It has been a while since the Toronto Maple Leafs had a huge influx of rookies to start the season on their official roster. Not since probably back when both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner first appeared on the NHL scene.
But for the 2023-24 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs may finally have another impressive trio of rookies that are ready for prime time. With their unlimited potential, they could even challenge for the Calder Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year.
Those three players are none other than goaltender Joseph Woll, and forwards Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten.
Obviously, all eyes are currently pointed at Connor Bedard of the Chicago Blackhawks. After all, he is supposedly the next generational talent in the league. However, his supporting cast on the Blackhawks’ team could limit how much he could produce in the end, with mainly Taylor Hall as his best linemate available, who is now unfortunately out week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
3 Toronto Maple Leafs Could Contend for the Calder in 2023-24
However, for the three rookies on the Leafs squad, it is a totally different story. In the case for rookie goaltender Joseph Woll, we had a sneak preview of what he could bring to the team last year in his short stint with the big club. He went 6-1 with a 2.16 GAA and .932 save percentage in seven regular season games, along with helping the Leafs achieving their only victory during the second round playoff series against the Florida Panthers.
With Leafs starter Ilya Samsonov having a shaky start to the 2023-24 season, along with being susceptible to injuries based on last season, Woll could be thrusted into the spotlight sooner rather than later. As a result, if he can run away with the job similar to how Stuart Skinner did in Edmonton last year, we could be looking at the Leafs strongest Calder candidate since Auston Matthews.
For Matthew Knies, he had a fascinating start to his promising NHL career when he was thrusted into the Leafs starting lineup near the end of the 2022-23 season and into the playoffs in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Knies certainly did not look out of place and even ended up setting up Tavares on a nifty play in overtime to help the Leafs win their first playoff series in over two decades.
Although he has started this season on the third line, look for Knies to move up to one of the top two lines during the course of the season. In doing so, he will become a strong favourite to win the Calder Trophy if he manages to stick with one of those prolific lines throughout the season.
Finally, we have the surprise of the Leafs 2023-24 training camp in Fraser Minten. Not only has he surprised everyone with his skill and two-way play already at such a young age, he also managed to secure his spot on the Leafs roster to start the season by beating out his tight competition with years of maturity ahead of him.
Minten seemed to have developed some chemistry with Knies during the preseason as well. So together, they could potentially be a difference maker for the team when it comes to matchups against the Leafs opponents.
For those that doubt Minten, just remember the fact that the Leafs traded away an NHL player who could score, kill penalties, and play center in Sam Lafferty just to get Minten into the lineup. So unless he does absolutely horrible, he won’t be just getting a nine-game trial. Minten is here to show everyone that he certainly will be the real deal. (All stats from hockeydb.com)
With the promising play of these three rookies, together with the solid Leafs core in place, it might be more than just the Calder Trophy that the team will win in 2023-24 when the season concludes.