The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have endless options on the power-play next year.
If you cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs and are still upset about the defense, I can understand that, but the skill on the power-play should make up for that. Teams around the league will be incredibly worried about committing a penalty against Toronto next season.
Not only did Kyle Dubas upgrade the bottom-six this off-season, but he added a few power-play specialists. Newly acquired Joe Thornton, Jimmy Vesey Wayne Simmonds and T.J. Brodie are all players who can be difference-makers with the man-advantage.
Over the past four seasons, the power-play has been one of the Toronto Maple Leafs biggest advantages. The team has yet to finish worse than eighth in the NHL in that category, as their top players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares are deadly with open ice.
For Matthews, all he needs is a few inches of space to be dynamic. His shot is arguably the best in the league and the way he’s able to slightly move the angle of his stick to get a shot through defenders and past the goaltender is so much fun to watch. The fact that we’ve only been able to watch five games in the past eight months of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is depressing, because his play gives myself and many other fans so much joy.
Marner is a magician on the power-play as well, as he’s able to set up anyone on the ice. His shot is underrated because defenders typically think he’s going to pass, so when he actually does fire the puck, it catches everyone off guard.
The addition of John Tavares has also been a great sight on the blue-line because he plays the bumper role in the middle of the ice. Whether he’s passing towards either wing or firing a one-timer off from 20 feet, Tavares’ hockey IQ is a huge reason why he’s so good on the power-play.
Last but not least, Nylander’s shot may not be as good as Matthews’ is, but it’s pretty phenomenal. His quick release makes his shot so deadly, as he loves going bar-down on any goaltender, especially with open-ice on the power-play.
What Should the Power-Play Look Like Next Season?
Power-Play Unit #1:
- Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner – John Tavares- Wayne Simmonds – Morgan Rielly
Power-Play Unit #2:
- Joe Thornton – William Nylander – Zach Hyman – Nick Robertson – T.J. Brodie
So here’s my thinking with the first unit. Matthews, Marner and Tavares were incredibly dynamic last year on the power-play and 5v5 when they played together in the qualifying series, so you may as well stack that as your number-one line. I love the idea of putting Simmonds on this unit because he’s a front-net specialist. He’s played with a few great skilled players before and has shown that he can contribute, so you could get the most out of him if he played on the top-line.
For the second-unit, it’s not as strong, but it’s incredibly fun. Most of the offense will run through Joe Thornton, who will be the set-up guy. With him controlling the puck, he should be able to get a ton of one-time chances with Nylander and Robertson. The rookie has a very powerful shot, so he needs to be on the power-play. Hyman can play a similar role with Simmonds as the front-net presence and help screen the goaltender, while Brodie fires shots from the blue-line.
Jason Spezza, Jimmy Vesey, Alex Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev are all four other players would could contribute on the power-play, but in a perfect world, I think those eight forwards fit the role better. Even though that second unit is worse than the first, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to score a ton this year too.
If you’re able to make a team pay on the power-play, it’s just a deflating feeling and can change a game around in an instance. The Toronto Maple Leafs have a ton of options to choose next year and Sheldon Keefe will be smiling ear-to-ear anytime they get the man-advantage.