As the Toronto Maple Leafs hit the 15-game mark in the 2023-24 season, it’s the perfect time to analyze and grade the performances of the team’s core players. The team’s so-called “Core Four” drives the team’s offence. The question is, “Are they driving the team’s offence?”
In this post, I’m going to look at the performances of William Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares. Then I will offer grades based on how I believe they are doing thus far.
Core Four Player One: William Nylander
William Nylander is having an outstanding start to the season. Currently, he’s on pace for a career year – somewhere in the area of 120 points or so. So far, Nylander has scored 10 goals and added 12 assists (for 22 points) in 15 games. That’s a phenomenal goal-scoring pace of 54 goals and 120 points.
He’s been dominant in five-on-five even-strength play, scoring five goals and totaling nine points in over 212 minutes on the ice. That places him among the league’s elite players in 2023-24. As well, Nylander’s adding to the success of his linemates, Tyler Bertuzzi and John Tavares. Together, they have built a recent chemistry driving his stellar performance.
Core Four Player Two: Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews continues to showcase his scoring ability. He’s scored 13 goals and now has 19 points over the first 15 games of the season. That ties him for the league lead in goals. Interestingly, nine of his 13 goals have come playing at even strength. That shows his exceptional skill.
This season as well as in the past, Matthews has continued his dynamic partnership with Mitch Marner. They spend significant ice time together on the ice. They also seem to lift the game of any winger they play with. Right now that winger is rookie Matthew Knies.
Core Four Player Three: Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner is the playmaker on the first line. He’s scored five goals and added 12 assists (for 17 points) in 15 games. He’s on pace for an impressive 27 goals and 92 points. That’s great, but I expected more from him. I thought for sure he’d hit the 100-point mark this season. He still might, but he’d need to pick up his pace to do so.
Right now, his focus seems to be on five-on-five playmaking. He has scored four even-strength goals and added seven assists (four have been primary assists). Marner’s chemistry with Matthews and his left-winger (which, as noted is Knies) has helped his play be more impactful.
Core Four Player Four: John Tavares
John Tavares continues to show that, even as his age advances, that he’s a valuable player for the team. That said, there don’t seem to be many Maple Leafs fans who believe he’s earning his seven-year $77,000,000 contract. Still, who can argue with his amazing hand/eye coordiation and his fearless stepping up in front of the other team’s goalie?
Thus far this season, he’s put up six goals and added 10 assists (for 16 points) in his 15 games played. Almost all Tavares’ goals have come at even strength. He’s showing he still has what it takes in all game situations. Tavares remains a pivotal force on the team. He’s been a great partner with Nylander this season and whomever the coaching staff seems to put out there at the left-wing position. Currently, that’s Tyler Bertuzzi. In fact, since Bertuzzi’s moved, his play has improved greatly.