Rumours: Colin Miller asking price, Scott Mayfield as a target, and can the Leafs find room for John Klingberg?

As the midway point of the NHL season approaches, so too does the build-up of trade rumblings as we inch closer to the March 21st deadline day. The talk in Leafs Nation has been on the need to bolster up the defensive unit, and we will take a look at three names that have been connected to the team and see if a move is feasible.
Colin Miller has been a dream target for fans over the past few years, and it looks like he will indeed be up for grabs. According to Pierre LeBrun, it turns out that the asking price is going to be a hefty one.

“The Sabres, I’m told, are hoping to land a first-round pick for Colin Miller.” @PierreVLeBrun on the defense trade market. https://t.co/whmhYZh4CE
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) January 17, 2022

Aside from the fact that he is a right-shot defenceman, this might be a reach if the Sabres think they will be able to net a first-round pick for Miller.
His point totals have not lit the league on fire (12 points in 32 games played) and his underlying metrics have been mediocre since getting traded to Buffalo in June 2019. More concerning is that Miller has run into injury trouble over the past few weeks dating back to December 28th. Last Thursday, the Sabres announced he would be out week-to-week after getting surgery done on an undisclosed ailment and will miss at least six weeks of action. It remains to be seen when exactly he will come back and how he will fare once he returns in early March.
The amount of uncertainty Miller for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign should be enough of a deterrent that it w …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Making the case for the Raptors not trading Chris Boucher

Making the case for the Raptors not trading Chris Boucher

This season there has been a whirlwind of trade rumors surrounding the Toronto Raptors, and no member of the team has been included in trade talks more than Chris Boucher. The Montreal native started the season ice cold, though he’s found his groove lately. With a mixture of a tradeable contract, lack of output, and […]
Making the case for the Raptors not trading Chris Boucher – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Matthew Eichhorn / Raptors HQ

Pierre Engvall’s dominant season with the Leafs, and how he’s doing it

Pierre Engvall is having a season like he’s never had before in the NHL.
Splitting time between the Maple Leafs third and fourth line, the 25-year-old is finding his way to being a regular NHLer under Sheldon Keefe.
In 35 games this season, Engvall has 14 points — one shy of his career high — yet he’s (almost) done it in 13 less games. What’s most interesting is that he’s shooting at 6.8%, down from his past two seasons at just over 11%.
There could be more goals coming for the 25-year-old, especially if he continues to play with Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds is currently among the league leaders at five-on-five for expected goals per 60 minutes with 1.23. He also has a low shooting percentage of 7.4% at five-on-five.
                   Five-on-five xG/60 leaders

With Ondrej Kase likely returning to the Maple Leafs’ lineup next game, Engvall will return to the fourth line with Simmonds and Jason Spezza. The low shooting percentage might help the line, who only has three goals for, score more.
Engvall, though, notices he’s having success, and attributes it to being more comfortable.
“I think I’m forechecking harder this year,” Engvall said before the Maple Leafs’ game vs. St. Louis. “I feel more comfortable in that area. And I mean, I’ve been switching up and down in the lineup, but I’ve been feeling comfortable with that.”
Engvall being comfortable is a good sign for Toronto. It seems as though he’s finding his role, which didn’t look like it was happening prior to this season.
Keefe has always been tough on the 25-year-old, and it seemed as though it was a good kind of tough. Tough love I’ll call it.
And since giving him that tough love, it’s allowed Engvall to have success in each role he’s been given.
“Really liked his game lately,” said Keefe af …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Know your enemy: Isles goaltending could be a wrench in an otherwise lopsided matchup for the Leafs

It’s been a weird season for the New York Islanders, who found themselves as bottom feeders in the East for most of the season, but have had a bit of a recent resurgence winning six of their last seven games, and put themselves above .500 for the first time since their 11 game losing streak. It makes sense that they would have struggled early on, with a lengthy road trip to start the year while their home arena got finished, a COVID outbreak before the rest of the league all got it and had to pause the season briefly, and plenty of injuries on top of that, including losing their top defenseman Ryan Pulock for a lot of the season.
Now, they still have a long way to go, as they find themselves 14 points back of the second wild card spot with only four games in hand, or 19 back of the first spot with eight in hand. Also, their numbers haven’t exactly been elite like they have been in previous years, and has relied heavily on goaltending, so that’s a concern as to whether their run is sustainable or not. That said, they’re always a tough matchup for the Leafs in the Jo …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Know Your Enemy: Shesterkin and a few elite skaters the only real concern for the Maple Leafs tonight

