Toronto Maple Leafs 2023-24 season preview and predictions

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Toronto Maple Leafs season preview

Toronto finally exercised their first-round demons this past season by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, but that all went crashing and burning down in the second round as they went down easily to the Florida Panthers. It feels like we say every year is the “Leafs year”, but this is truly the first time where I feel confident enough to say that this team could win the Eastern Conference. 

 

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Offense

The Leafs may have lost some important pieces from last year’s team like Ryan O’Reilly, Michael Bunting, Alexander Kerfoot, and Noel Acciari, but I really like the pieces they brought in like Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Ryan Reaves. Toronto is an offensive juggernaut; that’s not up for debate. They have way too many weapons up front, starting with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and the captain, John Tavares. 

As a group, this team has so much potential to be scary. Last season, they finished with the second-best power play in the NHL (26%), and they were in the top 10 for expected goals for per 60 (3.4). This group has the potential to be the best offensive team in the entire league this season. 

Defense

Toronto has typically been known to be weaker on the defensive end, but last year was a strong season for them in their own zone. They were top 10 in multiple categories, including high-danger scoring chances against per 60 (12.05) as well as shots against per game (29.5). They added John Klingberg to their blue line, which should benefit the team on both ends of the ice, but the most important thing for this group is to stay healthy. 

Goaltending

Unfortunately for the Leafs, Matt Murray was put on LTIR, so the goaltending responsibilities will go to Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll, who took over last season. Samsonov played in 42 games and skated to a 27-10-5 record. He will be the number one guy for sure with Murray out. Samsonov boasted a .919 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average. Woll is a more than capable backup. He only played in seven games last season so he should have some more reps in 2023-24. 

Player To Watch – F Auston Matthews

This might be the obvious choice for the Leafs, but I had to pick Matthews. DraftKings had a head-to-head prop between Matthews and Connor McDavid of who will score more goals (Matthews +115), and I truly feel that Matthews can lead the league in goals this season. He has put up 40+ goal seasons in four straight years, including a 60-goal campaign in 2022-23. It can be argued that he is the greatest goal-scorer in today’s NHL and he will flourish again in 2023-24. 

Outlook

DraftKings Sportsbook has the Maple Leafs at +200 to win the Atlantic Division, which might not be the most incredible value, but I think it’s highly likely that they finish on top. In fact, I would say it’s possible that they compete for the President’s Trophy which is at +750. This could very well be the Leafs’ year.