Heading into the 2022-’23 season there were many roles and positions that needed to be addressed for Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs. With the departure of players such as Ondrej Kase, Colin Blackwell, Ilya Mikheyev and the retirement of Jason Spezza, Dubas was quickly able to address the bottom six in the lineup.
One key position that still has a question mark looming over it is who will slot in beside John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line to round out the top six. The Leafs have several players within the organization that could be a perfect fit as a top-six forward on the second line.
The most obvious choice to play a top-six role is Alex Kerfoot, who has quickly become a fan favorite within Leafsnation. Kerfoot was phenomenal for the Blue and White last season, posting a career-high of 51 points. Moreover, when the Leafs were faced with injuries, Kerfoot proved to be a versatile player who could slot into the second or third line to provide a spark of offense or some stability. With one more season on his contract at $3.5M Kerfoot is a tremendous candidate to complete the top six.
Drafted in the second round during the 2019 NHL entry draft, Robertson is known to have the exceptional offensive ability with the puck as a playmaker and a goal-scorer with a sensational shot. While Robertson has not seen much time with the big club, he has been productive in the AHL putting up 16 points in 21 games during the 2020-’21 season and following that up with 28 points in 28 games last season. His brother Jason Robertson began turning heads during the 2020-’21 season with the Dallas Stars, and one can only wonder if given the chance, could Nicholas Robertson do the same with the Leafs.
While you may be wondering why I am throwing Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s name for the top six since he does not possess much of the offensive flash that Kerfoot and Robertson may bring, Aube-Kubel like Michael Bunting brings an element of grittiness to his game despite his size. The 5’11 winger notched a career-high of 22 points last season between the Colorado Avalance last season. He also dished out 123 hits last season which would have placed him second amongst Leafs forwards only to trail Wayne Simmonds. Given how successful Michael Bunting was on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner with a bit of a physical element to his game, in the same with Aube-Kubel is a feisty player with a heavy hit and could be an option for the top six role.
One player who has impressed me every time the Leafs have called him up to the big club is Joey Anderson. A young player with tons of energy and great forechecking ability Anderson could be another option that the Leafs could utilize in that top-six role. Anderson had an amazing season with the Marlies tallying up 42 points. At 6’7 and 207lbs Anderson provides some size and could be effective in crashing the net to light the lamp.
With some time remaining until the start of next season, the Leafs and Dubas could also make moves to finalize the starting day roster. However, there is no shortage of viable candidates with the organization and the system to round out the top six of the roster on the second line.