Sporsnet has recently undertaken a project where they rank the top 100 players in the league for 2018/2019. This is obvious clickbait, though I don’t mean it in the negative sense. It’s the chance to have a pointless yet fun debate about hockey, and honestly, that’s basically what August is for.

The list for ranks 100 - 51 is here, and some Leafs make the list. We figured it’d be good to discuss them, as well as where we would have put them. It’s worth noting that while we will disagree with this list, ranking players consistently and smartly is a pretty much impossible task for humans (which is part of the utility of GAR models as a systemic ranker). Essentially any list would have problems, and if you don’t believe me, make one of your own and see what people say!

Anyways, onto the Leafs.

Morgan Rielly (85):

I think this is an alright ranking. Rielly is a tough player to evaluate in some ways, because his strengths and weaknesses are so extreme. He is one of the best skaters and offensive defensemen in the league... but his defensive frailties are real and cause huge problems for the Leafs. He took a big step forward this year in succeeding in a tough role with a pretty poor defense partner.

Prior to this season, Rielly was a guy who was played in a role that his results indicated he wasn’t necessarily ready for. That changed last season, but some questions about his play remain. Rielly continues to give up higher quality chances than the rest of the Leafs do — Corsica’s GAR has him as one of the worst in the league in his tendency to allow shots of high quality against him. He also had the benefit of riding shotgun to the league’s best power play unit, and it’s questionable whether he added a lot to it, or was following the brilliance of Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk. This year will be significant, as Rielly will have to show that his ability to drive shot attempts when played in one of the toughest roles league-wide wasn’t a fluke.

Frederik Andersen (67)

I think rating goalies is always tough relative to position players. My initial reaction here was that Andersen was too high. At the same time, Andersen faces a brutal workload, by shots and by shot quality, and in the sheer number of games he played. From that perspective, he did provide a fair bit of value. At the same time, he’s ahead of Corey Crawford, Tuukka Rask, John Gibson, Henrik Lundqvist, and other goalies, and I think that’s honestly just too high a rank for a goalie who I would say is a fringe top-10 netminder in the league.

Mitch Marner (54)

Too high. Marner is amazing, but he continues to get overrated by the media. He was ranked 20 spots ahead of Mark Stone, who scores more at even strength, has far better shot and goal impacts, and even has a better penalty differential. Even if you want to argue that has more to do with Stone being underrated on this list than Marner being overrated (which is fair), Marner simply isn’t that close to a top-50 player right now. His even strength scoring over the past two seasons has been very good, but not elite. His ability to drive shot share has improved over the past two seasons, but is not yet amazing either. He is an absolute dynamo on the power play, which is probably the area that he has provided the most value in over the course of his career. But being an elite power play guy and a low-end first liner at other things shouldn’t get you that close to the top 50. I’d have him closer to Rielly’s ranking.

William Nylander (Not Ranked)

I would’ve had Nylander about where I have Marner... high 80s to mid 90s. By Corsica, he ranks 91st among all skaters in GAR in the last two years, and by Evolving Wild, he’s tied for 100th. He’s done this despite having pretty low personal shooting percentages both years, which we would expect to rebound at least a little bit. When you add that he has additional versatility because of his ability to play centre, the fact that he was a top 40 player in even strength scoring rate, and the micro-stats that place him near the top of the league, I think he definitely should have been on the lower end of this list.

Auston Matthews, John Tavares (Not Yet Ranked)

Both of these two will likely be in the top 20 or so of the list, which has not been published yet.

What do you think? Where would you rank these Leafs players, and do you think there were others that were missing (Gardiner, Kadri)? We have a bunch of polls for you to answer, and you should also let us know in the comments whether you agree or disagree with these rankings.

Rielly’s ranking was:

Too low (by a lot)132
Too low (by a little)346
Just right713
Too high (by a little)199
Too high (by a lot)51

Andersen’s ranking was

Too low (by a lot)91
Too low (by a little)232
Just right 493
Too high (by a little)371
Too high (by a lot)139

Marner’s ranking was

Too low (by a lot)185
Too low (by a little)241
Just right403
Too high (by a little)418
Too high (by a lot)174

William Nylander should have been ranked

Lower than 100 (off the list)129
100 - 91371
90 - 81353
80 - 71271
70 - 61132
60 - 5195
In the top 50117

Should Jake Gardiner or Nazem Kadri have made the list

No to both487
Kadri, but not Gardiner643
Gardiner, but not Kadri85
Yes to both237

Where will Auston Matthews rank?

Top 10673
Top 15525
Top 20241
Top 2578

Where will John Tavares rank?

Top 10692
Top 15623
Top 20173
Top 2542