The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to their hottest start since 1999. It's too early to raise the Cup just yet, but the Leafs are playing with a tremendous amount of heart and hustle. They are skating hard and forechecking even harder. They are getting contributions from all four lines, playing great defense and getting timely saves from their goaltenders.
I've compiled a list of 10 Maple Leafs that are most responsible for the hot start.
Three games into the season, Tim Brent has already set a career high in goals after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens and adding a second goal against the Ottawa Senators two days later.
Brent failed to hit the score sheet last night against Pittsburgh, but logged almost 19 minutes of ice time. In his junior days as a member of the Toronto St. Mikes Majors, Brent had 220 points in 238 games.
After being rarely used by Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Chicago, Brent has finally found a home in Toronto.
Phil Kessel would've ranked higher, but he was pretty much non-existent last night against Pittsburgh. Kessel scored a goal in the season opener against Montreal, and the game-winning goal against Ottawa last Saturday.
Kessel has three points in three games, leaving fans wondering if this is the season he scores 80 points. His hot start to the 2010-11 season also includes a preseason where he scored six goals and added four assists in six games.
Kris Versteeg is proving to be a huge pickup for the Leafs. His hustle, grit and determination is just what the doctor ordered for a Leafs club that hasn't seen a player like him since the days of Doug Gilmour.
His best game was against Ottawa, when he scored his only goal of the season and added an assist. If he can post those type of numbers on a more consistent basis, he should have a career year.
One thing I've noticed about Tomas Kaberle through the first three games is that he seems to have more confidence in his abilities. He's shooting the puck more often and he's not afraid to forecheck this year. It's almost as if the players around him are having an adverse effect on his style of play.
I've always thought of Kaberle as a bit of a softy and was never a big fan of his, but if he continues to play the way he is, I may have to ask Santa Claus for a Kaberle jersey for Christmas.
Many Leaf fans wondered if Mikhail Grabovski was worthy of being a second-line center in Toronto in 2010. So far he's proving himself worthy of that and more. His three assists and plus-2 rating have exceeded fans expectations for him this season.
He's also centering Toronto's hottest line, alongside linemates Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur. Expect Grabovski to be moved to the top line as an experiment if Tyler Bozak doesn't start producing.
Nikolai Kulemin wants to be a big part of the Leafs' success in 2010. In Kulemin's rookie and sophomore campaigns, he spent parts of each season in the minors. Judging by his play this season, I can't foresee him being sent down ever again!
Kulemin has contributed a point in each of the three Maple Leaf victories this season, and has clicked well on a line with MacArthur and Grabovski.
Good thing Mike Brown wasn't assigned No. 17 when he arrived in Toronto, or I'd be doing a double take to make sure that Wendel Clark wasn't coming out of retirement.
The comparisons to Clark are evident right down to the Fu Manchu mustache he's sporting on the ice. The 5'11" Brown is a mini tank who drives like a Ferrari. Every time he steps on the ice he skates hard for his entire shift and attacks the puck carrier like a bull attacks a red flag.
He has a burning desire to compete and it rubs off on his linemates. His hard play has resulted in many turnovers and those turnovers have Brown sitting with a plus/minus of three.
Luke Schenn has had the poise of a veteran so far this season. In the Leafs' first three games, he's accumulated two assists and a plus-three rating. He's looked confident in his own end, and hasn't been afraid to pinch in the offensive zone.
J.S. Giguere started in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs' first two games, posting a 1.51 G.A.A. and stopping 43 of 46 shots in the two victories. Ron Wilson started Jonas Gustavsson against Pittsburgh. The Leafs appear to be more confident as a team with "Giggy" in net.
Clarke MacArthur was an easy choice as No. 1. His four goals and one assist have him sitting near the top of the league leaders. MacArthur has soft hands and a knack for getting open in front of the net. It seemed like whenever Kulemin and Grabovsky passed the puck to the front of the net, MacArthur's stick was waiting for it.
I have been following MacArthur since 2004 when he was a member of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, and I've always wondered when he'd enjoy a breakout season in the NHL. Maybe that season has finally arrived!