Although the season is still young, and it might be a little early to start planning the Leafs' Stanley Cup Parade, it is clear through the first couple of games that there is great improvement in Leaf Land, and expectations have never been higher.
Now as for individual achievement, expectations for Phil Kessel are high for a logical reason, seeing as he scored 30 goals last year in a season where he missed the first 12 games. It is reasonable to expect even more production from this right winger, and here the three main reasons why.
The key to Kessel's game this year is going to be his physical strength and speed. It is clear from watching him through the preseason and the first couple of games that he really put his time in over the summer. With his strength being much more than last year, he is stronger on the boards and against opposing defenders than he has ever been.
As for his speed, it is truly amazing how fast this young man is, and his presence will surely be felt throughout the league this year. He is able to make his skating look almost effortless, and on a hockey team that rivals any other in the league in terms of speed, he obviously fits right into the new identity of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
2: Tyler Bozak
Now there are many people out there who do not believe that Tyler Bozak is a legitimate No. 1 centre in the Nation Hockey League, and I may very well be one of them. Saying that, I am a big fan of Bozak and I think he the potential to be a very talented NHL player for many years to come.
With the Leafs not having a top tier centreman at their disposal, Bozak is the man for the time being, and rather than look at the shortcomings of this situation, it is much easier to look at the major positive. At the end of the 2009/2010 season, Bozak was playing on the top line with Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin, and it was an experiment gone right, as line provided the vast majority of the Toronto offence during the last quarter of the NHL season.
Through the summer, Kessel and Bozak became very good friends off the ice, and it's clear that this chemistry has extended onto the ice this season. Bozak's speed matches up very well with that of Kessel, making for a very explosive first line, especially when combined with the third reason I will be presenting.
Kris Versteeg makes up the third member of Toronto's top unit with Bozak and Kessel, and it is very clear through the start of the season that this line has some chemistry. Versteeg adds the some depth down the left wing, bringing a scoring touch as well as some strength to compliment the speed of Kessel and Bozak.
Furthermore, even at the young age of 24, Versteeg brings a wealth of experience to the table, as he was a Stanley Cup Champion with the Chicago Black Hawks last year before being traded to the Leafs.
It is clear by just watching Kessel play the game that he is incredibly talented, but it is the reasons above that will contribute to his talent and allow for him to score 40+ goals this year, a feat that he is yet to accomplish during this NHL career thus far.
GO LEAFS GO
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