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30 in 30

Toronto Maple Leafs fantasy outlook

Auston Matthews' value a big question; Morgan Rielly could have breakout season

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

As part of NHL.com's 30 in 30 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. From most valuable assets to underrated options, impact prospects and more, this guide should help fantasy owners prioritize players for drafts.

Starting at the top: Auston Matthews, C

Though Nazem Kadri may enter the season as Toronto's No. 1 center, it's only a matter of time before Matthews earns that distinction. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft will develop in a possession-based system under coach Mike Babcock and has plenty of wing options (James van Riemsdyk, William Nylander, Leo Komarov, Nikita Soshnikov) whether he centers the first or second line. Matthews, ranked 81st in NHL.com's fantasy top 200 based on potential, could go even higher on average in drafts, but owners must temper expectations. He joins a roster with holes and could have growing pains. He should get 20 goals and 20 assists, something four rookies did last season (Artemi Panarin, Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Duclair), but it's risky to reach for Matthews higher than that ranking in a non-keeper league.

Maple Leafs 30 in 30: Season outlookTop prospects | Burning questions, reasons for optimism | Fantasy: Top 200

Undervalued: Morgan Rielly, D

With Matthews, Kadri, van Riemsdyk and one of the other wings expected to take four spots on the first power-play unit, Rielly is the leading candidate to quarterback that group and likely will be drafted, on average, outside the top 150. Rielly's goals, points and shots on goal have risen in each of his first three seasons, and he could be in for a power-play uptick with Dion Phaneuf now with the Ottawa Senators. In 31 games after Phaneuf was traded Feb. 9, Rielly led Toronto defensemen with five power-play points on a roster packed with inexperienced forwards, van Riemsdyk injured and Toronto selling prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Rielly is a candidate to break out for 40-45 points with 15-20 on the power play and is a low-risk, high-reward defenseman if available after the 13th round.

Video: CBJ@TOR: Rielly opens scoring with top-shelf SHG

Overvalued: Frederik Andersen, G

Andersen should be considered a fringe top 15 goalie because quality can trump quantity when it comes to the position. He has an NHL regular-season record of 77-26-12 in his first three seasons, but it would be foolish to expect him to win games at anything close to that rate (67 percent) with Toronto this season. He brings plenty of Stanley Cup Playoff experience to the table and is a big upgrade for the Maple Leafs, making him worthy of the top 100 overall. But his increased workload won't necessarily correlate with a serious fantasy spike, especially considering his save percentage dipped in his second and third seasons with heavier workloads compared to his rookie year. Andersen's former Anaheim Ducks teammate John Gibson and new Calgary Flames goalie Brian Elliott should be drafted ahead of him.

Sleeper: William Nylander, C/RW

Nylander got a taste of the League last season and performed admirably with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 22 games with Toronto out of contention. His power-play upside (three PPP last season) remains a question mark, but it was encouraging to see a 20-year-old fit in so well against stiff competition. Ranked among the top 200 for standard leagues (No. 177), Nylander is worth taking in one of the final two rounds. If you're in a keeper league, Nylander easily warrants a top 100 pick with the chance to be a top-six mainstay for years alongside Matthews. Nylander carried dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues last season.

Bounce-back: James van Riemsdyk, LW

Van Riemsdyk missed more than half of last season (40 games played) but managed 29 points (nine on power play) and 129 shots on goal, a pace that would result in 59 points, 18 power-play points and 264 SOG over 82 games. If he stays healthy and gets a chance to stick alongside a promising playmaker in Matthews, he easily could bounce back and reach those marks. He should slip outside the top 100, so keep a left wing slot available for him in the second half of a 16-round draft. Many forget van Riemsdyk, 27, had 30 goals and 31 assists in 2013-14 to finish 42nd among all players, so you can't rule out a return to fantasy prowess.

Video: TOR@ARI: Riemsdyk puts it past Domingue on PPG

Impact prospect: Mitchell Marner, C

Marner is expected to crack the Maple Leafs roster this season and will be a rookie worth watching in fantasy if he does. Marner, 19, was chosen with the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft and has topped 115 points in each of the past two seasons with London of the Ontario Hockey League. The Maple Leafs have Kadri and Tyler Bozak for center depth in addition to Matthews, but Marner is a dark horse who could become a late-round steal in deeper formats, especially if he cracks the top six.

Goalie outlook

The Maple Leafs reportedly were close to signing free agent Jhonas Enroth (.922 SV% in 16 appearances for the Los Angeles Kings last season) to back up Andersen after trading Jonathan Bernier to Anaheim. Any hope for Toronto to take a big step forward hinges on how well they protect Andersen defensively and in terms of his starts workload. The Maple Leafs re-signed 23-year-old Garret Sparks, who had a 17-game NHL trial, to a one-year, two-way contract, adding to their organizational depth.

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