An Early Guess as the Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 Lineup

Nick Ritchie #21 of the Boston Bruins (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Nick Ritchie #21 of the Boston Bruins (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
2 of 6
Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes (Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) /

Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 Opening Night Lineup

First Line

Despite a really bad playoff series against Montreal , the Toronto Maple Leafs have the best first-line in the NHL.  Auston Matthews is the second best hockey player in the world, and the only one even close to Connor McDavid (Matthews finished with a higher WAR last year despite McDavid scoring over 100 points).

Mitch Marner’s stock is low due to a bizarre 18 game playoff goalless streak and a penchant for tossing the puck over the glass.  And yet, the underlying numbers were still off-the-charts excellent, and it is clear that the only thing stopping him from taking his regular season game into the playoffs has been bad luck and a small sample size.

Marner broke out last year by turning in an elite defensive performance to match his 100 point scoring pace (which he’d already demonstrated).  If Marner is again in the 80th percentile (or above) of defensive forwards, and continues his incredible scoring rate (he was second in the NHL in 5v5 scoring behind McDavid last year) then he is on track to be the third best player in the NHL.

In the first five years’ of their careers, Marner has played about 70 less games than MacKinnon did, and has about 40 more points, while playing way better defense.  If MacKinnon is the consensus #3 player in the world right now, it will be interesting to see how the two-yeas-younger-but-way-better-at-the-same-age Marner will develop.

Anyways, joining the two superstars on this line is going to be, I predict, Michael Bunting.  Bunting can score garbage goals, and that is what the Leafs duo needs.  They made Hyman into an elite player, and while they might not be able to make Bunting all the way as good as Hyman,  Bunting’s ability to slam home garbage goals is going to make him very popular in Toronto, who loves this kind of player.