Yesterday, we ran some of our 2022 predictions. Predictably, the predictions focused on whether the Leafs could make it in the first round of the playoffs. I left the question too open, it’s up to me.
Today we become more specific with our predictions and we will talk about which Leaf is ready for a breakout year in 2022.
Ilya Mikheyev. I think when he comes back from an injury and Leafs with a lot of good players challenging for places, he will come in with a chip on his shoulder. I think (and hope) that it’s Mikheyev.
He has proven to be a valuable member of the team since day one, but we have really seen Ondrej Kase start going up too late. He has been a key member of the Leafs’ shutdown line while playing a key role in the penalty shootout, but he has managed one of the highest shots on goal goals on the team despite limited time in the powerplay or in the top-six to this point. There is clearly more offensive in his game than the point totals so far suggest, and I expect a great second half for Kase, especially if he is able to maintain a role on one of the powerplay units when the team is back in full health.
Travis Dermott. Unless the Leafs make a trade, I think we’ll see a rotation in the right D-spot next to Muzzin, and my stubbornness leads me to believe that this will finally be Dermott’s time to shine. If not, we probably can not expect much more beyond a bottom pair defender, but I think this could be his big breakthrough and chance to break out.
Ondrej Kase (aka Czech Grabo) has been moved up and down the ranks and has performed admirably in all the roles he has been given. The analytical beloved creates scoring chances at high speed and now gets top line and PP1 minutes in Marner’s absence. It feels like he has a different gear: maybe a 50-point season when all is said and done.
I would like to believe Nick Ritchie and I think we have already seen signs that he has figured out playing with Spezza prior to Spezza’s suspension. The fact that Ritchie’s first goal came after Jason’s unpaid leave should also be encouraging for those of us who would not mind seeing him try his way higher up the ranks again in the future.
For a team like the Leafs, who have not really had much in the way of power forwards in recent years, it is not surprising that Ritchie’s matches were not so different from what David Clarkson went through here in the beginning. Ritchie luckily figured it out earlier and thankfully does not have an albatross contract, though $ 2.5 million is a bit much for a fourth line wing.
Who is your choice to start the calendar year strong and receive the best results in 2022? Tell us in the comments.