Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Toronto Maple Leafs
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Gone – Zach Sill, Trevor Smith, Tim Erixon, Phil Kessel, Greg McKegg, Brandon Kozun, Joakim Lindstrom, Troy Bodie, David Booth, Eric Brewer, Frazer McLaren, Colton Orr, Dave Nonis (GM), Peter Horachek (coach)
Impact of changes – Not much.
Wait, there were changes?
Well, without Phil Kessel you can say goodbye to any 80-point players. And any 70-point players. And yes, any 60-point players. Rebuilding from the ground up. And there are an inordinate amount of players with one year left on their contracts (or they were only signed for one year to begin with),which truly makes this a year for evaluation. If you don't make the cut, you won't be back. That's so easy when you have all those contracts expiring.
So what you have is a low-scoring team that will keep games close (good for the goalies). There will be two 50-point players (James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri), one 40-point player (Morgan Rielly) and six or seven 30-point players.
Ready for full-time – This section alone could make this a two-part article. It's an evaluation year for the Leafs so there will be more than a dozen prospects who will get a cup of coffee with the big club at the very least. A small handful will get in close to a half a season. Zach Hyman, Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg, Nikita Soshnikov, Scott Harrington, Josh Leivo, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen, Sam Carrick, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Viktor Loov, Brendan Leipsic and Frederik Gauthier could all see a game or more. Here are my favorites to play at least 30 games (though probably fewer than 50).
Soshnikov is a possible future second-line talent. A potential Nikolay Kulemin. He'll be 22 in October and will likely start the year with the AHL's Toronto Marlies. However, he's a good candidate to be called up relatively early if the transition to North American hockey is a smooth one. More of a complementary player than a driver, he'll need to click on a line with a skilled center to become a fantasy asset.
Percy is a stay-at-home defenseman with a bit of offense. This year he'll probably see more games in the NHL than AHL, but I doubt he'll be up for the full schedule. Not ownable in most fantasy leagues, he could potentially be that rock on the blue line who eats a lot of minutes and gets 25 points.
Hyman broke out in a huge way for the University of Michigan last season, posting 54 points in 37 games and garnering a Hobey Baker nomination. The Leafs were able to pluck him from the Panthers for Greg McKegg because the Panthers were convinced that Hyman wouldn't sign with them and they would get nothing. He's 23 years old and could probably make the jump if he has a good start to the AHL season.
Fantasy Outlook – The Leafs have few players you would want to own in your keeper league. And those few would be drafted late. What they do have going for them is a pretty decent crop of prospects. A farm team that was one of the worst (from a fantasy standpoint) is now probably in the Top 10 (again, this is fantasy). Still, it will take a good three years before we start seeing those prospects pay you dividends.
Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C+)
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