Toronto Maple Leafs Young Core Is The Best in NHL

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 12: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 12: William Nylander /

For the fourth consecutive season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made the post-season.

Since 1977, this is only the third time that the Toronto Maple Leafs have made the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

Sure, the NHL isn’t technically considering the play-in games a playoff berth, but based off points, the Leafs most likely would have made a normal 16-team playoff anyway.

The reason why the Leafs are in the post-season is because of their young-core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Toronto Maple Leafs Have Best Young-Core in NHL

For whatever reason, a large number of fans get frustrated by the fact that the Leafs pay these players so much money, even though they’re performing up to their contract, if not excelling it.

Let’s go back to June, 2017 right now.

Auston Matthews wins the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, while Mitch Marner and William Nylander finish fifth and sixth in voting respectively.

Only Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski and Matt Murray were ahead of them in voting.

Laine is now a 40-plus goal scorer, Werenski is one of the best young defenseman in the NHL, and Murray became a two-time Stanley Cup champion for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That’s pretty good company if you ask me?

Most teams would be lucky to have one player in the top-10, let alone three in the top-six.

Anyone can criticize Nylander as much as they want for his contract hold-out, but in five years, I promise nobody will talk about that anymore.

Nylander was on-pace for 37 goals and 70 points this season before the season stopped. Having just turned 24-years-old, there’s no doubt that 30 goals and 70 points will be a tap-in for Nylander for the next few years, as he continues to get better with age.

Marner has even more skill and creativity than Nylander and it was on full-display last year when he played all 82-games, paired up with John Tavares mostly every night.

Although his first two NHL seasons were great, his third season was a break-out year. Marner excelled when he was given the opportunity to play with a world-class center like Tavares.

Marner had 94 points, which was 11th in the entire NHL. One year younger than Nylander, the 23-year-old will continue to get bigger and stronger and will become an even better player as he ages.

Last but not least is Matthews. Not only is he the leader of the team, but he’s the youngest of the core.

Matthews is the best pure-goal scorer in the NHL and would have scored 50 goals in a full regular season this year. Matthews has a legitimate chance at winning a Hart Trophy one day and will most likely be a Conn Smythe Trophy winner if the Leafs ever lift a Stanley Cup again.

Leafs fans should be smitten at the fact that they have all three of these players locked up until at least 2024.

When the NHL season was normal, I think it was easy to take these talented players for granted.

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Once hockey gets playing again, I hope critics realize what they were missing and understand that if they ever want to see the Toronto Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup again, it’ll be on the backs of these three young superstars.