As always, as a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan, I’m looking forward to the upcoming NHL season. Given the new additions and the goalie situation (I really like the young twosome of Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll), there is plenty to be excited about.
The Maple Leafs First Line Could Be Loaded
One of the most interesting storylines for the Maple Leafs’ forward units is the first line. Given that center Auston Matthews is a fixture, there’s a potential new partnership between two talented forwards, Tyler Bertuzzi and Mitch Marner. With Bertuzzi joining the Maple Leafs’ roster, it could be that the team’s first line is going to be as potent as it’s ever been – at least in the past six seasons that I’ve covered the team.
I’m going out on a limb – albeit it isn’t a shaky one – that if the threesome of Marner, Matthews, and Bertuzzin play together, it could be a career-defining season for all three players. For Marner, especially, he’s already pumped to go.
Given his level of competitiveness, which I think is off the charts, he’s more motivated than ever about the possibility of a breakout season. He’s up for a contract extension at the end of the coming season; and, that’s a point I’d like to build upon in this post.
The stage is set for Bertuzzi’s presence to catalyze a breakout season for Marner during the 2023-24 regular season. Here are the reasons I see this as likely.
Bertuzzi Is a Solid Linemate
Michael Bunting was a good linemate for Matthews and Marner. However, he isn’t Bertuzzi. With Bertuzzi’s arrival, there’s a new level of skills for the team’s offence. The possibility of Bertuzzi slotting into the first line alongside Matthews and Marner is rich. This trio has the potential to be one of the best forward lines the Maple Leafs have put together in recent years.
On his own and with a more offensively-challenged team than the Maple Leafs, Bertuzzi was able to score almost at a point-a-game pace (when he wasn’t injured). His goal-scoring ability will inevitably draw the opposition’s defences to him. That could create more space and opportunities for Marner to put up points.
If it works the other way, that’s good too. If the defence decides to work to stop Marner, then Bertuzzi is open. It could be that on any goal scored all three of the top line could rack up points. It all works to push up the statistical numbers.
Witnessing New Levels of Offensive Production for the Top Line
Last season, Marner registered an impressive number (69) of assists. Adding Bertuzzi’s ability to finish with Matthews, expect Marner to see his assist count rise. My prediction is that Marner will average one assist per game.
If the threesome has any kind of chemistry at all, all of these players will benefit in a big way. Specifically, for Marner’s production, is 120 points out of the question? The answer is No.
Watch Also for Bertuzzi’s Scoring to Rise
Bertuzzi’s best NHL season was in 2021-22 with the Detroit Red Wings. During that season, he put up an impressive 62 points (30 goals and 32 assists) in just 68 games. He can consistently contribute to the team’s offence.
If Bertuzzi can convert his scoring opportunities, he could jump up his best season and average a point per game. That would benefit both players. The potential symbiotic relationship between Marner’s playmaking prowess and Bertuzzi’s goal-scoring could make this pairing one of the most dangerous in the league.
And that doesn’t even count Matthews in the mix.
The Bottom Line
The NHL season is approaching soon. Who knows what’s in store for the Maple Leafs and their fans? However, new general manager Brad Treliving has given the team – at least for this single season – an exciting prospect. The possibility of an amazing first line.
With Bertuzzi joining forces with Matthews and Marner on the team’s first line, it will be possible to see some explosive offence. The 2023-24 regular season could push Marner’s scoring to new heights. It could also greatly benefit Bertuzzi’s career.
Where that leaves the Maple Leafs in their desire to go on a long Stanley Cup journey, we’ll soon see.