
finally make the leap to Toronto’s first line this year but the promotion is
anything but assured. Kadri had a rocky year last year, failing to match his
production from the year before while simultaneously finding himself publicly
reprimanded by the team for off-ice issues. There is no doubt Kadri has the raw
skill to put-up big numbers but he hasn’t shown the consistency to do it year
after year, or the resilience to salvage a tumultuous season.
Kadri is the biggest question mark on the
Leafs core. If you like to swing for the fences, he’s worth a crack at your
Fantasy Hockey Team but don’t be surprised if he finds himself as a second line
centre putting up mediocre numbers again this season.
#5 – Michael Grabner
The newly acquired
Michael Grabner is a wild card. After a notching 34 goals in his first full
season, Grabner has suffered numerous injury problems which have drastically
limited his play over the past two seasons. Known as one of the fastest players
in the NHL, there is no doubt he can create scoring chances for himself and his
line-mates but with a patchy health record you can’t go all-in on the speedy
Grabner is a Fantasy pick for the betting
man – one with a hunger for even greater risk than Nazem Kadri can offer. If he
can play a full season, 25-30 goals isn’t out of the picture for the newest
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