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2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Outlook: Toronto Maple Leafs

The only measure of success for the Toronto Maple Leafs is how far they go into the playoffs. Good thing fantasy hockey is played during the regular season.
Auston Matthews

The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.

To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for all 32 teams.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season: 54-21-7, 2nd Atlantic, 4th overall. GF: 2nd, GA: 19th, PP: 1st, PK: 8th

The Maple Leafs are obviously at crossroads. Kyle Dubas has put together a very, very good team, but they have also never advanced past the first round in the cap era and currently own the league’s longest active playoff series win drought. At this point, any team or individual accolades earned during the season is moot until they can advance in the playoffs. 

No team’s cap structure is perfect and Dubas hasn’t been immune to the occasional blunder, but it is somewhat unnerving that their one glaring weakness – goaltending – may be worse going into the 2022-23 season.

The pressure is immense. Another short playoff run – anything but a conference finals appearance seems like a loss – will likely spark a regime change. Can the Leafs handle that kind of pressure if they haven’t been able to handle it in the playoffs? 

The Leafs have also long refused to allocate significant cap space to goalies, and they’re now backed into a corner with two castaways in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, both of whom might be one more bad season away from washing out of the league. The Sens were forced to retain salary to get rid of Murray just two years into his four-year contract, and Samsonov’s season was so disappointing he didn’t get a qualifying offer from the Capitals. Goaltending will likely make or break the Leafs’ season, and you wonder who’s actually saving who in this situation.

Best Fantasy Option: Auston Matthews, C

There’s no one close because Matthews is the best goal scorer in the league and coming off winning the Hart, Lindsay, and Rocket Richard trophies. 

Matthews probably won’t win any scoring titles because he doesn’t pile up the assists, but goals are a tough category to win, and having Matthews on your roster will give you a huge edge. There’s also additional upside with Matthews now that he’s winning more than half of his faceoffs regularly, and he’s taken high-volume shooting to a whole new level. 

He’s a lock to finish top five in both goals and shots with a healthy season.

Hidden Gem: Alex Kerfoot, LW/RW

The Leafs are so top-heavy and invested in their top players that the talent level falls off a cliff after Matthews, Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly. 

Michael Bunting carries the most risk because his scoring pace will drop significantly if he’s not playing on Matthews’ line, and with Yahoo’s ADP of 151.1, it feels like bad value at that slot. Kerfoot’s offensive upside is a little lower, but there’s sneaky 20-goal, 50-point potential playing on a line with Tavares and Nylander, and hopefully, he will get more power play time than last year. 

If Kerfoot starts shooting the puck a lot more, he could be a player to watch and help the Leafs rely less on Matthews and Marner to do all the heavy lifting on offense.

Goalies:

This is where things can go really awry for the Leafs. Murray will likely get the first crack at the starting job and there were times with the Sens last season where he looked like his former Cup-winning self -- quick, confident, and tracking the puck well. But his confidence seems to ebb and flow like the tide, and changes to his style along with bouts with injuries could further exacerbate his inconsistency.

 Let’s not forget, though, that the Leafs also endured a period of very poor play from Jack Campbell, and they still made it work. Murray at least has way more playoff experience, and for the Leafs, that was probably more important.

Samsonov is a reclamation project after he failed to really hold on to the starting job in D.C. The Caps elected to go with two completely new goalies just as the Leafs did, and as the saying goes, one team’s trash might be another team’s treasure. 

Samsonov garnered Calder votes in his rookie season but in the two subsequent seasons has not lived up to expectations, and last season ranked 82nd out of 109 goalies in 5v5 GSAA/60 with at least 60 TOI, according to naturalstattrick.com. Even as an insurance policy, the Leafs are taking a big risk with the 25-year-old. 

Conventional wisdom suggests a shaky starter should be supported by an experienced backup, but the Leafs have sometimes zigged when others have zagged, and it’s still unsure if Murray or Samsonov will be the better goalie. Currently, Samsonov’s Yahoo ADP of 116.6 is well ahead of Murray’s 152.6, but those numbers may be skewed by Yahoo’s default ranking and seeing Samsonov getting drafted ahead in auto drafts. With a pre-season rank well outside the top 300, Murray’s the better value pick at the moment.

This is a nightmare situation for fantasy managers. Wins will be very easy to come by because the Leafs' offense is so good and they can often score themselves out of trouble, and the best compromise is to roster both goalies – a great strategy if you have snake picks – since there should be around 50 wins between them. Otherwise, it’s a wait-and-see game that will be a big storyline throughout the season. Among teams looking to contend, the Leafs have the most uncertain goaltending situation.

Outlook: 

Depending on your league’s settings, Matthews is arguably the second-best pick in the league, and Marner’s one of the most consistent point producers. Tavares, Nylander, and Rielly are all solid picks before things start to get a little dicier with Bunting and Kerfoot. There are some prospects still coming in, such as sniper Nick Robertson and Timothy Liljegren, but the Leafs are gunning for a Cup and will therefore lean heavily on their best players and their veterans. 

There won’t be many minutes available to them and the margin for error will be very small. 

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