2nd in 2017-18 Atlantic Division – Toronto Maple Leafs
Another safe bet for the top three in the division is the young guns of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Returning virtually every important cog in the well-oiled machine from last season was important, and the Leafs did just that.
On top of having virtually the same team, they have added some veteran scoring ability and a seasoned NHL player in Patrick Marleau. Much like everyone else around the league, Marleau is jumping on the Toronto hype train. And with the young roster they have at their disposal, no one can really blame him.
Marleau won’t be the top offensive name on the team sheet, but the experience he brings to the Leafs is an invaluable trait that they lacked last season. Playing in 1,493 NHL games means that he’s seen it all, and if he can translate his calm and composed style to some of the younger players on the Leafs roster, they could very well make a decent run into the postseason and beyond the first round.
Everything is pointing to the fact that American sensation Auston Matthews can continue his stellar play into the 2017-18 season, but a bit of regression may just happen in his sophomore season. Regardless, he is a phenomenal talent and a corner piece to the young roster the Leafs have built.
Other young forwards like Mitchell Marner and William Nylander look to play the types of roles they did last season, and they will be pivotal to any success the Leafs are going to experience in the 2017-18 season.
If the defensive corps can continue to play like they did in 2016-17, and Frederik Andersen can replicate his play, the Leafs will be a shoe-in for the playoffs and will be part of a three-team free for all for the 2017-18 Atlantic Division title.
Player to watch in 2017-18: Patrick Marleau. It will be an interesting storyline to watch to see how Marleau translates his stellar career to Toronto. At 38-years-old it will be a hard ask of him to see if he can keep up with the high-paced style of play in Toronto, but there is no reason to doubt the talent that Marleau still has. He could very well be the next piece of the puzzle to turn this team into a dark horse Stanley Cup contender.