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2018 T25U25 #15: Trevor Moore has a shot with the Maple Leafs

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Was the undrafted college signee’s banner playoff run enough to sway the Leafs’ brass?

Trevor Moore carries the puck through the neutral zone against the Lehigh Valley Phantons
Credit: Christian Bonin

Trevor Moore is a prospect many fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t aware of. Undrafted out of the USHL in 2013, Moore joined the University of Denver (Tyler Bozak’s alma mater) and almost immediately became a point-per-game player for the Pioneers. Following the 2015-16 season, Denver’s first Frozen Four appearance in over a decade, Moore was signed by the Maple Leafs to a three-year entry-level contract.

Moore has spent the past two seasons with the Toronto Marlies, tallying 33 points in both years. In 2016-17, Moore wasn’t much to write home about. He scored 13 goals and 20 assists that were largely driven by a large shooting percentage spike. There was improvement in the first half of Moore’s 2017-18 season; his shots per game went up, and as a result, his shooting percentage came back down to Earth. However, not only did the production drop, it cratered into mantle.

After being dropped from Sheldon Keefe’s second line with Chris Mueller and Dmytro Timashov, where he’d spent the majority of the first half of the season, Moore joined Frederik Gauthier and Colin Greening on the Marlies’ third line. That’s when things changed drastically for Moore.

Keefe uses his third line, which is usually anchored by the Goat and Greening with a mix of linemates depending on the day, as a shutdown line with terrible zone starts and especially tough competition at home. It may not be for this reason, but it was at this point that Moore’s season saw a 180-degree pivot.

Moore became a lot more noticeable on the ice. First and foremost, he drove his line. There’s no denying that Moore started to become a more creative and dynamic player who wasn’t afraid to be anywhere on the ice. He worked valiantly to get the puck out of his own zone and was the quarterback for offensive opportunities. His shot rates jumped significantly, and along with it, so did his scoring.

In the first half of the season, Moore was very clearly a third-line player. His shots per game and points per game reflected a bottom-six winger in the AHL. But in the final 37 games of his season, Moore improved to a legitimate second-line scorer. His primary points and shots per game were close to Mueller’s and Miro Aaltonen’s production.

In the playoffs, Moore’s primary scoring and shot rates jumped again, even after being thrown onto the kid line with Adam Brooks and Mason Marchment after back to back losses to Utica in the first round. It wasn’t a demotion, per se, but more of a chance for the Marlies to run four unbelievably even lines as they had just gotten Johnsson back from the Leafs. That luxury was a big reason behind the Marlies’ Calder Cup Championship.

Moore’s production was vital to the team, as he was second to Johnsson in playoff scoring and trailed only Greening in playoff shots on goal. Moore was never taken off the second power play unit, and his work as the shooter from the wing was a key part in that unit’s success.

Below is a clip of what can arguably be described as the biggest goal in Trevor Moore’s career. The Marlies were shaky to say the least in game one of the Calder Cup Finals. They had been giving up leads and didn’t look themselves at all. Moore’s goal with 9:57 left in the third gave the Marlies the boost they needed to shut down the Texas Stars for a little less than half a period.

At the end of the day, Moore hasn’t shown the same high-end skill as a player like William Nylander, or solid, dependable middle-six production like Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, but he does have a particular set of skills that lend themselves well to the Leafs’ (and especially Mike Babcock’s) style. Moore can skate like the wind, he is a zone entry machine through the neutral zone and has been one of the Marlies’ most dependable wingers when it comes to defending the lead late in games. In the playoffs, Moore would often jump up from the fourth line and replace Timashov with Mueller and Ben Smith when the Marlies were defending the opposing team’s push with the net empty.

In Moore’s final 37 games, he posted primary scoring rates equal to a couple high-end Tampa Bay Lightning prospects in Anthony Cirelli (21) and Adam Erne (23). In fact, Erne’s 21 primary points and 78 shots in 41 games is statistically identical to Moore’s 19 primary points and 74 shots in 37 games. Erne is a highly touted second-round pick power forward by the Lightning, and is expected to have the inside track on a spot in the Lightning’s bottom six to start next season.