Every season, there’s always a team that plays well above what they’re capable of. The most famous examples are the 2014-15 Calgary Flames, 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche, and of course, the 2012-13 Toronto Maple Leafs, and this year, that team is the New York Rangers. While they have some solid pieces in Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad, they’re attempts to go a tougher route this season means that the team pretty much struggles when they aren’t on the ice. Shesterkin has masked a lot of that for them in net, bailing them out on many occasions to give them wins, but when he isn’t on his game, this team is usually in tough to get wins.
Note: This is based on projected lines and starters at the time of publishing. Coaches really love to surprise us right before game time, so there’s a solid chance that some of the matchups aren’t accurate for the actual game because of that.
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)

Lineups
Toronto Maple Leafs

LW
C
RW
MICHAEL BUNTING
AUSTON MATTHEWS
MITCH MARNER
ALEXANDER KERFOOT
JOHN TAVARES
WILLIAM NYLANDER
ILYA MIKHEYEV
DAVID KAMPF
PIERRE ENGVALL
KYLE CLIFFORD
JASON SPEZZA
WAYNE SIMMONDS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
MORGAN RIELLY
T.J. BRODIE
RASMUS SANDIN
TIMOTHY LILJEGREN
TRAVIS DERMOTT
ALEX BIEGA

New York Rangers

LW
C
RW
CHRIS KREIDER
MIKA ZIBANEJAD
KAAPO KAKKO
ARTEMI PANARIN
RYAN STROME
FILIP CHYTIL
DRYDEN HUNT
BARCLAY GOODROW
JULIEN GAUTHIER
GREG MCKEGG
KEVIN ROONEY
RYAN REAVES

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
RYAN LINDGREN
ADAM FOX
K’ANDRE MILLER
JACOB TROUBA
PATRIK NEMETH
BRADEN SCHNEIDER

Forwards
The first line of Chris Kreider, Kaapo Kakko, and Zibanejad is one of the few line combinations that actually work well together for the Rangers this year, generating a 52.61% CF% and a 56.08% xGF% in almost 250 minutes together this season. Kreider is having a resurgence this season on that line, living up to what was thought to be a very pricey contract up to this point, finding himself fourth in the NHL in goals, and aside from a lack of discipline, doing very well in most facets of the game. Zibanejad has established himself as a strong first line center from a points perspective for a few years now, but he struggles to drive play on a consistent basis at both ends of the ice. Kakko is in a similar boat, except he also doesn’t put up points, and just struggles to live up to his draft pedigree at any part of the game up to this point in his career. Kreider clearly carries the line from a possession standpoint, but between him and Zibanejad, it has the potential to burn you every now and then, so it’s still one to keep an eye on.
Filip Chytil isn’t the normal candidate on the second line next to Ryan Strome and Panarin, but with the current injuries, that seems to be the case, although it’s not a pretty one, as the combo finds themselves on the wrong end of the ice more often than not with a 44.74% CF% and a 27.95% xGF%. It speaks to Panarin’s skill then that the line has a 68.87% GF%. While his defense leaves much to be desired, he’s one of the best playmakers in the game, and his ability to create offense out of nothing more than makes up for his defensive game. Strome has found a home next to Panarin these past few seasons, and rediscovered his game after a disappointing stint with the Oilers, at least offensively. And going with Chytil on this line shows their going all in on offense, who while he doesn’t put up points on the scoreboard, he can somewhat drive offense, so he won’t hold back Panarin and Strome in that regard. Still, none of them can defend, so if you can put a strong offensive line that can defend up against them, you can take advantage of them.
The third line of Barclay Goodrow, Dryden Hunt, and Julien Gauthier is one that hasn’t got much time together, so their results are a little bit all over the place with a 33.57% CF%, but a 55% xGF%, so not much to go off of their. Goodrow was one of the Rangers big additions this offseason, as they wanted a piece of the infamous third line from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Cup runs. The problem is, they picked the wrong piece, as Goodrow was definitely the beneficiary of that line’s results. He’s okay defensively, but he can’t carry a shutdown line like the Rangers think he can. Hunt actually can, so he saves the line a little bit, but he lacks a bit in other aspects of his game, so overall he still isn’t quite as effective as the Rangers probably want in a third line shutdown role. Meanwhile Gauthier is here pretty much because of draft pedigree, as the former first round pick really hasn’t established much of an NHL game aside from hints of driving offense, and playmaking, but he really struggles elsewhere, making it for an investment that overall isn’t worth it. This all amounts to what the Rangers will probably want to use as their shutdown line, although the Leafs probably shouldn’t worry too much about actually getting shutdown by them.
While I think you could match up the Matthews and Kämpf lines against either of the top six for the Rangers, it might be an advantage to go Matthews vs. Panarin as I alluded to earlier. They’re good offensively, but really weak defensively, so it’s an opport …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Raptors midseason awards: Which players have stood out?

