The term “Black Ace” is used to describe a player that can unexpectedly come in and be a difference-maker for a team. It can help a team overcome the loss of a player due to injury and help a team win. Today we will be looking at who could be potential Toronto Maple Leafs black aces for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Potential Toronto Maple Leafs Black Aces
Potentially the most obvious one, Brooks has looked fantastic in the games he’s drawn in for. He obviously won’t continually shoot 40% with the Leafs, or have a 108.4 PDO, but he’s been generating some solid chances on the Leafs depth lines. He has a positive xGF% and CF% at 5v5 according to Evolving Hockey. If it were based exclusively on the quality of play of late, Brooks probably should be in the lineup, but the Leafs are getting some good players back. He’s being forced out of the lineup if Zach Hyman, Nick Foligno and Riley Nash getting healthy. If Alex Galchenyuk isn’t cracking the healthy roster, Brooks certainly isn’t.
He does, however, provide an option the Leafs should be happy and comfortable with drawing in if necessary. While his insane offensive numbers aren’t sustainable long-term, hopefully, he remains hot for the games he might draw in for.
Hutton was a player acquired for this exact role. As I’ve outlined previously, Hutton is insurance. The Leafs have a guy like Sandin to play higher in the lineup if Morgan Rielly gets hurt. However, they didn’t have anyone to really take over Jake Muzzin‘s role. If we look back to last season’s play-in, Muzzin went down with an injury and Martin Maricin drew into the lineup. I think everyone wants to avoid that if possible.
Hutton, while not especially good at 5v5, plays a key role on the penalty kill (similar to Muzzin). He fills a certain niche injury for the Leafs D, but a key one should it come to that. He’s even been alright at 5v5 in his few games with the Leafs, so if they see flashes of 2019-20 Hutton, that could be even better for the team should he need to play in playoff games.
I have been a huge Liljegren fan ever since the Leafs drafted him. Since joining the Leafs organization, he’s developed into a very complete player that’s extremely good in transition. He’s able to provide good defence and able to serve as a strong passing option in the offensive zone. He has looked fantastic in the AHL the past two seasons and has looked really good in the few games he’s played in the NHL this year. Liljegren likely will draw in if a player like Travis Dermott goes down. He provides similar strengths as Dermott, but maybe a little more offensive value even. He will be a strong contender to be an NHL regular next season as well.
Malgin is an interesting case, as he looked really good last season on the Leafs playing high in the lineup, but didn’t really get a chance at all this season. He had a great year on Lausanne HC. Now that he’s back in North America, he could see a chance on the NHL squad if some forwards go down with injury. While Galchenyuk likely fills the same role and is ahead of him on the depth charts, rarely do teams go on deep runs without more than one injury.
Malgin is a good ancillary option in the top-6. He is able to provide speed to keep up with some of the top guys. His on-ice results from previous seasons aren’t great. However, as a player to fill in after multiple injuries, he’s a good 15th or 16th forward for a roster. Perhaps his strong season overseas gave him the confidence he needs.
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