The Toronto Maples Leafs are coming out of the All-Star break on a high after three straight wins and a victory for Team Matthews in Toronto’s All-Star game. The team collectively has been inconsistent, sitting in a wild-card spot with a 25-14-8 record after 47 games. Individually though, who has stood out? Who hasn’t lived up to expectations? Let’s break down the Toronto Maple Leafs Mid-Season Report Cards.
Maple Leafs Forwards
William Nylander: A+
William Nylander earned himself a hefty raise with his early-season performance. He leads the Leafs with 61 points, good for 11th in the league. In many games, Nylander has been the Leafs’ most dominant player. While Nylander’s production has slowed down in the past weeks, he still deserves an A+ for his efforts thus far. $92 million, a trip to the All-Star game, and an A+ on his mid-season report card, what a start to 2024 for Willy!
Auston Matthews: A+
40 goals in 46 games is ridiculous. Leafs fans are lucky to watch Auston Matthews. He’s already the greatest Maple Leaf of all time. If he continues his current goal-scoring pace, he’ll break Mats Sundin’s franchise record before the end of next season. A 70-goal season, along with a third Rocket Richard trophy is on the table for Matthews this season. If he achieves that, he’ll force himself into MVP consideration.
Mitch Marner: A
While Marner has been Toronto’s third-best forward this year, he still deserves high marks for his performance. He’s been consistent, not going more than three consecutive games without a point. Yet, he’s also been explosive, with 13 multi-point games, including a trio of four-point efforts. Marner is 17th in the NHL in points, earning himself a spot in the All-Star game alongside Matthews and Nylander.
John Tavares: B
Tavares has had an interesting season. After starting the season with a seven-game point streak, he tallied a very respectable 34 points in his first 37 games. Then, his production hit a wall in the form of a nine-game pointless streak. Looking at his advanced statistics, you could be both encouraged and worried about Tavares’ performance. On the positive side, Tavares is driving play in the right direction and getting chances. On the other hand, Tavares has been snakebitten and he has struggled to create chances for his teammates. The Leafs will be counting on Tavares to regain his scoring touch down the stretch.
Nick Robertson: B–
Sheldon Keefe doesn’t fully trust Robertson, but when he’s been in the lineup he has provided energy and secondary scoring that the Leafs desperately need. Since re-entering the lineup, Robertson is playing like somebody who doesn’t want to return to the press box. Despite playing in parts of four seasons for the Leafs, Robertson is still only 22 with just 60 career NHL games played. He’s earned himself a longer leash with his recent play.
Max Domi: B-
Let’s start with the positive side of Domi’s Leafs career so far. Domi is sixth on the team in scoring with 24 points. 22 of those 24 are even-strength points. For a team whose depth scoring has been poor, Domi’s contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. Domi’s Corsi is just a shade over 50% according to hockeyreference.com, showing that his line is controlling play slightly more often than not. Conversely, Domi has only four goals and there are concerns about his defensive play. Part of the reason Robertson has been out of the lineup is Keefe’s inability to trust the two of them together in the defensive zone. While Domi has been one of the Leafs’ better depth forwards, there’s another level his game has yet to reach in his Leafs career.
Calle Jarnkrok: C+
Jarnkrok’s production hasn’t been overly impressive, but he continues to bring value to the Leafs with his hard work, speed, and versatility. The Swedish forward has earned Sheldon Keefe’s trust as one of the Leafs’ best defensive forwards. Before injuring his knuckle, Jarnkrok went nine straight games without a point. Toronto will be hoping for more production once he returns to the lineup.
Pontus Holmberg: C+
Holmberg has asserted himself of late, impressing Sheldon Keefe enough to get a stint in the top six. While Holmberg’s role with the Leafs this season likely lies in a bottom-six role, it’s encouraging to see him seize an opportunity. The seven points in nine games he tallied in January was by far the most productive stretch of his young NHL career. Holmberg has shown versatility too, comfortable playing as a checking center or a top-six winger.