Raptors midseason awards: Which players have stood out?

The Toronto Raptors are now halfway through the 2021-22 season. Considering all of the hoops that this team has had to jump through and all of the obstacles they have overcome this season, the fact that such a young team is competing for a postseason spot is quite impressive. The 21-20 Raptors have been buoyed […]
Raptors midseason awards: Which players have stood out? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Maple Leafs shooting by the numbers

It’s 34 games into the Leafs season. Well actually it’s 35 games in, because the Leafs played the Coyotes after I wrote this, and but for the purpose of what you are about to read, 34 games have been played. With that comes some pretty established trends in regards to how things are going for the Leafs this season.
When it comes to how the Leafs have been shooting this year, they’ve been sitting at 10%, combined with their team save percentage, they have a PDO of 102.2. When it comes to how they’ve been scoring, they’ve been scoring slightly above expected. The Leafs has a G/60 of 3.35, and a xG/60 of 3.27, so they are outscoring what was expected.
Here’s the breakdown of how the individual Leaf shooters have been performing by scoring and shot metrics.
Player
Position
GP
TOI/GP
Goals/60
ixG/60
Goals vs. Expected/60
Ilya Mikheyev
R
5
15.91
3.02
1.20
1.82
Auston Matthews
C
31
20.68
2.15
1.47
0.68
Jason Spezza
C
30
11.76
1.19
0.71
0.48
William Nylander
R
34
18.86
1.50
1.16
0.34
TJ Brodie
D
34
20.55
0.26
0.09
0.17
Justin Holl
D
28
20.57
0.10
0.07
0.03
Morgan Rielly
D
34
23.98
0.29
0.28
0.01
Alexander Kerfoot
C
34
15.56
0.68
0.68
0.00
Ondrej Kase
R
29
14.31
1.16
1.17
-0.01
Travis Dermott
D
23
14.53
0.18
0.19
-0.01
David Kampf
C
34
14.73
0.48
0.52
-0.04
Jake Muzzin
D
33
21.43
0.08
0.13
-0.05
John Tavares
C
33
18.52
1.37
1.45
-0.08
Mitchell Marner
R
26
20.78
0.67
0.80
-0.13
Kyle Clifford
L
8
8.31
0.00
0.18
-0.18
Timothy Liljegren
D
19
15.99
0.00
0.19
-0.19
Rasmus Sandin
D
29
16.27
0.00
0.20
-0.20
Pierre Engvall
L
32
13.01
0.58
0.79
-0.21
Michael Bunting
L
34
15.05
0.82
1.06
-0.24
Wayne Simmonds
R
33
9.97
0.73
1.04
-0.31
Nick Ritchie
L
32
12.08
0.31
0.88
-0.57
When it comes to outscoring what is expected of them, it’s probably no surprise that Ilya “4 goals in 5 games” Mikheyev is leading the pack. It’s also not much of a surprise that players like Matthews and Nylander are also outperforming their expected numbers, and Brodie, well, the bar was set pretty low for him and his recent goal scoring hot streak would absolutely throw his numbers into a flux.
On the other side of things, Tavares has had some modest struggles, but that’s nothing compared to the incredibly rough year that Nick Ritchie has been facing, although when you look at Bunting, Simmonds, and Ritchie all being at the bottom of the list, it’s important to note that net front opportunities are going to have a significantly higher expected goal total.
When it comes to shooting frequency, one of the biggest surprises again has to be Ilya Mikheyev. Mikheyev seems determined to establish that he has an offensive side to his game, and he’s clearly been shooting a lot more.
Before looking at the table, here’s the breakdown of what the average shots/60 are for the Leafs and by position on the Leafs:
Average Shots per 60: 6.99
Forwards Average Shots per 60: 8.80
Defense Average Shots per 60: 3.36
Player
Position
GP
TOI/GP
Shots/60
iCF/60
Shots on net %
Ilya Mikheyev
R
5
15.91
14.33
16.59
86.38
Auston Matthews
C
31
20.68
12.91
22.74
56.77
Ondrej Kase
R
29
14.31
11.57
18.51
62.51
William Nylander
R
34
18.86
11.04
18.72
58.97
John Tavares
C
33
18.52
10.11
16.79
60.21
Pierre Engvall
L
32
13.01
9.23
15.86
58.20
Wayne Simmonds
R
33
9.97
9.12
13.31
68.52
Michael Bunting
L
34
15.05
7.97
14.19
56.17
Jason Spezza
C
30
11.76
7.83
15.82
49.49
Nick Ritchie
L
32
12.08
7.45
12.58
59.22
Mitchell Marner
R
26
20.78
6.99
15.21
45.96
Morgan Rielly
D
34
23.98
6.55
11.11
58.96
Alexander Kerfoot
C
34
15.56
5.90
9.53
61.91
David Kampf
C
34
14.73
4.91
8.27
59.37
Timothy Liljegren
D
19
15.99
4.74
10.27
46.15
Jake Muzzin
D
33
21.43
3.48
8.83
39.41
Travis Dermott
D
23
14.53
3.23
7.00
46.14
Rasmus Sandin
D
29
16.27
3.05
9.41
32.41
Kyle Clifford
L
8
8.31
2.71
7.22
37.53
Justin Holl
D
28
20.57
1.88
4.06
46.31
TJ Brodie
D
34
20.55
1.72
5.15
33.40
So Mitch Marner is the Leafs average, but he’s been shooting less than other Leafs forwards. N …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Who was the real driver of the Engvall-Kämpf-Kaše line?

