Toronto Maple Leafs: Who Ends Up With Tavares and Nylander?

It’s not some great unknown fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t quite settled on a left winger to ice alongside John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line.

Last season, more often than not, Alex Kerfoot did the job and the Toronto Maple Leafs reaped the benefits of a 51 point haul from the versatile forward.

However as we head into training camp, the notion that it’s not definitely his spot has already been cast out there by the team’s head coach Sheldon Keefe.

In fact, if you’re to believe the endless churn of rumours, Alex Kerfoot may not finish the year as a member of the Leafs due to the cap squeeze if or when Rasmus Sandin inks a new deal.

Which Toronto Maple Leafs Players Have A Shot?

The names that Sheldon Keefe offered up to the media for the left wing spot on the second line were Alex Kerfoot as well as new arrivals Calle Jarnkrok and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Both of the new names would prove interesting options to provide a different element to that group. Kerfoot, of course, would provide greater continuity with the idea he already has chemistry with Tavares and Nylander.

Looking to the other two, Nicolas Aube-Kubel might be one of the most appealing options, not least as it provides a physical focal point on that line that was lacking last season.

In the past, John Tavares has thrived with slightly more robust line mates, whether that is Zach Hyman with the Toronto Maple Leafs or Matt Moulson with the New York Islanders; having a player willing to take hits and get into battles helps Tavares.

Perhaps the biggest slight is his lack of proven NHL ability when it comes to generating offense – his 22 points for the Colorado Avalanche last year represents his current high-point.

To be bumped up to second line duties would represent a significant promotion in NHL terms for Aube-Kubel, but that isn’t to say that it’d be above his level; perhaps he’s a player that just needs that chance with high-tier line mates.

The big hope here would be that putting Aube-Kubel into that spot would see him blossom in the same way Michael Bunting did in a vastly expanded role (from his previous NHL experience) last season.

Calle Jarnkrok, on the other hand, seems a more likely option especially if Kerfoot isn’t remaining in Toronto Maple Leafs colours long-term. After all, he inked a four-year deal this summer, which suggests somewhat of a bigger plan you’d have to imagine.

In a season split between the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames; his most common even-strength line mates were Yanni Gourde, Mason Appleton, Blake Coleman and Dillon Dube (per Frozen Pool).

Not to disrespect any of those guys but they are possibly a tier below the likes of Tavares and Nylander in terms of talent and pure point-scoring ability. Even the year prior in Nashville; Jarnkrok was most often paired with Luke Kunin and Mikael Granlund.

Stepping onto the second line would represent a significant step up in terms of pure talent alongside him and would surely see him elevated beyond, or at the very least in line with his career best 82-game pace of 47 points.

Realistically, if the Toronto Maple Leafs were using him on the second line; it’d be for his two-way game. After all, the Tavares line often found itself looking a little defensively inept; Jarnkrok might well shore that up somewhat.

Again much like Aube-Kubel, he represents a guy willing to get into tougher areas of the ice and battle, while still not being a complete black hole in terms of offense. Thus maybe there’s a good fit on the second line, even if the third line seems more obvious.

The wildcard is someone else taking huge steps at training camp, but given these are the names Sheldon Keefe openly mentioned, you have to imagine they have the inside track.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a decision to make on the second line left wing again. Some things never change; it’s been the question mark for years now!