For the bulk of the 2023-24 NHL season thus far, the Toronto Maple Leafs had been tinkering their third and fourth lines to find the right combinations to help provide much-needed secondary scoring.
It appears as though the Toronto Maple Leafs have found an optimal setup with Nick Robertson, Max Domi, and Calle Jarnkrok on the third line, and Bobby McMann/Ryan Reaves, David Kampf, and Noah Gregor on the fourth line.
However, with that setup, it could be holding back a potential hidden gem in the bottom-six that the team may not realize as of yet.
That hidden gem is none other than grinding forward Noah Gregor.
Noah Gregor Is a Hidden Gem in the Toronto Maple Leafs Bottom-Six
Gregor was officially signed by the Leafs just prior to the start of the 2023-24 season to a one-year, $775,000 contract.
He impressed with his play during the preseason and carved out a bottom-six role in the process. He was also expected to see time on the penalty kill as well with his solid forechecking and defensive play.
However, after watching him shine in the recent game against the Florida Panthers, the Leafs could actually be wasting some of his talent on the fourth line.
For those who recall, Gregor scored the only goal during regulation and the game-winner in the shootout for the Leafs. In both cases, he unleashed a lethal shot into the top part of the net, a quick yet accurate release that a prolific goal scorer often possesses.
Going back to his junior days, Gregor did score more than 40 goals during his senior, overage year with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2018-19. In addition, he has totalled more goals than assists in four of the past five seasons in the NHL, including a career-high 10 goals just last season with the San Jose Sharks.
This season with the Leafs, he has tallied three goals and one assist so far, while averaging close to ten minutes of ice time per game. He definitely has the makings of a potent goal scorer than a playmaker, so putting him in a defensive role on the fourth line in the long run doesn’t make much sense for the Leafs. (All stats from hockey-reference.com)
As a result, if the Leafs were wise, they should try to give him a run with one of their scoring lines and see what he can produce with them for a few games.
All else fails, Gregor could always be moved back to the fourth line. But if the promotion suddenly unleashes his hidden offensive potential, the Leafs may have well hit the jackpot with this last-minute signing.