Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman doing his part

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 7: Zach Hyman /

Despite not having the same reputation as his linemates, Zach Hyman is continuing to impress for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As of Friday morning, the Toronto Maple Leafs line combination of Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews and William Nylander has an expected goal differential of 3.07. The second-best line in the NHL — containing a certain Connor McDavid — is at 1.84.

So what should we take away from this, apart from it being still extremely early in the season? How about the fact Hyman has improved from the 2016-17 campaign.

This is not to say the 25-year-old was terrible last season. He had his moments, including setting the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie record for short-handed goals (four) and tying another record for most consecutive games with an assist by a rookie (six).

Regardless, Hyman is playing with more confidence this season, as he truly settles into his role. He’s already had a signature game as well, after scoring twice against the New York Rangers, in what was coincidentally his 100th appearance in the NHL.

Of course, critics will tell you the Toronto-born native is the beneficiary of playing next to Matthews and Nylander. Certainly there is something to be said for this, but if he wasn’t up to the task, do you really believe Mike Babcock would continue to play him on the same line?

Interestingly, there was some talk during the offseason, that Hyman wouldn’t play as much alongside his more illustrious teammates this season. One of the main reasons for this line of thought, was due to the arrival of Patrick Marleau.

In the end thought, the talk turned out to be just that. As reported by the Toronto Star, Babcock said:

"“Hyman is a guy that gets the puck back. I’ve learned from good players; they like to have the puck. (It doesn’t work) when you have three guys that want the puck. He gets the puck back better than anyone.”"

When Hyman first entered the league, he was projected to mostly play a bottom-six role. This was due to factors including his lack of size and not being a natural goal scorer.

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However, you should never count out a player who works as hard as the 2010 fifth round draft pick. Besides, it’s not as if he has no talent, as evidenced by being named a First Team All-American and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in college.

In any event, Hyman will continue to work hard, no matter where and who he plays with. His versatility helps, with him being able to line up in any forward position.

Ultimately, regardless of if people believe Hyman is somehow riding the coattails of Matthews and Nylander, it doesn’t really matter. All that counts is what Babcock and the rest of the organization think about him, and it’s fair to say they are extremely happy with him so far.

Next: Is it possible to give Connor Brown a bigger role?

What is your take on how Hyman has played, since joining the Leafs? Do you see him remaining long-term on the first line with Matthews and Nylander? Or do you believe he is destined to eventually play further down the depth chart? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.