Toronto Maple Leafs Should Give Marlies Forward a Shot with Matthews/Nylander Line
On July 1, 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed an underrated deal with Kenny Agostino for two years at $737,500.
While many people feel he should be in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Agostino is currently playing on the Toronto Marlies top line and top powerplay.
Agosinto is currently over a point per game with 24 points in 23 games. Although he has been in the minors this season, he has plenty of NHL experience with 85 games to his name primarily playing on a third-line role with time on both the left and right-wing.
There is plenty of reason for Agostino to be a guy the Leafs could try out with Johnsson out of the lineup.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a very weak team defensively, with most of their players being offense-first players. Agostino is more of a defense-first player with enough talent offensively to be NHL caliber. Agostino is capable of helping the team out either on a fourth-line role or even temporary as a complementary player with Johnsson out with Matthews and Nylander.
A closer look into Agostino’s game at the NHL level
When Agostino was playing in the NHL, his results do not come out as an AHL quality player, he is an NHL caliber player. Here is a look at Micah Blake McCurdy’s “Mangus 2 chart”, which depicts a player’s play-driving value offensively and defensively while taking into account quality of teammates, competition, and many other factors.
As you can note on the chart, Agostino’s numbers are well above average in both metrics.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs trying out guys like Aberg and Timashov who have had little success and have not shown that they are “a guy” as in an NHL caliber player.
Agostino has already shown he can be a decent player at the NHL level, thus he should get a shot at playing in the show this season.
There are three reasons why I can see Agostino being a capable complementary player with the dynamic duo.
The first reason is attributed to his knack for being a solid two-way player, the second is the amount of time he shoots the puck and the last is his strong positioning in the offensive zone whether it be off the rush or in front of the net.
With Matthews and Nylander who are gifted offensive players that have struggled in their own end to a certain degree in their short careers, Agostino could be a perfect player to round out the line and be reliable in the way that he will always be in position to cover for the defense if the situation calls for it, which will happen a lot with Sheldon Keef’s system that enforces “total hockey”.
Agostino is also capable of helping the line successfully exit the zone when it gets caught in the defensive zone. He is has a resume of being able to limit high danger chances against, along with his above-average ability to successfully exit the zone with possession.
Quality Over Quantity
When Kapanen has been on the Matthews line, the line has struggled because of Kapanen’s tendency to shoot low percentage shots more often than ideal.
When a player like Matthews is on the ice, the ideal situation is he is shooting a lot more than the average skater.
With Kenny Agostino in his NHL career, he has shot at a rate lower than most skaters would, which is a great skill to have that promotes quality over quantity, especially with Matthews as the center.
Offensive Zone Positioning off the rush and in the net-front
I would argue that Hyman has been the most successful complementary player that has played with Matthews and Nylander. The main reason for his success with the duo is because of his forechecking ability but what comes after that is his effective net-front presence. This is something that Agostino possesses and if you have seen any of the goals he has scored with the Marlies a lot have been at the net front.
What makes me believe Agostino may possibly be an even better option than Hyman is he seems to be able to finish the majority of his chances off the rush, unlike our beloved Hyman.
We can take a look at Agostino’s career ixG (individual expect goals) and G in the NHL and see that he is an average finisher which is easily an improvement over Hyman.
All in all, I think there is no reason not to try out Agostino on the Matthews-Nylander line just how Aberg was tested there.
There is reason to believe something could work along with the notion of no harm in testing out new things to see if it works.
This has been my favorite thing about Keefe over Babcock is his willingness to test out new ideas. Agostino may turn out to be a fourth-liner at best but I think he has the potential of being “a guy” in this Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.