Toronto Maple Leafs: Nic Petan Is Back in the Mix; Alex Kerfoot Injured

LAVAL, QC - DECEMBER 28: Nicolas Petan #61 of the Toronto Marlies skates the puck against the Laval Rocket during the first period at Place Bell on December 28, 2019 in Laval, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Toronto Marlies 6-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - DECEMBER 28: Nicolas Petan #61 of the Toronto Marlies skates the puck against the Laval Rocket during the first period at Place Bell on December 28, 2019 in Laval, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Toronto Marlies 6-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently in first place in the NHL.

One of the most impressive things about the Toronto Maple Leafs start to the season is that a lot of their depth was sapped with injuries early on, but they didn’t miss a beat.

This is by design and what you are hoping for when you assemble the NHL’s deepest team.  Joe Thornton off to a great start, but down with a broken rib? No problem, just move Zach Hyman back to the top line.

Is Robertson hurt? No problem, let’s put in Pierre Engvall, an above-replacement level NHL player who wasn’t even on the team to start the year.   Overall, the Leafs have only eight forwards (out of a possible 12) who have played all ten games.  Even when Matthews had to miss a game, it wasn’t a huge deal because the team can just give more ice time to John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander.

Toronto Maple Leafs Impressive Depth

Spezza has played in nine games, Alex Barabanov six, Travis Boyd two, Adam Brooks and Joey Anderson one each.

Overall, the Leafs have used 17 forwards in total, and none of them have been bad enough to say they should be taken out of the lineup, though Spezza  and Simmonds at 5v5 are just way too slow to be effective. (stats naturalstattrick.com).

At the same token, no one outside the top five obvious best forwards and Joe Thornton has stood out as particularly good.

Which means, enter Nic Petan.

Alex Kerfoot is injured, though it’s the NHL so details are scant.  Since Petan appears to be called up, one assumes that there is a corresponding move, but who knows?  I like Petan and think he is exactly the type of player NHL teams should build their fourth lines around.  He can do everything Spezza can do, just better.

Petan may never be a good top six type start player, but fourth lines need skill and he’s got a ton of it.  Also, on a team where Justin Holl appears to be transitioning into a potential star player at the age of 29, you can’t give up on a 25 year old Nic Petan.

Going forward, I’d like to see Barabanov, Anderson, Boyd and Petan get a bit more ice time.  Not because I think they necessarily deserve it, but because it’s important to know what you have.  You know what you are getting from Simmonds and Spezza, but the other guys are a bit of a mystery.

dark. Next. Analyzing the Big Four

Until you start giving players like Baranov more than five minute a night, you can’t really know if they can help the team.