The Toronto Maple Leafs recently left the NHL Awards in Nashville empty handed, however next season could be a completely different story. The awards are rumored to be in Vegas in 2024 and there’s a few Leafs who could in the running to take home some hardware.
These three Maple Leafs all have a chance at taking home top prize in a variety of categories:
While the Art Ross trophy for the NHL’s leading point getter isn’t going anywhere but Connor McDavid’s mantle for the foreseeable future, next season Matthews could be poised to take home two major awards and be in the running for a third.
Matthews surprisingly finished tied for 14th in goal scoring in the league last season. Some inconsistent stretches, some concerns about his wrist and a number of different line mates, the 2022-23 season is one Matthews wants to learn from. He’s shown in the past he’s capable of sniffing 70 goals and with a number of things going his way next fall, a strong start could propel his season.
If Matthews is going to be in the Hart conversation, it’s likely because he scored a million goals so the Rocket Richard trophy as top goal scorer basically go hand in hand. Another season under Sheldon Keefe, a new-look power play and the potential of having Matthew Knies on his left wing all year long could go a long way for the veteran centre.
The Selke is the long shot here, there’s no doubt about that. Matthews finished with a decent showing on the ballot this past season, and in 2023-24, he could take the next step. His game is still developing from a 200-foot sense while his ability to stick check and win the 50/50 pucks have been on display since day one. If Matthews commits to being on the right side of the puck and limits his defensive-zone lapses, where he’ll sometimes get caught wondering, it will do wonders for his complete game. There’s no doubt he has the game for it and to be a dominant player at both ends of the ice. If he can take his game up one more level, look for Matthews to be in the conversation next season for three major awards.
The good news for Marner here is the fact Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron could be retiring. If so, the chances of bringing home some hardware just went way up.
Marner finished a distant third in Selke votes a couple of weeks ago as Nico Hischier of the New Jersey Devils burst onto the scene from a defensive standpoint. Marner will be in tough as Hischier will continue to be in the mix, but there’s no denying the fact with a strong consistent season from the Maple Leafs winger, the Selke could be his for the taking.
Marner is a wizard on the ice and it’s all because of how well he sees the game and how fast his hockey IQ is able to anticipate the next move. The Leafs are lucky to have him and are smart to play him in all situations. He’s a great penalty killer, gets in the lanes well and for a smaller forward, he wins a lot of puck battles that he really shouldn’t.
Marner led the league in takeaways with 104 and it could very well be much of the same in 2023-24. He knows what it takes to win each and every night and the Leafs winger isn’t afraid to lay it all out on the line for a win.
Next season look for Marner to once again be in the conversation for the best defensive forward. He’s at a disadvantage playing on the wing but there’s no reason he can’t excel, leap frog Hischier and bring home some hardware from the Vegas strip.
Knies exceeded expectations and then some last season and in 2023-24, look out for big things from the 20-year-old. He’s expected to be among the Leafs top six and if he’s able to stick there for the entire season, Connor Bedard and the rest of the rookie class may have a big problem on their hands.
Knies has all the tools and his work ethic is off the charts. He’s been training hard in Arizona with Auston Matthews, among others, and look for Knies to come out flying next season. He’s proven in his short 10-game career so far that he’s strong enough, fast enough and skilled enough to play in the show, now he just needs to learn the game and learn through his experiences.
The Maple Leafs rookie will be in the running for the Calder trophy for league’s top rookie. He’s way too skilled not to be and the opportunity is right in front of him. Knies is going to play 15-18 minutes a game next season and 25-30 goals could be in the cards. With his ability to see the ice, he’s also capable of putting up assists in bunches. His past three seasons he’s played at numerous levels and put up more assists than goals. Playing alongside his mentor, and fellow Arizona native, the apples are going to continue to pile up on the score sheet. Fully expect to see Knies in the running as the league’s best first year player.
Some honorable mentions would be head coach Sheldon Keefe for some Jack Adams’ votes as the league’s top coach. With all the changes in Toronto, if the Leafs get off to a great start and can stay atop of the Eastern Conference, Keefe could certainly be in the conversation.
A couple of long shots would be Ilya Samsonov for Vezina trophy votes and Morgan Rielly for Norris trophy votes. If both players finish in the top-10 that’s likely going to be an above-average season for the Maple Leafs’ duo. While Marner was the only one to sniff an NHL award of late, look for Matthews and Knies to join the conversations next season.