Toronto Maple Leafs: 2017-18 Preview: Looking at the forwards

TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 02: Auston Matthews
TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 02: Auston Matthews /
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Third line: James van Riemsdyk/Tyler Bozak/Mitch Marner

Going with what was discussed in the previous slide, it is tough to say whether this line or the Kadri line is labelled the second line but that is just a formality at this point. This line is mainly used in offensive situations with a majority of their zone starts coming in the offensive zone and the Kadri line being used in more defensive situations.

Bozak and JVR established career high in points in their first season with Marner on their line. The 20-year-old established a Leafs rookie record for assists with 42 and will be counted on to do that again this season. Marner had an underwhelming preseason which prompted Babcock to send him a message.

“You’ve got to go to work,” said Babock as Marner scored against Detroit. “If we go to work, we’re going to have more success. Don’t wait for the season. Go to work.”

The goal was not a typical one that Marner usually scores as he just snapped a shot top corner. This will hopefully prompt him to shoot more rather than try to pass off opportunities to score because he is a player capable of scoring more than 25 goals a season.

When it comes to Bozak and JVR, they have the most to play for this season as both are playing for new contract. JVR is expecting to cash in on what will probably be one of the last chances to get a long-term deal which likely means his days with the Leafs are limited given the team’s salary cap situation and other players looking for opportunity. He has been a consistent offensive player for the Leafs and it would be tough to see that production go but the team is fortunate to have players waiting in the wings.

Bozak is the longest serving player on the team, and the chances of him sticking around are much higher than JVR. This is because the Leafs do not have as many centers ready to take the next step. It would be tough to expect Frederik Gauthier to replace Bozak especially offensively. Miro Aaltonen is a potential option down the road along with Adam Brooks but it is tough to expect either to be ready by next season.

If Bozak puts up another season with more than 50 points, is strong on the faceoffs and continues to be a mentor to Marner and the other Leafs young players, it would be no surprise to see him back next season.

The only other option that people will also consider is Nylander replacing Bozak. It is not impossible to see that happen but given the chemistry Nylander and Matthews have, would Babcock want to split that up?

For now the Leafs should expect another strong offensive season from this line.