It’s never nice to be proven wrong, but whenever it comes to me writing down opinion or prediction I’m used to it. I do Mock Drafts ahead of the NHL Draft each year and I’d hate to see my accuracy record on that. I’ve predicted every first overall pick (this year I’m 100% sure I’ll be wrong) but outside of that I’m usually quite a bit off with some picks.
And I was wrong again with an article I wrote a little over a year ago. During the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs the NHL Draft Lottery took place and the Toronto Maple Leafs retained the first overall pick.
The article I wrote in response was titled “Winning the draft lottery won’t speed up the Leafs rebuild”
In that article I stated that Auston Matthews wouldn’t be an instant saviour for the Leafs, I stated that Mitch Marner would spend another year in the OHL because of his size. Essentially what I was getting at is that the young guns for the Leafs won’t change the teams fortunes straight away and that they were going to have to ride out a rebuild. Honestly this time last year I would’ve said the Leafs finish around 22nd to 25th in the NHL.
Fast forward to today and I am for the most part wrong.
Auston Matthews leads the team with 67 points in 80 games (as well as leading all rookies) and the kid who was going to spend time with the London Knights this year? He’s third in rookie scoring and second on the Leafs. Mitch Marner has 61 points in 75 games this season, not bad for an undersized kid who I didn’t think would be in the NHL until next year.
Let’s also not forget William Nylander, he was always going to be an interesting player to watch and his 60 points in 79 games are good enough for fourth among rookies and fourth among Leafs.
So I was wrong, winning the Draft Lottery and grabbing Matthews did speed up the rebuild, Mitch Marner is an impact player for the team and the young guns are carrying the team.
One thing I did get right in my article last year was that the biggest question mark for me was the Leafs goaltending.
“the first thing they need to put in their shopping basket is a true starting goaltender”
I was correct. This time last year the Leafs had Jonathan Bernier as their starting goaltender. Now they have Frederik Andersen who has posted 33 wins on the season so far. He’s started 65 games this season and posted a .918 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average which isn’t fantastic but is definitely a big help for a team that struggled goaltending last year.
Now with 80 games played for the Leafs, they sit in the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points. With two games to go the spot is theirs for now but they do have the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning fighting for it to.
The Leafs have had chances to clinch the final playoff spot in the league, with meetings with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets this weekend it will be hard for the team to make the post-season but with the way they’ve played so far, and the fact that the teams they’re playing have already made the playoffs could play into their hands.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Leafs this weekend, regardless of the outcome this season has been a success for them.