Matthew Knies: C
There have been moments where Knies has flashed his potential as a power forward this season. There have also been growing pains as the rookie adjusts from the college game to the grind of an 82-game NHL season. Knies has all the tools to be a top-six forward, but his rookie-season production has been a bit disappointing. The rookie is one of several Leafs forwards who went into the All-Star break struggling to find the scoresheet. Hopefully, Knies can come back from the break feeling refreshed and ready to contribute down the stretch.
Bobby McMann: C
Since his call-up from the Marlies, McMann has added speed, energy, and a little bit of depth scoring to the Leafs lineup. The 4th line has often looked better with McMann than with Ryan Reaves. Although McMann probably hasn’t done enough to be a part of Sheldon Keefe’s initial playoff lineup, he has acquitted himself well overall.
Noah Gregor: C
Gregor’s advanced stats don’t look great. However, his linemates who will be found further down this list share the blame with Gregor on that. For a player who signed near the league minimum after a PTO, Gregor has been good. He’s shown plenty of speed and physicality and he leads Leafs’ 4th liners with 10 points.
Tyler Bertuzzi: C-
Bertuzzi has been the victim of poor puck luck in his Maple Leafs career so far. A terrible goaltender interference call negated Bertuzzi’s much-needed goal in Toronto’s last game before the All-Star break. He has also been inconsistent, and scoring only six goals and 20 points while playing in a top-six role can’t be completely blamed on puck luck. Considering he’s making $5.5 million, the Leafs were expecting more from Bertuzzi this season. Toronto will need Bert to be better down the stretch, and they will be counting on him to take his game to a new level in the postseason as he did for Boston last year.
David Kampf: D
Kampf was signed to a four-year $9.6 million contract this past offseason. Unfortunately for Toronto, he has responded with his worst season as a Leaf. Maybe Brad Treliving should be blamed for overpaying a 4th line centre. Kampf must be accountable too though, he’s been unimpressive offensively. Even more concerning is his defensive play falling off too. Kampf’s line has been outplayed for almost the entire season. As both the highest-paid member and the centre of that line, Kampf deserves the majority of the blame for these results.
Ryan Reaves: D
This is another low grade that Treliving has some responsibility for. Reaves shouldn’t have been offered the contract he signed with the Leafs. The results of the Reaves experiment on the 4th line have been extremely poor and there are questions if they can afford to have him in the lineup at all. Not ideal for a player just over half a season into a three-year contract. Thankfully, Reaves showed signs of life in his last chance to impress before the All-Star break in Winnipeg. Not only did Reaves contribute his second goal (and point) for the Leafs, but he mixed it up physically with several Jets. With that, Reaves elevated his mid-season report card by a letter grade.
Morgan Rielly: A
Yes, Rielly’s pairing with TJ Brodie has struggled defensively at times. Morgan Rielly is also an All-Star and he’s getting an A. At this point, Leafs fans should know what to expect from Rielly. He’s a dynamo offensively who sometimes struggles in his own zone. With 40 points in 47 games, Rielly has a chance to break his career high of 72 points from 2018-2019. He is still Toronto’s number one defenceman, and his consistency deserves appreciation.
Jake McCabe: A
Jake McCabe continues to be a shut-down defenceman that the Leafs badly need. McCabe and Simon Benoit have established themselves as Sheldon Keefe’s most dependable defensive pair. The gritty defenseman has taken a step forward offensively too. McCabe has already matched his career high in goals with four, and he’s on pace to easily exceed his career high in points. Acquiring McCabe for three playoff runs with a cap hit of just two million was a tidy piece of business from Kyle Dubas.
Simon Benoit: A
Simon Benoit has been an excellent value signing for Toronto this season. Making just over the league minimum, Benoit has exceeded expectations in a shut-down role. The 25-year-old brings much-needed toughness to the Leafs team, compensating for what the group lost when Luke Schenn signed in Nashville. Offensively Benoit offers little to nothing, and it’s unclear whether his results are sustainable, especially going into the playoffs. Nevertheless, Benoit knows his role, and he has filled it admirably for the Maple Leafs.
