Well, after last night’s look at the blueline, today we’ll look at the forwards who have been the primary source of the Leafs’ 7th-ranked offense this season. Without any further ado, we’ll just jump right in.
Phil Kessel – There’s no denying that this has been, so far, the best season of Kessel’s young career. He began the season at a blistering scoring pace, and remains on pace for a 49-goal, 98-point season. He’s playing a much more complete game, creating his own space, and continues to use the incredible speed and talents he has at his disposal. He is among the league leaders in both goals and points, having led both categories for most of the season. With injuries to both Claude Giroux and Milan Michalek, his primary competition for both marks, it’s likely that he’ll retake his position atop the leaderboards shortly. Grade: A+
Joffrey Lupul – Another Leaf having a career year, Lupul has taken full advantage of the opportunity offered him by Brian Burke after he was acquired in the incredibly lopsided Beauchemin deal. He currently leads the team with a +6 rating, and is just 2 points behind Kessel for the team lead in points, ranking 3rd in the league overall. At the moment, as it has been for most of the season, there’s not a better 1-2 punch in the league. Lupul’s creating space for Kessel, and both feed off of each other incredibly well. Grade: A+
Tyler Bozak – After a tough sophomore campaign, Bozak was projected to fill in as a capable 3rd line center, and not much more. Instead, injuries thrust him again into the role of first line center, although this time around, he’s looked much more at home. There’s still times when one wonders just how good the Leafs’ top line could be if there was a legitimate top-tier talent centering it, but for the most part, Bozie has created an incredible chemistry with Kessel and Lupul and has done well enough to remain 3rd on the team in scoring with 18 points, more than half as many as he scored all of last season. Grade: B+
Nikolai Kulemin – Mired in one incredibly exasperating scoring drought, Kulemin has struggled to live up to the expectations leveled on him after a 30-goal season last year. While he has just 2 goals, Kulie has continued to play well, but remains snakebitten when it comes to finding the twine. You get the feeling that when he does finally score, it’s going to unleash a flood of production, both for him and his linemates, but until then, all we can do is sit and wait. Grade: C-
Mikhail Grabovski – Grabo has missed a couple games so far this season, both from injuries and the birth of a child, but he continues to be one of the more exciting players on the team to watch when he’s on his game. He hasn’t produced up to the level that he did last season, but alot of that has to do with the struggles of his linemates, as well as the fact that he’s been pushed into a 3rd line role and ice time since returning from injury. Grade: B-
Clarke MacArthur – A slow start, aided by injuries and a suspension have kept MacArthur, and consequently, his linemates from enjoying the red-hot production the MGK line brought to the table last season. Still, MacArthur seems to be finding his game again, and it’s likely only a matter of time before he’s reunited with his old mates. Grade: B-
Tim Connolly – When he’s been healthy, Connolly has been great. Two goals last night to give the Leafs the win, and 15 points in 18 games. His playmaking skills have been as advertised, the only thing has been keeping him healthy. He contributes in the faceoff dot, at just a touch under 50%, as well as the penalty kill. His biggest issue is obviously his health, but since his last injury, so far so good. Grade: B+