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Chris Faria The Hockey Writers

Published on Tuesday, April 28, 2020





Maple Leafs Roundtable: Individual Awards Voting

Now that it’s all but confirmed that the 2019-20 NHL season is done (fingers crossed for the playoffs!), I thought it would be fun to cap off the year with some individual awards voting for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joined by fellow THW writer Peter Baracchini, and with the help of Twitter, we will be sharing our votes for eight major individual awards, from the Hart to the Vezina to the Jack Adams.

Sit back, enjoy, and buckle yourself in for a spicy take or two.

Hart Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: Auston Matthews

Faria’s Pick: Auston Matthews

There was really only one choice for the most valuable player of the Maple Leafs this season: Auston Matthews. The fourth-year pro had by far his most productive and most complete year as a Maple Leaf, posting an outrageous 47 goals and 80 points through 70 games before the NHL season was put on pause.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews was the Maple Leafs’ most valuable player this season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Over an 82-game schedule, the American goalscorer was on pace for 55 goals and 91 points, which would have given him the new franchise record for goals scored in a season, just barely surpassing Rick Vaive’s mark of 54 set way back in 1981-82. Unfortunately, we’ll never know what could have been, but with Matthews’ seemingly endless potential there’s a good chance he’ll be flirting with the 50 to 55-goal plateau for years to come.

Baracchini’s Pick: Auston Matthews

This was no contest. Auston Matthews is the most deserving of being the Maple Leafs MVP this year. He etched his name as one of the most prolific goal scorers in his first season and this year, proved that he can keep up and give Alex Ovechkin a run for his money.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Forgotten Ones – Mikael Renberg

He was only one goal behind Ovechkin and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrank for the Rocket Richard Trophy race and was on pace for a career-best in that category. He was tied for first with Ovechkin in even-strength goals with 35. Among players with at least 40 games played, Matthews ranks fourth in goals per game (0.67). Whenever the team needed a spark, or a goal at a crucial time, Matthews was there.

Vezina Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: Frederik Andersen

Faria’s Pick: Jack Campbell

Let’s get the controversial one out of the way early: Jack Campbell was the Maple Leafs’ best goaltender this season. Normally the starter would win this award by default, but Frederik Andersen was truly a monumental disappointment, posting career-worst numbers while costing the team plenty of important points. And yes, Campbell’s sample size was small (he played just six games in the blue and white), but he provided much-needed stability in the backup spot that caused so many problems for Toronto this season.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell seemed to fix the Maple Leafs’ backup woes since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in February. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

He posted an impressive .915 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average through his six starts while also bringing some positivity and leadership to a sometimes fragile dressing room. Signed for two more seasons, I think the Maple Leafs will give Campbell even more opportunity moving forward.

Baracchini’s Pick: Frederik Andersen

This was Andersen’s worst season statistically as a Maple Leaf. He had a 2.85 goals-against average (highest in four seasons) and we saw his lowest save percentage (.909). On the plus side, he did earn 29 wins in 52 games played and his SV% was over .920 over his last three games before the season was paused. Despite this not being one of Andersen’s best seasons in the Maple Leafs net, he’s still their go-to guy in the crease. Even when things weren’t going his way, Andersen still managed to make a timely highlight-reel save and give the team a chance to win. This makes him worthy of winning this award.

Norris Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: Jake Muzzin

Faria’s Pick: Jake Muzzin

Head coach Sheldon Keefe said it best: Jake Muzzin is the conscience of this Maple Leafs team. Always consistent, reliable, and in the right spot, Muzzin was far and away the team’s best defenceman this season.

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin provided a calming presence on the Maple Leafs’ blue line. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He was arguably the team’s only true defence-first defender, while also providing some offensive punch with 6 goals and 17 assists through 53 games. Now locked in as a Maple Leaf for four more years, his experience and defensive prowess will be crucial to the team’s long-term success.

Baracchini’s Pick: Morgan Rielly

Like Andersen, this wasn’t Morgan Rielly’s best season. This was largely in part that he had to carry the load with Cody Ceci as his defensive partner as well as suffering a broken foot. Despite the ups and downs, when Rielly had his best games and wasn’t playing with Ceci, he started to return to being the player that was considered for the award last year.

Related: 7 Cool Things About Auston Matthews

He wasn’t near being on pace to surpass his previous season’s point totals, but he did try to use this season to improve his game on the defensive side. With the bumps in the road, he’s still one of their leaders on the back end and one of their go-to players to lead the charge. We didn’t see a lot of that, but when we did, he was at his best.

Calder Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: Ilya Mikheyev

Faria’s Pick: Ilya Mikheyev

Falling just under the age limit for the Calder Trophy, 25-year-old Ilya Mikheyev was the Maple Leafs’ best rookie this season. With 8 goals and 23 points through 39 games, Mikheyev cemented himself as a force at both five-on-five and on the penalty kill. His 2.44 points-per-hour at five-on-five led the team and ranked him 34th among forwards in the entire NHL, next to names like Mark Stone and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Ilya Mikheyev Toronto Maple Leafs
Russian import Ilya Mikheyev proved his worth in just half a season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His campaign came to an unfortunate end in a late December game against the New Jersey Devils, but half a season was all Mikheyev needed to prove his worth and endear himself to the Toronto faithful.