Timothy Liljegren: C+
Since returning from injury, Liljegren has been inconsistent for Toronto. There are some nights where his puck-moving stands out and he looks like one of the team’s better rearguards. On other nights he struggles with turnovers. Liljegren is at an interesting point in his career. He has yet to establish himself as a full-time top-four defenseman. He hasn’t produced much offensively this year, and he also isn’t a prototypical physical, shut-down guy. Liljegren is a solid NHL defenseman, but whether he can make the next step and stick in a top-four role remains to be seen. It’s safe to say Sheldon Keefe is not satisfied with his performance this season.
William Lagesson: C+
Before Benoit emerged as the story of the season for the Leafs’ defence, it looked like it might be William Lagesson commanding the headlines. Lagesson entered the lineup when injuries struck the Leafs blueline and impressed with his tenacious play. When Toronto’s regular defensemen got healthy, however, Lagesson fell out of the lineup. Regardless, Lagesson has been a worthwhile depth addition for Toronto.
Mark Giordano: C
This grade hinges on expectations for Giordano at 40 years old. Should fans expect him to be the player he was in last year’s regular season when he vastly outplayed his contract? Or should expectations be based on his playoff performance, where his age finally seemed to show? For the price, Giordano has been good for the Leafs. His pairing with Liljegren has regressed since last season but he still brings value in penalty killing, shot-blocking and leadership. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Keefe give Giordano a few more nights off down the stretch to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Connor Timmins: C
Timmins’ lower-body injury spoiled an otherwise fantastic preseason for him. Since then, Timmins has bounced in and out of the lineup, failing to return to his promising preseason form. Timmins adds an offensive element to the Leafs blueline that it lacks beyond Morgan Rielly. Timmins’ offensive tools are good enough to run a top powerplay unit in the NHL. It’s the defensive side of his game that needs work, and as a result, he’s found himself in the press box more often than not. Timmins remains an intriguing player, but he’s facing an uphill battle to gain Sheldon Keefe’s trust and become a regular in Toronto’s lineup.
TJ Brodie: C-
Brodie has been a different player this year, and not in a good way. After being Toronto’s most reliable and consistent defensive defenseman for three seasons, Brodie’s decline has been noticeable. His play with the puck has left a lot to be desired, not only offensively but on the breakout where he typically thrives. His pairing with Rielly has had trouble protecting the front of the net too. Brodie still averages the second-most ice time of any Leaf, and he hasn’t been demoted from his top pairing with Morgan Rielly yet. The Maple Leafs will be hoping Brodie’s struggles this season turn out to be a blip in his career.
How Have The Goalies Been?
Martin Jones: A+
It’s not an exaggeration to say Jones saved the Leafs season this year. After coming in as the third-string goalie, Jones suddenly found himself as the de facto starter in December. From December 16th to January 20th, Jones started 14 of the Leafs’ 17 games going 7-6-1, including seven straight starts at a crucial point in the season. He supplied calm, stable goaltending when the Leafs needed it most, faring remarkably well on high-danger scoring chances in particular. The Leafs couldn’t ask for much more from their third goalie.
Joseph Woll: A
Woll was forcing himself into the Calder conversation before he sprained his ankle in December. Unfortunately, this injury came in one of Woll’s best performances of the season, just as he seemed to be getting comfortable in the starting role. Whether Woll can return to that level this season or not, he looks like a promising young goalie.
Ilya Samsonov: C
Samsonov’s numbers are ugly but he has given the Leafs nation hope with his last four starts before the All-Star break. Samsonov is once again looking athletic, making several spectacular saves including this one which bailed the Leafs’ powerplay out after they surrendered a 2 on 0. He is also stopping the low-danger scoring chances which he struggled with at the beginning of the year. He’s got the lowest mark out of the three goalies on his mid-season report card, but Ilya Samsonov is nevertheless likely to be the game-one starter when the playoffs begin.
How Will The Maple Leafs Mid-Season Report Cards Look To Finish The Season?
That concludes the 2023-2024 Toronto Maple Leafs mid-season report cards. Which players deserved a different grade? Let me know, and make sure to stay tuned on Area 51 Sports Network as we get into the unofficial second half of the NHL season.