For those who haven’t been avidly reading this column, every year, since I started with The Standard, I have been making predictions around this time of year, about such topics as, what certain players will achieve, how the team will do in the standings, and what fringe players I think will make the roster among others.
To recap, in my first year doing these predictions, a couple years ago, not many of them came true. However, last year’s predictions were a little more successful. Among the ones that did come true were: Mitch Marner making the team; Auston Matthews becoming a top pairing centre, before the midway part of the season, and the Leafs not finishing in last place.
Now, without further ado, on to this year’s predictions.
Let me start with the Leafs’ biggest free agent acquisition, Patrick Marleau. I think, despite being 38 years old, Marleau will score about 20 goals this season. Marleau has scored less than 20 goals, only once, in his last four seasons. He’s finished his last two seasons with 25 and 27 goals. Now, I think this year he will score somewhere between 20-23, because unlike in some past years, he is playing on a third line. However, that is still a pretty good number for a guy in his late thirties.
Now, moving on to the fate of the fifth and sixth defensive pairing, I think Calle Rosen and Connor Carrick will fill those spots.
I have been impressed, watching Rosen so far in the preseason. In the first game, where the majority of the defense seemed shaky, Rosen looked calm and, in my opinion, displayed great hockey sense. As well, I will note that, Rosen has been on the good side of the plus/minus stat, in his last two seasons in Sweden. Last year he was a plus 19, and the year before he was a plus 2. He can also score, having potted 6 goals last year for Vaxjo HC.
Now, the reason I chose Connor Carrick is, because he was part of last year’s roster, and is still a young defenceman, at 23 years of age, the Maple Leafs are still developing.
Lastly, I think the Maple Leafs will trade, at least one forward, for a top pairing defenceman, by the trade deadline. With very few roster spots seemingly available, the Leafs have plenty of forwards knocking on the door, including Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov and Carl Grundstrom. It is possible, the Leafs could trade a player, such as James van Riemsdyk, along with a package of draft picks, or a prospect, for a number one defenceman.
Just like every year, feel free to call me on any of these, if they don’t end up coming to pass. Regardless though, I am excited about this upcoming season.