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31 in 31

Toronto Maple Leafs fantasy preview for 2017-18

Matthews, Marner, Nylander valuable keeper-league assets

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's landscape. Fantasy-relevant players are listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. Today, we look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

 

[MAPLE LEAFS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the numbers | More team fantasy previews]

 

FORWARDS

Auston Matthews, C -- He led the NHL with 32 even-strength goals as a 19-year-old. He had stellar totals in power-play points (21) and shots on goal (279) to finish 29th in Yahoo after an average draft position of 109.6. He played often with fellow rookie forward William Nylander, but also spent significant time centering rookies Zach Hyman and Connor Brown. If Matthews skates with Nylander and veteran Patrick Marleau for a full season, his assist total could skyrocket and land him among the top five overall.

Mitchell Marner, C/RW -- He had more line stability than Matthews, playing alongside forwards James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak at even strength and on the power play. Marner led all rookies in assists (42) and was tied for second in power-play points (21), finishing 67th in Yahoo after an ADP of 149.6. He's on track to be an elite distributor for years to come, and his solid shot total (176 in 77 games) means he has greater potential as a goal scorer. He's worth drafting in the third round of a standard league and among the top 15 in most keeper formats.

William Nylander, C/RW -- Not to be outdone by Matthews and Marner, Nylander led all rookies in power-play points (26) and was second among first-year players in fantasy value (52nd in Yahoo). If he builds on his strong shot total (205 in 81 games) and plays more often with Matthews at even strength, he'll have a chance to jump for 25-30 goals and 65-70 points. He's worth reaching for among the top 50 overall.

James van Riemsdyk, LW -- Benefiting from constant exposure to Marner at even strength and on the power play, van Riemsdyk had an NHL career-high 62 points with his second-highest single-season goal total (29). His high shot volume (238) helped him finish 47th in Yahoo after being underestimated in drafts (ADP: 125). He's a fringe top-50 forward and top-75 overall player.

Nazem Kadri, C - He thrived on the Maple Leafs' third line and spent time on each power-play unit, setting NHL career highs in goals (32) and points (61). Even if your league doesn't count penalty minutes (95 last season; T-16th in NHL), Kadri was one of 12 players with at least 30 goals, 60 points, 15 power-play points (17) and 230 shots on goal (236). Take full advantage if Kadri is underestimated again.

Patrick Marleau, C/LW -- He joins the Maple Leafs after spending his first 19 NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks, and could be rejuvenated by the Maple Leafs' young forward group. Marleau, who will turn 38 on Sept. 15, scored 27 goals on 190 shots on goal last season, a shooting percentage (14.2 percent) not far above his NHL career average (13.4). Marleau will play on one of the Maple Leafs' two strong power-play units, so he'll have a chance to score 50 points for the first time since 2014-15 (57).

Tyler Bozak, C -- The Maple Leafs' second-line center had 55 points (18 goals, 37 assists) in 78 games, with 18 points on the power play. He was one of six Maple Leafs with at least 55 points and 15 power-play points. He only covered two of the six standard fantasy categories well (assists and power-play points), but remains a fringe top-200 asset because of his frequent exposure to two top-100 forwards.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm1: Marner lays out to open the scoring

 

DEFENSEMEN

Jake Gardiner, D - The Maple Leafs' power play ranked second in the NHL (23.8 percent) last season, but its defensemen didn't total nearly as many power-play points as the forwards. Gardiner, who led Maple Leafs defensemen with 2:32 per game on the power play (2:40 in Stanley Cup Playoffs), mostly played on a unit with Matthews, Nylander and Brown, and had 13 power-play points. He also had a much better plus/minus (plus-24) than Nikita Zaitsev (minus-22) and Morgan Rielly (minus-20). Gardiner ranked 19th among fantasy defenseman (129th overall in Yahoo) last season, but could dip if the Maple Leafs regress at even strength; last season they were fifth in the League with 169 5-on-5 goals.

Nikita Zaitsev, D -- He was among the rookie defenseman leaders in points (36, third) and power-play points (12, second), but sustained an upper-body injury in April and played in four of the Maple Leafs' six postseason games. He didn't finish anywhere near Gardiner in Yahoo (No. 363), but averaged 2:00 per game on the power play in the regular season, mostly on a unit with Marner, van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Kadri. He's a potential late-round steal who has a higher power-play points ceiling.

Morgan Rielly, D -- Likely because of Zaitsev's injury, Rielly saw an uptick in power-play minutes in the postseason to 2:08 per game from 0:58 during the regular season. Rielly, 23, is younger than Zaitsev (25) and Gardiner (27), and excelled with a heavy playoff workload (26:53 per game; five points in six games). His fantasy breakout potential hinges on whether he gets more power-play usage in addition to a heavy defensive workload.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm2: Rielly scores PPG through traffic

 

GOALTENDING

Frederik Andersen, G - He won half of his games (33 of 66) last season with a save percentage (.918) that matched his NHL career average. He got the Maple Leafs to the playoffs and set an NHL career high in shutouts (four), but must improve in overtime/shootout, where he had an NHL-high 14 losses, to join the elite at his position. Andersen is the clear starter and the Maple Leafs could bounce back in those situations, making him worth drafting among the top 15 goalies and top 75 overall.

Others to consider: Connor Brown (RW), Kasperi Kapanen (RW), Zach Hyman (C/LW), Josh Leivo (LW/RW), Leo Komarov (C/LW) 

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