The Toronto Maple Leafs have a secret weapon.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had a terrible start to the season, fired Mike Babcock, then went on a tear.
Unfortunately, the Leafs then lost Andreas Johnsson, Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin to injury, and they struggled through the last 20 or so games of the season.
Because of this, and because of the fact that franchise has been so bad for 50 years that most of its own fans don’t even appreciate how good the current team is, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a crazily underrated team.
I predict people will look back a couple of months from now in disbelief that this team didn’t receive more respect. That is, however, always the case when you’re selling potential and have no accomplishments yet.
Not only are the Leafs an insanely deep team that will be adding a potential superstar rookie or two to their lineup this summer (Robertson, Sandin) but they also have a secret weapon.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Secret Weapon
The Leafs are entering the playoffs with just 30 of a allowed 31 players. The reason for entering short handed is to leave room for the return of Andreas Johnsson.
So to be clear, the team with two first lines, whose top two left wingers (Hyman and Mikheyev) both had ELITE seasons so far, will be adding a rookie who scored over a goal per game in the OHL and they have a first-line left winger waiting to join the team.
It is an embarrassment of riches.
You can scan the other 31 teams, but no one is even close to having this kind of depth at forwards. A fully healthy team will have to play Nick Robertson on the fourth line, while sitting one of Pierre Engvall, Jason Spezza or Kyle Clifford, each of whom is one of the best 4th liners in the NHL.
Johnsson had knee surgery and is back skating already. He is due to be able to play sometime in mid-August, and if the Toronto Maple Leafs are still alive in the playoffs, he could rejoin the team.
He is the Leafs secret weapon. Johnsson scored at a first line rate last year while potting 20 goals, almost all of which came in the second half.
He is a great player who brings speed and grit to the team. He’s a perfectly capable first line left winger, but since the Leafs have three of those (and Robertson) they could play Johnsson on the 3rd liner, where he’d be one of the best 3rd liners in the NHL.
The Leafs are deep, and stand to get deeper. Kyle Dubas has assembled the NHL’s best roster, and in a month or two, I won’t be the only one saying it.