The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club holds a special place in the hearts of “Torontonians” all around the world. If you’re a hockey fan, chances are you’ve heard of the Toronto Maple Leafs. When fans think of the Maple Leafs a few names come to mind. Mats Sundin,Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Ted Kennedy,Frank Mahovlich, Borje Salming, and Dave Keon, to name a few. Most recently the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly typically steal the headlines. Who doesn’t usually pop up is Zach Hyman.
However, over the past three-to-four years, the former fifth-round draft pick has proven his worth with the Maple Leafs. A rather quiet and reserved player, Hyman allows his on-ice performance shift after shift do the taking. Let’s take a look at Hyman’s career with the Leafs, his value to the team, and just how long he can expect to play in Toronto.
Zach Hyman Provides Terrific Value to Toronto
Path to the Pros
Every player in the National Hockey League has a backstory. For Zach Hyman, his began (ironically speaking) in Toronto, Ontario. As a youngster, Hyman suited up for the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. After posting 102 points in his final season with the team, Hyman was off to Ann Arbor, Michigan to play for the Michigan Wolverines of the NCAA. Hyman played four seasons at Michigan, including a 22-goal, 54-point campaign in his final year which led the Big Ten. He was also named a Big Ten All-American and member of the Big Ten all-star team. Donning the iconic yellow and blue of Michigan, Hyman flourished as a reliable two-way forward with the majority of his work coming below the icing line. His relentless work ethic, rugged style of play and ability to score saw Zach Hyman was on full display each game.
After four seasons, Hyman had put together an impressive collegiate career in the hockey hot-bed of Michigan. The question was…how would his success at the college level translate in the National Hockey League? Hyman’s dream came true at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft when the Florida Panthers selected him in the fifth round, 123rd overall. Despite the late draft choice, Hyman was determined to make a name for himself at the NHL level. That “name” came five years later when he was traded to his hometown club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. After spending a season with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate club, the Toronto Marlies, Hyman received a call-up to the big club, and since then, has never looked back.
An Unsung Hero on a Team Filled with Stars
When former Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock referred to Hyman as “the best forechecker in hockey” that proclamation may have raised a few collective eyebrows. What Hyman does on the ice is certainly unique and well-appreciated in Toronto. Hyman plays a strong, heavy game and loves to lean on the opposition. Much of his play is in great contrast to so many other forwards on the Maple Leafs who rely on speed, talent, and skill.
Hyman provides a whole new element and outlook to Toronto’s offense when he’s on the ice. He can log big minutes, play in a top-six role, and provide grit. A north-south skater, Hyman is a fierce competitor who can engage and come out with the puck in one-on-one battles. He plays the right way and has made for himself at the NHL level. Not too shabby for a former fifth round draft pick. His approach to each shift and his ability to really dig deep, grind for, and retrieve loose pucks have formed a formidable partnership with Toronto’s highly-skilled forward group.
Hyman’s “dog on a bone” mentality forms a close correlation with the likes of Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on Sidney Crosby’s wings for the Pittsburgh Penguins. In that case, we saw two wingers with varying skill sets complement the brilliance of Crosby with the Penguins. Toronto fans are getting a similar glimpse of what Hyman can do as he lines up beside Tavares, Marner, and Matthews.
Hyman is currently playing in the second-last year of his four-year, $9 million contract, earning him $2.25M per season. Hyman’s cap-hit provides tremendous value in the grand scheme of things in Toronto when you look at his experience, on-ice intangibles, and statistical production in a top-six forward role. This season alone, despite missing the first six weeks as he recovered from knee surgery, Hyman has tallied 21 goals and 16 assists for 37 points in just 51 games. Prior to the halt of the NHL season, Hyman was well on his way to having the single-best season (production-wise) with the Maple Leafs. In addition to arguably playing the best hockey of his career.
Hyman will be 29 by the time he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on July 1, 2021, and is due for a pay increase. Whether it’s Sheldon Keefe or Mike Babcock before him, Hyman’s been stapled to Toronto’s top-six forward group. Hyman is an exceptional penalty killer and provides that “big-bodied”, physical element that’s greatly lacking on the Leafs. His ability to “check” multiple boxes makes him one of the most valuable all-around players in Toronto. Since breaking into Toronto’s lineup on a full-time basis during the 2016-17 season, Hyman’s point totals have continued to increase.
As we move closer to July 1, 2021, look for Hyman’s contract to have a different outlook. Term-wise we can expect the range to be between three-to-five years. Dollarwise in the ballpark of anywhere between $4 and $5.3 million. Both the term and dollar amount are a fair ask for someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. Looking ahead in the future, Hyman is an integral part of the blue and white.