Toronto Maple Leafs Young Core Is Just Getting Started

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs drops a puck to teammate Auston Matthews #34 for his 40th goal of the season against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 7, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs drops a puck to teammate Auston Matthews #34 for his 40th goal of the season against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 7, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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After four straight years of post-season hockey, it’s hard to remember that the Toronto Maple Leafs core is still super young.

Although we associate many players by their contracts, it’s hard to remember just how young this Toronto Maple Leafs roster is. Even the longest serving player (Morgan Rielly) is just hitting his prime.

Rielly is only 26-years-old and is just getting started. Over his tenure with the Leafs, he’s been brilliant, despite playing with inferior talent. The 2018-19 season was a breakout year for him, as he scored 72 points playing alongside Ron Hainsey every night. With the emergence of a new partner in TJ Brodie, I wouldn’t be shocked if he hit that mark again this upcoming year.

Over the past 30 years, only five players younger than 26-years-old have won the Norris Trophy. I’m not saying that Rielly is going to be awarded the league’s best defenseman this year, but I do know that his best seasons are ahead of him.

I know that winning is the most important part of hockey, but we need to evaluate the Leafs core a little more and remember how young they are. The team is led by three players (Auston Matthews: 23 years old, Mitch Marner: 23 years old and William Nylander: 24 years old). who can’t even legally rent a car yet. Even the “aging veteran” is John Tavares (30 years old) and he’s 11 years younger than his teammate Joe Thornton.

Toronto Maple Leafs Core Is Just Getting Warmed Up

I know the NHL is getting younger every year and rookies are making an impact quicker than ever, but similar to the Norris Trophy, the Hart Trophy recipient’s average age is 26-years-old. The main reason I’m pointing this out is because we need to stop criticizing Marner, Matthews and Nylander for not achieving anything, when almost every player doesn’t reach the top this quickly.

Sure, Gretzky won the Hart Trophy before he was 26-years-old, but he never won a Stanley Cup until he was 23-years-old. The greatest goal-scorer of our generation, Alex Ovechkin, was 32-years-old when he finally won, so sometimes it takes a little longer.

All I’m trying to say is that we need to stop criticizing the young core because they’re the only players that can help the Toronto Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup anytime soon. Look around the NHL, everyone. No team has as good of a core that Toronto has at this age. Some teams may have a core of better players, but I guarantee they’re not as young as Toronto’s.

Next. Auston Matthews Will Win Hart Trophy in 2020-21 Season. dark

For the next decade, Matthews, Marner and Nylander will continue to get better every season, so enjoy the ride. The team that was pervious known as an 18-wheeler falling off a cliff is now a Ferrari.