The Toronto Maple Leafs rolled out the best powerplay unit in the league last year, scoring 4.5 goals per 20 minutes of powerplay time. After some big changes this offseason, the Leafs will be rolling out a very different top unit this year. Gone are James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, replaced by John Tavares and Auston Matthews. On paper, this unit looks like it could be just as dominant if not better, but a key component will be whether Tavares can fill the net front role JVR excelled at.
Let’s look at their respective net front, powerplay production over the last 2 seasons. JVR outscored Tavares from the inner slot, scoring 16 goals to Tavares’ 10 but he also spent a lot more time there. So, the better way to evaluate whether Tavares can be as productive from this area of the ice is to look at his shooting percentage, compared to van Riemsdyk, from this location. From the inner slot, Tavares scored on 23.8% of his shots – JVR, 23.1%.
So, can John Tavares successfully fill JVR’s role on the powerplay? Yes! He’s one of the best in the game at protecting the puck and has the hands to light the lamp from in-tight. If Tavares can continue to perform in front of the net on this new unit, then the Leafs just might be able to again have the strongest unit in the league.