Playing with struggling partners and often on his off-side, the 19-year-old West Vancouver native hasn’t been dealt the easiest hand in his rookie season. He has shown uncommon maturity for a teenager, however, and has had some eye-opening forays up the ice with the puck that show signs of what he can become. The biggest concern is that his ugly plus-minus will weigh heavily on his confidence when the best is very much yet to come here.
Mark Fraser: F
Just a lost season for one of the very best stories of the Leafs season a year ago. An early knee injury robbed Fraser of some of his limited mobility, and it’s been more difficult to shelter him than a year ago with so many blueliners struggling. A tremendous player to have in the dressing room and someone whose effort is never lacking, he would nonetheless likely benefit from time with the Marlies right now – especially with TGOTS*.
Forwards (Overall: C+)
James van Riemsdyk: B+
Unstoppable early on, he has slowed a little through this this tough stretch, but remains on a 30-goal pace and is generating his highest shot per game rate of his career while meshing nicely with Phil Kessel. Hard to quibble with much here although his defensive awareness remains where he has the most to gain.
Tyler Bozak: B
Injured for long stretches with two separate muscle issues, Bozak has been remarkably productive thanks at least in part to a sky high on-ice shooting percentage (12.8 per cent) in the 19 games he’s played. Still not well suited to playing the 21-plus minutes a night Randy Carlyle insists on giving him, he has played some of his best hockey this season while handling very difficult checking assignments. Proving deadly on breakaways and in shootouts, too, although where has that faceoff prowess gone?
Phil Kessel: B
On fire early, Kessel has been one of the only Leafs players producing through their two month slide, with a strong December (13 points in 14 games) against some very good teams. His defensive intensity has been all over the place but the fact he’s on pace for a career high 38 goals speaks volumes. On a team desperate for offence, especially lately, he’s earning his paycheque.
Joffrey Lupul: C+
Lupul has experienced a disappointing but understandable drop off from his remarkable production to start his Leafs career, something that he probably sustained longer than anyone expected. Part of the problem is likely that he has been shuffled just about everywhere in the lineup, seeing 10 per cent or more of his ice time with Kadri, Raymond, Holland, Clarkson, Kessel, Smith, Kulemin, McClement and Bolland through 34 games. That’s a lot of linemates.
Mason Raymond: B+
Fifty points is fifty points, and he’s on that pace despite coming to camp on a tryout and making just $1-million. He has been something of an everyman, with good results on both the penalty kill and power play, and played far more minutes than expected with a lot of injuries up front. The interesting question is what he’s looking to re-sign for as the Leafs aren’t going to be flush with cap space.
Nazem Kadri: C+
As expected, Kadri has had a very tough time following up last season’s incredible half season, one in which he was among the league’s scoring leaders thanks in large part due to one of the highest on-ice shooting percentages we’ve seen over a sustained stretch. His time with the top line was up and down this season, but at this point in his career, a 48-point pace is probably about right. But the turnovers, especially just inside the offensive blueline, and faceoffs continue to be a real problem.
Jay McClement: D
Randy Carlyle’s crutch. Likely more effective in a specialist role, McClement has been given 17 minutes a night with all the holes at centre due to injury, and his game has dipped noticeably. His penalty kill work hasn’t been nearly as strong, and any offensive production has completely deserted him. With Bozak healthy, his home should be on the fourth line at this point.
David Clarkson: F