One of the biggest surprises early on in the season was the emergence of the shutdown line of Pierre Engvall, David Kämpf, and Ondřej Kaše, which has handled tough minutes and a lot of defensive zone starts while having a 53.15% CF% and a 55.85% xGF%. Sheldon Keefe has been trying to find a third line that is capable of taking some of the tough minutes for the Leafs since taking over as head coach, and while his experiments to get there were a frustrating process, he accidentally stumbled upon it to start the season.
I say accidentally because if not for Ilya Mikheyev’s injury in the preseason, there’s a good chance Engvall might not have even been on the team, never mind playing on the third line for the Leafs in that role. People see him as the most expendable of the three on this line, but ever since that line has been apart, it hasn’t been as smooth sailing for the line.
So, who is really driving the bus on this line? Sometimes you have a case where three different players’ skillsets combine to work really well together, but more often than not, a line works because one player really excels at driving play …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

3 Raptors who have made massive improvements in 2021-22

3 Raptors who have made massive improvements in 2021-22

The 2021-22 season was billed as a year of discovery for the Toronto Raptors. While they had stars like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Gary Trent Jr. on the roster, the making goal of this year has been making sure that youngsters like Scottie Barnes take a step forward. The Raptors could only improve after […]
3 Raptors who have made massive improvements in 2021-22 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

The starting rotation? Or the bullpen? Where should Nate Pearson begin next season?

Following another disappointing season, the 2022 campaign is set to serve as a potential career-defining year for pitcher Nate Pearson, whether that be as a starter or a reliever.
Ever since being selected in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Pearson has been viewed as one of the top rising arms within the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system, unfortunately, he’s been unable to deliver on those high expectations thus far.
Sadly, injuries have served as the 25-year-old’s biggest obstacle through his first five professional seasons, limiting him to just 187.0 innings across six levels during that span. In particular, a sports hernia – which required surgery this off-season – plagued the 6’6″ hurler throughout last season, preventing him from completing more than 45 2/3 innings between triple-A and the majors.
While Pearson is expected to be ready for the start of spring training, assuming it doesn’t get delayed, his current role with the organization remains uncertain and will likely need to be determined in the spring, at least, in the short term.
In speaking with the media at the end of the 2021 season, general manager Ross Atkins admitted the front office viewed Pearson as more of an “extended outing arm” heading into …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation