Phil Kessel: So Much More than a Gifted Goal Scorer for the Leafs

Darcy FullerCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2010

One day removed from the Maple Leafs' tough 3-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks and we take a look at one very bright light through it all. Yes, I'm talking about none other than Phil Kessel.

For the most part of the year, Kessel has brought some joy to the Leafs' fans when there isn't really anything to cheer about. He is a very gifted goal scorer with a very quick release and great vision. You can say he pretty much sniffs out the right place to be in the offensive zone at the right time.

Now for anyone who thinks he can just put the puck in the net, I would have to say they're wrong. Kessel seems to score at times when the Leafs really need a goal to either crawl back in the game or put it away. Usually it's a tying or a winning goal he receives.

But not only can Kessel score at the right time, but he can make that beautiful play-making pass you never expect from him. One assist shy from matching his goal total with 21 goals and 20 helpers in 48 games, Toronto brass must be impressed with the balance he has brought to the table.

Now, for the better part of 21 days, Kessel had only two goals, eight assists, and a whopping plus/minus of minus-9. We all know the scrutiny Kessel went through, but GM Brian Burke also received much of it as he gave up two first-round picks and a second-rounder to get him.

Leafs fans to this day question this trade and weather it was the right thing to do. In my opinion, I think the Leafs, with all their trades, have become a much more complete team. I don't doubt Burke's move at all. If I had the choice, I would have done it too.

Kessel has seemed to get the monkey off his back and regained his scoring touch. It  really is a treat to watch him, whether it's rifling the puck past goalies or showing incredibly soft hands and making that perfect pass. In the last five games, Kessel has six goals and 10 points with a plus-1 rating.

The Leafs may not be in the hunt for Taylor Hall, but they sure do have a very gifted young gun in Kessel. He really does have the potential to reach anywhere from 40-50 goals. After all, he is only 22 and has had really great numbers during the regular season. One has to believe that his best years are truly still ahead of him.