Over the last couple of seasons, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been a good team. This is mainly due to the core players and their success. We all know the story that happens after an excellent regular season and a first-round exit in the playoffs. But something feels different this season, there is a sense of hope around the team, and the players appear more confident to find playoff success. There is that sense of hope because of the ‘depth forwards’ and their success this season.
The Depth Forwards:
Mikheyev has turned himself into a real threat on the PK. When he breaks past the defense and gets in alone, it seems that he is going to make his go-to move, deking the goalie and putting it in the back of the net. In 45 games this season with the Maple Leafs, Mikheyev has a career-high in goals with 17 and points with 45. He also has four shorthanded goals. Due to this play, he has found himself in the top-six group on a line with Tavares and Kerfoot/Nylander. If he keeps this play up when the going gets tough in the playoffs, it’ll take some stress off the core 4. The original soupy, Ilya Mikheyev, is heading into this off-season as a UFA. It is believed that the Maple Leafs will be trying to get him re-signed, especially after he was deemed “untouchable” at the deadline.
When Bunting signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the story was “Hometown kid comes home,” a very inexperienced NHL forward was heading back to his hometown team to try and win a Stanley Cup. His role was a bottom-six guy who was on a cheap deal to provide an edge on the team. Little did everyone know that now-former Leaf Nick Ritchie would be a bust of a signing. Allowing Bunting to play in the top-six. Well, not just the top-six, but also one of the best lines in the NHL. Bunting has been the perfect addition to that line. Coming off an off-season where you lost the best utility guy in the lineup, Zach Hyman, who has nine fewer points. Michael Bunting makes $950,000, has 59 points in 74 games, and is a +26, a career-high in every offensive stat category. He currently has only one year left after this season and is 26 years old.
Engvall has been a unique player for the Maple Leafs in his time with the club, he was picked in the 7th round in the 2014 NHL draft by the Leafs, and he is just finally coming into his own. Ahead of the trade deadline, Engvall was grouped with Mikheyev and deemed “untouchable” this left some people confused, but it doesn’t seem confusing anymore with how he has been playing. The 24-year-old also has reached a career-high in points and games played this season. He has 30 points in 70 games, which is a vital piece of the Maple Leafs PK, where he has tallied two shorthanded goals. Assisting the team in not only one of the best PKs in the NHL at 83.2% (6th in the NHL) but also helping the team lead the NHL in most shorthanded goals with 13. Engvall is set to become an RFA at the season’s end and will be another player the Maple Leafs push to re-sign.
David Kampf is the type of player who goes out there, does his job, and goes to the bench. He’s an extremely hard worker and makes the players around him better. Thus far, Kampf has tallied 23 points, with nine goals (a career-high) and four assists (1 away from a career-high) in 74 games. He also has a career-high in points this season with the Maple Leafs. He also has a career-high in faceoff percentage with 53.64%, which is why the Maple Leafs feel comfortable with him taking draws anywhere on the ice. He also finds himself on the PK, along with Engvall and Mikheyev, who rotate in with Marner and Kerfoot. The most appealing thing about Kampf is his contract, which is $1,500,000 for the rest of this season and next. That is showing to be a valuable contract for the team. When he signed with the Leafs, many people found this signing odd and called out Dubas for signing a player like Kampf to a contract like that. That was met by others who were sharing his analytics and explaining that he is indeed a defensive-minded player who can assist the core defend the lead.
It has been a while since the Toronto Maple Leafs have had this much depth that can produce alongside the core players, such as Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares. As mentioned before, I believe that this combination of the main depth and core players can finally get the Maple Leafs passed the first round, push for a deep playoff run, and potentially even win the Stanley Cup.