Toronto Maple Leafs: Time for Alex Kerfoot to Get Some Credit

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 03: Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens and Alexander Kerfoot #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for the puck after a face-off during the second period at the Bell Centre on May 3, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MAY 03: Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens and Alexander Kerfoot #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for the puck after a face-off during the second period at the Bell Centre on May 3, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs Alex Kerfoot is, quite simply, one of the NHL’s most underrated players.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans may not have noticed, because Kerfoot was traded for fan-favorite Nazem Kadri, and he’s never been able to live it down.

Kerfoot is a great defensive player who doesn’t hit or block a ton of shots. He’s a complimentary forward whose speed is helpful, and his 5v5 scoring rate for his entire time with the Toronto has been 1.7 points per hour, which is very good second line scoring.

For $3.5 million per year, the Leafs get a lightning fast,  potentially elite defender (at worst he’s very good), who scores at a second line rate.  He also appears to be a solid penalty killer, though his sample size in that role is limited.  (all stats naturalstattrick.com).

Alex Kerfoot and the Toronto Maple Leafs

Besides being traded for the beloved Nazem Kadri Kerfoot’s disadvantage is that the Leafs studs and duds cap philosophy eschews mid-range players.  This means that, since he isn’t a star player, the Leafs could potentially replace Kerfoot without too much trouble, and dump the savings into getting another star player.

This remains a viable option.  In a scenario where Kerfoot’s cap hit could contribute to the Leafs adding a legitimate star player, they’d have to consider moving him.  However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t otherwise be an important member of the lineup.

So far, playing mostly on the wing with Tavares and Marner, he’s put up a 54% puck-possession rating, and a solid 53% expected goals rating. The Leafs get 55% of the scoring chances, and 59% of the high-danger chances with him on the ice.

Even better, they’ve scored nine goals and allowed five, good for a 64% actual goals rating.

Currently, Kerfoot has five points in 11 games (5v5) which is good for a scoring rate of 2.26 points per 60 minutes. Anything over 2 points per 60 is first line production.

So far this year, both Tavares and Marner do better when on the ice with Kerfoot than without him. It’s only been a short time, but with Kerfoot, Marner and Tavares, coach Sheldon Keefe seems to have hit on a winning combination.

As a third line centre, Kerfoot may have been miscast. As a top six winger who provides plus-defense and scores at a minimum of a second line player, he’s incredible value for the money he’s being paid.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs took some heat for losing Jared McCaan in the expansion draft, but perhaps they got lucky, because Alex Kerfoot appears to have found himself a sweet role on a top line, and it might just end up being a blessing in disguise that he’s still here.