I have Moore ranked pretty high for a player who hasn’t played an NHL game yet, higher than anyone else ranked him. My placement of Moore wasn’t a judgement on what Moore has done so far in his career, but it’s my confidence in what he will become, starting this season.

Moore shares a lot of similarities with a player like Connor Brown, in that they both are very hard working, trusted in all zones, their coaches love them, and they have shown that they can drive play consistently in the AHL. Both are trusted penalty killers, and while Brown already has a 20-goal season in the NHL, I think Moore has a higher overall upside, even without favourable linemates. The vast majority of the points Moore produces are either goals or primary assists. That should bode well for Moore in the NHL, should he make it.

I also feel like I’m hedging my bet because of what General Manager and sandal-wearer Kyle Dubas said in his end-of-season press conference with the Marlies media. Dubas stated that the playoffs were an opportunity for the Marlies to show other members of the Leafs organization — which most importantly includes Mike Babcock, who was at every Marlies playoff game after the Leafs were eliminated — a chance to see what Dubas has seen from the Marlies all season. Chief among the breakout stars in the Marlies’ playoff run were Johnsson and Moore at forward as the two leading scorers in the playoffs, Justin Holl and Martin Marincin, who became the far and away top pair for the Marlies on defense. And Garret Sparks, who lost only five games in 19 starts while posting a .915 save percentage.

“What this run afforded these players was the opportunity to increase how other people in the organization view them. The Leafs ended in mid-April, it was a month and a half, or six weeks, where they could watch these players every single game without anything else to watch, aside from the NHL playoffs. So, what I think what that afforded these players is that it’s not just me, it’s that everyone can see what they’re capable of day in and day out, game in and game out.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me ‘does the run change your view on me players?’ I think all it does is that it affirms that the players in here are capable of continuing to perform at their highest level, even in tough circumstances and tough series’.” - Kyle Dubas

In the feedback I’ve gotten from the writers at PPP, the majority of them would like to see Moore produce at the rate he did in 2018 for a full season in the AHL. The Leafs did that to Johnsson and Kapanen, so why not do that again. On the flip side, there is a spot on the opening night roster that matches up with Moore’s abilities almost directly; not too much ice time, not a defensive black hole, penalty killing, and the ability to move up and play with stars if needed. All he has to do is beat Tyler Ennis in training camp. I know Josh Leivo exists, but I’ll believe that he has a regular spot in the lineup when I see it. Also, that’s a story for another day.

Kevin: The Leafs are going to be in a cap crunch during the 2019-2020 season, and having young players like Trevor Moore could prove to be important. He’s a year younger than Andreas Johnsson, and he will try to follow in his footsteps by following up a strong second half with a dominant season.

He carries plenty of similarities to Johnsson, as he can penalty kill and be counted on defensively at 5-on-5. He’s a workhorse who is not afraid to get to the dirty areas, and he generates plenty of takeaways with effective stick-lifts.

He’s already 23, so he needs to show that he belongs on the Marlies top line next season if he wants to turn heads for 2019. He’s a possible bottom-six winger at the NHL level if he can take another small step forward, but I don’t see him as a top-six guy, and it’s not a sure bet that he can beat out players like Carl Grundstrom, Yegor Korshkov, and Josh Leivo down the line.

Perhaps Moore hasn’t shown enough for the team and the fans of the team to be sure of his abilities. Maybe some more time in the AHL is what’s needed for the now 23-year-old. What if those final 57 games (2018 calendar year) were just a flash in the pan? No one really knows the answers to these questions. My best guess is that Moore is ready for the NHL. What do you think? And don’t mind the pun.

Poll

How much does Trevor Moore play in the NHL in 2018-19

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Moore than 40 games
    (49 votes)
  • 9%
    Between 20 and 40 games
    (130 votes)
  • 50%
    Less than 20 games
    (716 votes)
  • 36%
    Marlies all year
    (525 votes)
1420 votes total Vote Now

All stats courtesy of Prospect-Stats.com and TheAHL.com.