Some of you are already sick of the Pokemon GO jokes and references taking social media by storm, and quite frankly, you are objectively wrong. This game might be one of the best things to happen to the Western Hemisphere in ages. Nostalgia is bringing the masses together, and it’s also convincing everybody to go outside.
The day that the game came out in the US, I downloaded the leaked APK file and went for an hour long bike ride at 12:30 AM. Last night, I ran into a couple outside a church after dark, as we were both trying to hit up a Pokestop. I did my best to pretend that I didn’t catch the Zubat that they were also trying to get.
I named him Leo, which is probably the only time I will ever make a Steve Dangle Podcast reference.
With the game already making Nintendo rich as hell again on its way to world domination, let’s open the morning by comparing Toronto’s three best prospects to the three Pokemon you start your adventure with.
In the anime, Ash saves Charmander from certain death after his owner abandons him. The Arizona Coyotes abandoned their tank for the chosen one by playing decent hockey this year, though I suppose certain death would be a little better than playing for Winnipeg, Columbus, Edmonton, or Vancouver.
In the game, Charmander takes the longest to get to final evolution, turning into Charizard at Level 36 instead of 32. Matthews is the best of the three prospects, but he’s also the youngest, so it’ll take him longer to get to his personal prime. Plus, back to the “best of the three” point, Charizard is just the most dominant of the three final evolutions once you get there.
Matthews also comes from the hottest hometown of the three, so it’s no shock that he’s the fire-type.
Not to mention, a Scottsdale-raised Mexican-American teenager becoming the saviour of hockey in its greatest market is about as rare as a fire-breathing dragon, whereas Bulbasaur is a lizard that’s spent too much time rolling in the grass and Squirtle is a turtle with a Super Soaker taped to his shell. Both elite at their jobs, but something a little easier to find in the real world.
Ash’s Squirtle was previously the leader of the Squirtle Squad, a group of abandoned Squirtles that many feel have the potential to be great Pokemon, but are thought to have apparent attitude problems after parting ways with their owners. They also wear matching sunglasses, which makes them look like they’re part of a boy band.
William Nylander parted ways with his birthplace of Calgary, Alberta to travel with his father throughout his playing career, and then decided to head back to Sweden to develop and play for the national team. Many felt that Nylander had attitude problems before the draft, and just as many thought his teenage physique was better suited for a boy band.
Ash saved Squirtle from a life of crime. The Leafs pulled Nylander out of MODO when times were rough and had him join the Marlies in the middle of 2014/15 to make his next step. Squirtle’s former teammates turned to a life of good deeds after Ash inspired them. Nylander’s brother Alex was driven to work even harder after seeing his brother’s success and ended up becoming a top ten pick this year.
In the game, nobody gives the slender Squirtle a chance at first. After all, he is just a turtle with a super soaker attached to his shell. But as he grows up, he bulks up to exactly 188 pounds, gains a couple of goddamn cannons on his body, and messes everyone up.
In real life, nobody was sure if Nylander’s skills would translate. After all, he was just another skilled young Swede, who had never played the North American game. But he matured, bulked up to (I shit you not) exactly 188 pounds last summer, built up one of the deadliest wrist shots you’ll ever see, and looks poised to be a top six winger as early as this year.
Lastly, we have Bulbasaur. Picking Bulbasaur is always a decision that isn’t made lightly, and you feel a bit odd about it as you do it, but once you do, you’re happy with yourself. These were the feelings of many during the Dylan Strome vs. Mitch Marner debate; the Leafs ended up getting Marner through a process of elimination, but certainly, nobody’s complaining now.
What’s great about picking the Grass-type Pokemon in the game is the huge edge you get at first. They evolve faster, and Grass-type Pokemon tend to fend better at the first few gyms (especially the Water Gym, which feels like a borderline tutorial). Marner’s legacy as a Leaf right now centres around completely dominating the OHL, winning just about every trophy he could have this year.
One of the ways that Marner made the Knight’s so great this year was how well he pulled his opponents into him, which gave him the option to either dangle around them himself with his slippery-smooth hands (or if you’re Bulbasaur, vines) or move the puck to a wide open player. He absorbed the other team’s attention, much like Bulbasaur uses Leech Seed to absorb the life of his own opponents from an early stage of his career.
Bulbasaur is the smallest of the three starters, which fits Marner, but too becomes a beast once he gets to his second and third evolutions.
Ash gets his Bulbasaur after defending him in a frenzied group of wild Pokemon. Bulbasaur is convinced to join Ash after realizing that he has no more room to grow in the forest and that staying will only stunt his growth. Similarly, Marner had his extra year in the forest this season, but will join Ash (who I guess is Mike Babcock) this year to make the next step in his journey.
Gotta Catch Em All
The great thing that the Leafs have going for them is that they have all three of these players. All of them are good now and only going to get better, and they’re going to bring different offensive skill sets to the Leafs this year. They still have to prove their salt in all sorts of different gyms across the Canada/US region, but once they do, it’ll only be a matter of time before they defeat the Elite Four and eventually become champions.