Mar 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) in action against the Philadelphia Flyers at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Flyers 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs 2014-15 Player Outlook: Phil Kessel

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For the month of August, Editor in Leaf will take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, previewing what could happen in the 2014-15 NHL season. We start it off with the Leafs’ offensive leader, Phil Kessel.

Position: Right Wing

Age: 26

Years With Leafs: 5

Not much needs to be said about Phil Kessel. Sure, he might go into slumps, but Kessel is the straw that stirs the drink in the Leafs’ offense. Not much is going to change this year.

Kessel will undoubtedly return to playing on the first line alongside Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. In the past, a lot of pressure has been put on them to be produce game-in and and game-out.

This season, with the additions the Leafs have made and the philosophy of having a more all-around bottom-six, the pressure will be eased on the big three. That could mean better total, since they’ll know that it’s not all up to them.

While Kessel is known as a sniper, which he is as he one of the best wrist shots in the NHL, he has grown to have considerable playmaking abilities as well. For the past four seasons, Kessel has had the same amount or more assists than he has had goals. So when defenseman are focusing on him, they might want to watch for the pass, since it is more of an everyday occurrence nowadays.

Biggest Question – Will Kessel finally score 40 goals in a season?

This has been the question surrounding Kessel for years. Forget about asking whether his defensive game can get better, the Leafs pay him to score goals. In the past six seasons, Kessel has totals of 36, 30, 32, 37, 20 and 37. Factoring in that his 20 goal season was during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he would have scored at least 30 in a full 82-game season.

Could this year finally be the year where Kessel breaks through? With some pressure off of him, it just might be.

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