The Toronto Maple Leafs youth could serve the team well come playoff time. In the playoffs, experience is the common desired trait that teams look for to push them over the edge into contention. The Maple Leafs have experienced guys who have won it all like Jake Muzzin and Zach Bogosian. They also have more guys who have made it to the dance and came home empty-handed like Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza.
Their established group of Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, Nick Foligno, and T.J. Brodie are a strong bridge between the old hands and the young stars. When paired with their young core, this team has the chance to make a lot of noise in this year’s playoffs. Here are the young players that could make the biggest impact as the Maple Leafs strive to make history.
Toronto Maple Leafs Youth Could Propel Team in Playoffs
The Big Three
As young as they are, the Maple Leafs’ three-headed monster is as lethal as they come. Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander have taken over and run with the team since they all debuted in 2016. All three are having big seasons in their own respect. Matthews will win the Rocket Richard trophy this season with 40 goals, Marner sits third in points, and Nylander is close to another 20 goal season, which would be his fourth in six years. This being a shortened year is even more impressive.
The Maple Leafs have committed a lot to these three and will ride or die on their success. The three of them will need to step up and not only contribute in the playoffs but also stay committed to the team’s success. Their in-game energy is electric and intoxicating. The passion they all show for the game is exactly what a team needs to stay motivated through the playoff marathon.
The scoring prowess of the group paired with the hardstyle of Foligno and Zach Hyman only accentuates the team’s success. Missing both Hyman and Foligno has not weighed them down in the last couple of regular-season games they have left. As they join the group in the playoffs the team will only get stronger.
As mentioned, the Maple Leafs will live or die on the success of Marner, Matthews, and Nylander. With the way they are playing this right now, Toronto is in good hands
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 7, 2021
He may not have played a lot of hockey over the past 12 months, but Rasmus Sandin will play a big role these playoffs for the Maple Leafs. He was thrust into the lineup following Bogosian’s injury in April and has stolen the show since. At times he’s run the first power play as the team attempts to right that ship. With his current state of play, he projects to the future of the Maple Leafs backend.
But for this season, Sandin can provide an offensive threat from the more defensive backend Toronto currently employs. The Maple Leafs can also gain confidence in having a backup in case Rielly goes down come playoff time.
The playoffs bring a lot of injuries and for any team to go far, they need others to step in and fill roles. In a limited playing time of nine games, Sandin has shown the confidence/ability to play on the Maple Leafs top pairing. Sandin likely will not play again this regular season as the Maple Leafs try to balance the salary cap down the stretch here. But, expect him to step back into the Maple Leafs lineup come the playoffs when the salary cap is no longer an issue.
Rasmus Sandin does this little fake-stop a lot and it's so clean pic.twitter.com/xva2IXYLFr
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 3, 2021
The Maple Leafs’ secret weapon in last year’s playoffs could make a bigger impact in this year’s dance.
Nick Robertson appeared in four of the five Maple Leaf playoff games last season and scored his first professional hockey goal. Other than that one goal and one assist in the 2020-21 season, Robertson hasn’t shown success at the NHL level.
Nick Robertson is the first 18-year-old to score a post-season goal for the Maple Leafs in 76 years. The last time it happened, Ted Kennedy did it in a playoff game against Montreal on March 28, 1944 #Hockey365 #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/0MEGF7DDJT
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) August 7, 2020
But he has shown flashes of brilliance in the AHL this season with the Marlies. With the OHL’s COVID-19 shutdown, Robertson was one of many top prospects to make the jump to the professional level without being thrust into the NHL. In 18 games with the Marlies, Robertson has four goals and 10 assists. With only eight more games left in their shortened season, he will likely be called up to the taxi squad to be a ‘black ace‘ for the playoffs. Robertson would only crack the lineup following an injury. But, he could still make a big impact. Last years’ playoffs are a prime example of the need for depth and more importantly, depth scoring.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to outlast the Dallas Stars because they had more guys that could step in than the Stars did. Say Robertson does draw into the lineup, he will have the opportunity to become a bigger fan favourite. With the way he is playing right now, he could make a big impact at the perfect time.
The Maple Leafs roster contains a steady mix of grizzled veterans and young, energetic stars. The group has excelled so far this season and does not appear to be slowing down. But, if Toronto wants to break a certain streak and dance with Lord Stanley’s cup, it will be almost fully in the hands of the Maple Leafs youth.