Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Zach Hyman Overrated or Underrated?

TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 8: Adam Lowry #17 of the Winnipeg Jets battles against Zach Hyman #11 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 8, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Jets defeated the Maple Leafs 4-3 in a shootout. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 8: Adam Lowry #17 of the Winnipeg Jets battles against Zach Hyman #11 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 8, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Jets defeated the Maple Leafs 4-3 in a shootout. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Zach Hyman’s value to the organization has been long debated by Toronto Maple Leafs fans since he came into the league.

On July 23rd 2015, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Greg McKegg to the Panthers for Zach Hyman.

Hyman has been a player that has been relied upon by his coaches and his teammates as much as any other forward in the NHL since he was cemented onto the Leafs top line with Matthews and Nylander in his rookie season.

Towards the beginning of Hyman’s career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, his position on the top line was widely criticized by the majority of Leaf fans. It was clear that Hyman didn’t have the first-line talent you may expect, and most people probably failed to notice is impact at the beginning.

Years later, Hyman still finds himself in a key position on the Toronto Maple Leafs with a different coach and a largely different roster makeup. However, it seems as though the majority of Leaf fans now are big fans of Zach Hyman and understand the value he brings to the team that was likely overlooked previously.

All of this brings us to the question, “Is Zach Hyman overrated or underrated?”.

For me, he is underrated, so let’s break it down further.

The first thing that is quite obvious that must be pointed out is consistency. Every single night, whether its a Tuesday night game in Minnesota or a Saturday night game at home, you will find that Hyman shows up to play. There is no worry of Hyman having an off game because he never does, you know exactly what you’re going to get with Hyman.

But this leaves us asking, “What exactly does Hyman bring to the Toronto Maple Leafs every night?”.

Hyman’s skills are exactly what you would want for a player who is playing with highly talented players such as, Tavares/Marner or Matthews/Nylander, let’s break down why.


You have probably noticed that Hyman beats a lot of icings and wins a lot of battles down low. He is able to do this with his combination of speed, relentless work ethic, strong stick, body position, and intelligence.

Not many players are able to do this the way that Hyman can, whether it be the inability to obtain good body position or the lack of discipline.

It may seem easy watching on your couch but if a player is tasked with forechecking every shift, every time, it can be an extremely unforgiving task that many players don’t have the mindset to do.

This is because the majority of the time that the player is rushing, it will result in nothing with wasted energy knowing you will have to skate the other way immediately after.

Obviously, whenever the puck is snatched by the forechecker, this creates a high danger opportunity to capitalize on.

The point is, Hyman is among the best in the league at forechecking and applying pressure to force a turnover.

Doing this exact task while playing with elite players makes total sense. Reason number one is for the elite players to capitalize on the opportunities given and, number 2 is to save the elite players energy for situations where they are able to make skilled plays.

Covering for the Defensemen

Another one of the reasons Hyman’s coaches have seemingly trusted him so heavily is there is never a worry he will miss coverage of one of the Leafs defensemen pinching.

For example, while Marner and Matthews might be down low trying to create chances and Rielly moves deep in the zone for an extra option, Hyman will always notice and cover for Rielly in this situation. This is again ideal when you play with elite players who will clearly be better at scoring and creating scoring chances down low instead of covering for the defensemen.

Net Front Ability

Hyman is one of the best players at getting high danger opportunities from the NetFront, in fact over the last three seasons, Hymans expected shooting % at 5v5 is the highest among all players in the league with a minimum of 1000TOI.

Hyman is great at creating chances, and he clearly knows how to get in the right position.

As mentioned before, Hyman is amazing at obtaining body position on the forecheck, and this is also true in front of the net. He is able to distract the goalie and defenders all while getting in a prime area for himself to score off a rebound or a pass from one of the team’s major talents.

Even if Hyman does not have the scoring touch that you may expect for a first-line player, he is bound to capitalize on some of these opportunities, as he did this season with another career-high in goals despite playing far fewer games.

He likely won’t capitalize at the rate he did this season, but he still will put up goals based on the prime positioning he is able to get.

Some people even believe that the extra skill practice has improved his finishing talent, which may be too much optimism since he is already in his late 20’s, that is a possibility.

Goal scoring is not even close to the most important aspect Hyman brings to the team to be clear, there are so many other aspects of his game that make him such a valuable player. Think of goal scoring as simply a bonus for Hyman.

A look at the numbers to confirm

To confirm exactly what I have pointed out, I feel it’s important to take a look at the numbers to see the results Hyman has been bringing.

One of the best tools out there in 2020 is Evolving Hockey’s Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) which evaluates a player’s impact while including factors such as QoC, QoT, Zone start % and many more.

Hyman’s  xG RAPM impact is actually in the top 15% of forwards in the NHL, which is similar to players such as, Patrice Bergeron, Matthews Tkachuk, and William Karlsson.

The argument that he is perceived as good only because he plays with good players is false if those players all play better with him than without and his isolated impact is so good.

My final take is that a player who has such a large impact on his team without the flashy goal-scoring ability is bound to be seen as underrated because it is hard to notice all of the events that occur in a hockey game.

If whenever he is on the ice and the team is out chancing and outscoring the other team, no matter who he is playing with or against, that shows that he is having a positive impact on his team, Hyman clearly has a very positive impact.

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I think Toronto Maple Leafs fans ought to be huge fans of Hyman, and I can’t see why they shouldn’t be.