Current Toronto Maple Leafs Most Likely to Join "Legends Row"

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Current Toronto Maple Leafs Most Likely to Join
Associated Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs will turn their gaze to the past in establishing "Legends Row" in Maple Leaf Square, just outside the Air Canada Centre, per NHL.com.

Ted Kennedy will be the first Leaf to be honoured followed by two more legends.

President Brendan Shanahan, in the same report, stated that:

Legends Row will be a fitting tribute that honors many of the greatest players to ever wear the Maple Leaf while giving our fans the chance to feel a part of that history. We are thrilled to include Ted Kennedy, a player who always gave everything he had to his team, and two other Leaf greats, as the first three players to be recognized.

Graig Abel/Getty Images

The other two players have not yet been revealed, but it is safe to say that Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, George Armstrong, King Clancy and Frank Mahovlich are the likeliest Leafs to be honoured.

While the organization has not revealed the criteria for inclusion, perennial All-Star selections, major trophy wins, Stanley Cup championships and Hall of Fame inclusion would have to be elements for consideration.

While no current Leafs have met many of these standards, at least three of them could be on a path to future greatness.

 

Phil Kessel

Among current players, Phil Kessel would be the odds-on favourite to join the monument. Kessel has developed into one of the top offensive players in the game. He's won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy recognizing his recovery and return from testicular cancer.

He's played in multiple All-Star games, finished in the top 10 in NHL scoring the past three seasons, and he seems poised to challenge for a scoring championship as he enters his prime scoring years.

The 26-year-old native of Madison, Wisconsin leads by his on-ice play instead of inspiring speeches. If the Leafs can surround him with better talent, and in particular, an offensively skilled centre, there's no telling where his point totals might go.

Kessel is going to have to win a championship in the years ahead, continue to put up big offensive numbers, and win some major awards such as the Hart Trophy or the Art Ross Trophy.

He's no lock, but he's the likeliest current Leaf to join Kennedy on Legends Row in the future. 

 

Jonathan Bernier

It's very early in his Leafs tenure, but if 2013-14 was any indication, Jonathan Bernier has the tools to become an elite NHL goaltender for a number of seasons. Bernier was spectacular on many nights last year, and he was the reason the Leafs were able to remain competitive in the race for the playoffs well into the season.

Bernier had a .923 save percentage last year. Given the porous defence that the Leafs had on most nights, this was an exceptionally good number. The Leafs gave up almost 36 shots per game, per SportingCharts.com, and Bernier was often left on an island in defending the Leafs' net. 

Bernier won a number of games singlehandedly. It is difficult to be perceived as a top goaltender on a weak team, so Toronto's team defence must improve if Bernier is going to get some well-earned recognition.

He has the tools to be an exceptional goalie for the next decade or so. He's athletic, works hard and appears able to lead by example. A lot needs to happen in order for Bernier to become a Maple Leafs legend, but from a talent perspective, Bernier appears to have the talent to do so.

 

Morgan Rielly

It is easy to forget that young Morgan Rielly is just 20 years old. He's a great skater who can control the play from the blue line at times. 

With 27 points, yet just two goals on a shooting percentage of 2.1, there is a lot of room to grow for this rearguard.

Rielly has great offensive instincts and can make skilled plays at high pace. At 6'1" and 205 pounds, he has the physical tools to withstand the physical pounding he's sure to experience with his propensity to carry the puck and engage opponents in all three zones.

Which current Leaf is most likely to be a member of Legends Row?

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The former WHL star has the potential to be the Leafs' No. 1 defender by the age of 22 or 23. He needs to continue to develop his defensive game, but if he's paired with a stay-at-home type, he could be a defender capable of at least 50 points per season on a regular basis. 

Rielly has the kind of talent that the Leafs could build around in the coming years. Don't be surprised if he's a perennial All-Star, or if he becomes a regular Norris Trophy nominee in a few short seasons.

He could very well be a legend in waiting.

All stats can be found on NHL.com unless noted otherwise.

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