2017 Outlook: The top pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft is not only a lock to start the season in Toronto, but he'll be one of the league's top-10 players within a couple short seasons. Auston Matthews is that good. He already plays a complete, two-way style and there are no major holes in his game. Matthews is lethal in tight spaces, as his footwork and agility rival that of soccer great Lionel Messi. He seems to have X-ray vision and can already thread passes as well as the NHL's best playmakers. And his hockey smarts let him read the game several plays before they even happen. Leafs' coach Mike Babcock has Matthews ticketed to center the Leafs' third line to start 2016-17, but it's safe to say this young star is quickly going to push Tyler Bozak for the second-line gig. And who knows, Matthews may already be better than Nazem Kadri, the team's current top pivot, will ever be. Count on 55 points and maybe even a bit more from the Calder Trophy contender.
2017 Outlook: The Leafs are counting on the 27-year-old power winger to bring both production and leadership to a youthful, growing squad. JVR's game took a big leap under new coach Mike Babcock last year and he'll look to build on those gains in 2016-17. Those changes weren't necessarily reflected in his scoring stats, but they were glaringly obvious in possession categories, as he went from being a liability to an asset in very short order. Unfortunately, JVR broke his foot right at the point when he was playing his best hockey of the season and the team shut him down for the remainder of the campaign. He ended up with 27 points (14 goals) in just 40 games. He'll start 2016-17 beside center Nazem Kadri on the team's top line and should have a good shot at 30 goals and 60 points as the team's most established offensive contributor. Don't be surprised if Babcock toys with the idea of using JVR beside young Auston Matthews at some point, as well. That's a combo that could probably make transform this winger into a 70-point player in the next couple years.
2017 Outlook: Kadri is coming off one of his better seasons, driving home 17 goals to complement 28 helpers and 14 points on the man advantage. His shooting percentage (6.5) was mediocre coming from a center, though the feisty second-line pivot rattled off 260 shots which easily became a new career high. Toronto has the 25-year-old under contract for six more years with an annual cap hit of $4.5 million, but he'll need to find a way to guide mega prospects Auston Matthews and William Nylander without sacrificing his standing as a key cog in the top six.
2017 Outlook: Nylander is an offensive wunderkind, and that's what the doctor ordered for a Maple Leafs team that has finished in the bottom-third in scoring the past two seasons. Naysayers like to pick on him for his smallish stature -- he's listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds -- but he compensates by showcasing plenty of speed and mobility on the rush. After splitting time between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies in 2015-16, the eighth-overall pick from the 2014 draft should have no trouble starting out with the parent club and making that his home indefinitely. He registered 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his 22-game NHL stint, giving fantasy players a sneak peek of what He'll bring to the table.