Last season as the calendar turned to January, I began to track the Maple Leafs standing, lottery wise. It was a given that the bottom of the standings were a target last year so it was a simple matter of swapping around a standings chart of the bottom 14 NHL teams.
This year, it’s a bit different. There’s no target in place, aside from improvement for the players, general growth and learning the systems. Where ever they end up, they end up.
So, where will they end up?
Starting today, I’ll peak at where the Leafs sit once a week. Take a look at who’s just above them, and what their lottery odds are, and who they could pick.
Are the playoffs anywhere near reach?
Games vs Eastern Conference teams: 4
Points gained: 7
Points given up: 5
Points out of playoffs: 2
Looking at a wild card spot, the Maple Leafs (42 points) are three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the lowest WC spot with 45 points, but the Leafs have two games in hand on the Flyers.
The Flyers have lost 3 in a row this past week, dropping a game to the Blues 6-3, getting blanked by the Sharks 3-0, and lost in a shootout to Anaheim.
The Leafs are closer to the playoffs by taking a division spot. The Leafs are two points behind the Bruins (44) and Senators (44), so the Leafs are only three points away from getting themselves home ice in the first round. Bonus: the Leafs have three games in hand over the Bruins.
The Bruins the past week have gotten off easy, they played the Sabres twice, and won (4-2, 3-1), and played the Devils once, and won.
The Senators had only two games this week and lost them both. 3-2 to Detroit in overtime, and 2-1 to the Capitals in regulation.
If the Leafs were to get a wild card spot, they’d have their hands full with either the Canadiens or the Pengui- wait, Blue Jackets? No I think they could beat the Blue Jackets. If it’s the Penguins, hoooo boy, but the Jackets? I think its a possibility. I'm not a believer in Columbus.
Division wise, nailing the 2nd or 3rd division spot would get them the Senators or Bruins, and yeah, they could take either of those teams.
Oh man, I'm already talking myself into playoff series wins, not just making it. Okay, time to look the other way before I go planning a parade...
Maybe they go full Leafs and hit a losing streak that takes them out of the playoffs.
Right now the Leafs are sitting on the bubble, and with Las Vegas coming in to the lottery this year, they sit at 17th in the lottery rankings, giving them just 1% odds of winning.
Projected to be in the Maple Leafs range right now are:
Martin Necas (C) - Kometa Brno, Czech
29GP - 6G - 7A - 13P - 4PM
An electrifying player who has great confidence and vision with the puck to make plays and create offence. He has really good skating ability and wants to make a difference where it counts. A Top 2 line offensive centre.
Callan Foote (D) - Kelowna Rockets, WHL
39GP - 3G - 27A - 30P - 24PM
"I think the best trait is his intelligence," Frey said. "He's very smart. Cerebral. He makes excellent decisions with the puck. And he's a very good defender in the sense that you can tell he's been well-schooled. He's very good defensively, he moves the puck exceptionally well. He's very intelligent. He has offensive ability as well (36 points in 71 games last season)."
Kailer Yamamoto (RW) - Spokane Chiefs, WHL
31GP - 22G - 27A - 49P - 20PM
From The Hockey News:
Yamamoto's small stature and outsized play has some NHL scouts cautiously invoking the name Johnny Gaudreau when they talk about the Chiefs star and the cool thing is, he's a local. Born and raised in Spokane, Yamamoto and his older brother Keanu both left for a spell to play minor hockey in Los Angeles, but the two returned to play for their home WHL squad, a privilege for the local kid.
Matthew Strome (LW) - Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL
36GP - 19G - 15A - 29P - 38PM
From Elite Prospects:
A big, skilled winger that plays a complete and consistent game. Battles hard for puck possession and is relentless on both the power play and penalty kill. Plays a hard-nosed game and uses his size to establish his presence around the net. Has good hands, an accurate shot, and zero compromise hockey sense.
Ryan Poehling (C) - St. Cloud State, NCAA
17GP - 4G - 3A - 7P - 6PM
"I think he has great range," David Gregory of Central Scouting said. "He's got a nice long strong stride. Uses good puck protection, long reach. He can be effective in traffic, out of traffic. I like his vision and where he creates. Really saw him get better from the camp to pick the Hlinka team right through the Hlinka tournament; you can see growth. When he plays with better people he gets better. Really nice upside with this player."
Ivan Lodnia (C) Erie Otters, OHL
34GP - 16G - 19A - 35P - 10PM
From The Hockey Writers:
It’s that combination of aggressiveness and great skill level that have Lodnia primed to help the Otters to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. His emergence as a top-tier scoring winger has many thinking he’ll be one of the first OHL players to hear his name called next summer.
Right now the Leafs are in an excellent position, games in hand on the teams they’re chasing. Over the next week they play the Devils in New Jersey on Friday, and host the hated Canadiens on Saturday night. After that it’s five days off to rest.
With a gap that size coming, they’ll want to get those four points, so they don’t fall too far behind.