As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, the fantasy hockey staff identifies relevant players from each team for 2018-19. Today, we look at Toronto Maple Leafs players, listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.
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Auston Matthews, C** (NHL.com rank: 8) -- Matthews, who turns 21 on Sept. 17, leads the NHL in even-strength goals per game (0.42; minimum 100 games) since entering the League in 2016-17. He was better than a point-per-game player (63 points in 62 games) last season despite missing 20 games because of multiple injuries. The potential 2019 restricted free agent has room for improvement in power-play points (13 last season) and could exceed 90 points with a plus/minus (plus-25 last season) among the NHL leaders on a line with wings Patrick Marleau and William Nylander.
Video: Auston Matthews takes the No. 4 spot on the list
John Tavares, C (9) -- Leaving the New York Islanders to sign a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Maple Leafs (average annual value $11 million) has catapulted Tavares back into the top 10 overall fantasy rankings, right behind fellow elite center and new teammate Matthews. Coach Mike Babcock said he plans to start Tavares on a line with right wing Mitchell Marner (led Maple Leafs with 69 points last season) and left wing Zach Hyman (38 even-strength points; tied for fourth on Toronto). Tavares, who had three seasons with at least 81 points and two with at least 30 PPP for the Islanders (often with ordinary linemates) joins a power play that ranked second in the NHL last season (25.0 percent) behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (26.2).
Mitchell Marner, RW** (31) -- The 21-year-old overcame a slow start last season (16 points in first 29 games) with a point-per-game finish; he had 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in his final 53 regular-season games and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games. Marner played mostly on a line with Marleau and center Nazem Kadri down the stretch and now will have a higher fantasy ceiling if he latches on with Tavares at even strength and on the power play; Marner also led Toronto with 27 PPP. He has added value in points-only formats and is one of three Maple Leafs forwards who could reach 80 points.
Frederik Andersen, G (35) -- Andersen, who turns 29 on Oct. 2, had 38 wins, a .918 save percentage (in line with his NHL career average) and five shutouts in an up-and-down season for many of his Maple Leafs teammates. Andersen should exceed 40 wins and finish among the top five fantasy goalies (third by NHL.com behind Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets). Andersen was brilliant for Denmark at the 2018 IIHF World Championship (.944 SV% in six games) and deserves to be drafted in the same range as other elite goalies because he has a higher individual ceiling and is likely to get a lot of goal support.
William Nylander, C/RW - RFA (78) -- Like Marner, Nylander struggled out of the gate last season but turned it on in the second half (29 points in his final 34 regular-season games), benefiting from consistent exposure to Matthews at even strength. Nylander, who retains dual eligibility in Yahoo, scored the same number of points (61) as his rookie season despite a significant dip in PPP (12 last season; 26 in 2016-17). The unsigned restricted free agent is a potential fantasy bargain attainable around the top 75 overall who should play on Toronto's 1-A power-play unit with Matthews and/or Tavares, and easily could reach 70 points.
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm6: Nylander pots rebound from the doorstep
Morgan Rielly, D (115) and Jake Gardiner, D* (134) -- The Maple Leafs were one of three teams with two defensemen who had at least 50 points last season (along with the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild), and Rielly and Gardiner stand to benefit from the addition of Tavares in all situations. Rielly, 24, with mostly Marner and Kadri on the power play, was a better man-advantage producer (25 PPP) than Gardiner (15), who played mostly with Matthews and Nylander in those situations. But Gardiner, 28, a potential 2019 unrestricted free agent, was tied for sixth among NHL defensemen in even-strength points (37) and feasibly could finish ahead of Rielly in fantasy. Prioritize one of these defensemen anytime outside the top 100 overall.
Nazem Kadri, C (117) -- Expected to be Toronto's third-line center with significant power-play exposure to Matthews, Tavares and/or Marner, the 27-year-old has emerged from the Maple Leafs' down years and has become extremely valuable in fantasy over the past two seasons. His shooting-percentage growth since Toronto has risen in the standings instills much confidence: he scored on 6.5 percent of his shots on goal in 2015-16, 13.6 percent in 2016-17 and 15.2 percent last season. Kadri is a safe bet for PPP (19 last season), SOG (three straight seasons of at least 211) and hits (94; 1.5 per game in his NHL career) who likely will be overlooked in middle rounds.
Other players with fantasy upside in late rounds or off waiver wire: Zach Hyman, LW (164); Patrick Marleau, C/LW (173); Andreas Johnsson, LW**, Nikita Zaitsev, D, Connor Brown, RW
RFA -- Current restricted free agent
*Potential 2019 unrestricted free agent
**Potential 2019 restricted free agent