Baracchini’s Pick: Rasmus Sandin

While he may not have put up the points, it’s clear to see why Sandin had a great rookie season. He played well during his first stint before being sent down to the Toronto Marlies. After a dominating performance at the World Junior Championship, Sandin got another chance with the Maple Leafs and got better with each game. While he still saw bottom-pairing minutes, Sandin played well on both sides of the puck. He was engaged in the offensive zone and provided quality defense when he needed to. His two-way play garners much of the attention. While he wasn’t the “go-to” defenseman, he provided great depth and play when the blue line saw a lot of injuries.

Selke Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: Auston Matthews

Faria’s Pick: Auston Matthews

Along with his ever-increasing offensive output, Matthews also managed to take a huge leap forward on the defensive side this season. The 6-foot-3 pivot showed much better consistency and engagement in his own zone, especially in the second half of the season. He led the Maple Leafs with 78 takeaways (Mitch Marner finished second with 64), while also ranking highly in other key stats like loose puck recoveries and contested puck battles. As a 50-goal threat and legitimate two-way force, Matthews may just be one of the most unique players in the league.

Baracchini’s Pick: Zach Hyman

Over the past few seasons, Zach Hyman has proven to be one of the Maple Leafs’ best defensive forwards. Hyman is always responsible for coming to help out with the back-check and try to provide a defensive presence when the puck is in his own zone.

Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman
Zach Hyman’s dogged effort earns him a nod as a Selke candidate. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

In addition, his play on the penalty kill makes him a valuable asset to the team, scoring one shorthanded goal this year. He averaged just under two minutes of penalty kill time and is tied for first on the team with 16 shorthanded individual shot attempts. Given that he’s relied on for his defensive responsibilities, he still manages to generate offence.

Lady Byng Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: Auston Matthews

Faria’s Pick: William Nylander

Along with Matthews, we saw similar growth in the defensive commitment of William Nylander, who has arguably become one of the best takeaway artists in the NHL, while only taking 12 penalty minutes in the process. His combination of enthusiasm, sportsmanship, and skill gets him the nod for the Lady Byng.

Baracchini’s Pick: Auston Matthews

Matthews is only in his fourth season and he continues to excel in every aspect of the game. He’s capable of carrying a heavy offensive workload while still managing to take as few penalties as possible. While it’s not surprising to see Matthews almost hit 50 goals and record 80 points, he did so while only taking eight penalty minutes all season. With players who have played at least 50 games, Matthews is among a group of players that is tied for fourth in the league with the least amount of PIMS. This shows his smarts and ability to play the puck and commit minimal infractions.

Masterton Trophy

Twitter’s Pick: William Nylander

Faria’s Pick: William Nylander

Voted the Comeback Player of the Year in January by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, it only makes sense that Nylander is also deserving of the Masterton for his dedication and perseverance. Coming off an incredibly disappointing 2018-19 season that saw him tally just seven goals and 27 points after a lengthy contract dispute, Nylander bounced back and arguably outperformed expectations this year with 31 goals and 59 points through 68 games.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander’s bounce back season gets him the nod for the Masteron Trophy. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Swedish winger faced a year of scrutiny from fans and media alike, but he handled it with nothing but class and let his play do the talking in the end.

Baracchini’s Pick: Zach Hyman

As great of a rebound season that Nylander had, Hyman’s was more difficult to achieve. He was expected to miss a minimum of six months after undergoing ACL surgery, and it was going to be a long road for him to recover and get into game shape missing about a month of games played. When Hyman returned, he didn’t miss a beat – he already matched his goal totals from the previous year (21) and was on pace to have a career year in goals (on pace for 26) and points (46). He injected that aggressive energy back into a lineup that was lacking any intensity.

Jack Adams Award

Twitter’s Pick: Sheldon Keefe

Faria’s Pick: Sheldon Keefe

Last but not least, Sheldon Keefe gets the sweep for Jack Adams, although there wasn’t much of a contest. The usually high-flying Maple Leafs looked flat and disengaged under former bench boss Mike Babcock, leading to his dismissal in mid-November.

Sheldon Keefe
Sheldon Keefe helped rejuvenate a struggling Maple Leafs team, getting them back into playoff contention. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The team immediately went on a run as soon as Keefe was hired, going 15-4-1 while outscoring their opposition 82-54. They did cool off a bit down the stretch, but managed to pull themselves back into a playoff spot while looking more like the fearsome offensive force we know and love.

Baracchini’s Pick: Sheldon Keefe

This is an obvious one. The Maple Leafs were nowhere near as good as they were under Babcock compared to Keefe. They were 9-10-4 with a goals for percentage (GF%) of 47.47, in the midst of a six-game losing streak (0-5-1) and were outside of a playoff spot before Babcock was fired. Under Keefe, the Maple Leafs seemed to be a completely different team as Keefe played to the team’s strength, their offense. Before the stoppage, the Maple Leafs went 27-15-5 since the coaching change and had a 51.39 GF%. Not to mention it put the Maple Leafs back into the top three of the Atlantic Division.

Related: Maple Leafs’ 2020-21 Roster: Who’s Staying, Going & Coming?

That does it for this season’s individual awards voting! Now it’s time to speak your mind, Leafs Nation. Which picks did you agree or disagree with? Who were your big winners? And will any Maple Leafs get consideration for league-wide awards this season?

Stats from

The post Maple Leafs Roundtable: Individual Awards Voting appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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