Pair of Leafs listed among the top-5 players with the most to prove this season

Published September 14, 2023 at 11:23

The Score recently put out an article that looked at 5 NHLers with the most to prove heading into the 2023-24 season. Amongst the quintet of players are 2 members of the Toronto Maple Leafs in Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

At first glance it seems rather strange that 2 players who scored 40 goals and 85+ points would be on the shortlist, but as they wrote at the beginning of the article:

"Some superstars may feel they have to live up to a hefty contract, especially when it's among the richest in the game," in reference to the Matthews deal.

"Some are on the verge of a new deal as pending unrestricted free agents, and the lure of a more lucrative pact often brings out the best in them," in reference to the Nylander situation.

For Auston Matthews, The Score acknowledged that he is a phenomenal talent, a generational scorer, and is not too far removed from earning hardware at the NHL Awards in 2022. Although 40 goals and 85 points would be a career-year for a lot of players, for Matthews it was a down season and he will look to make amends after signing a massive extension.

His sole caveat is his health and whether or not he can turn in a full 82-game season because otherwise they believe he will be able to return back to his 2021-22 form that saw him score 60 goals. To add insult to injury they also believe he has something to prove due to Toronto's disappointing playoff exit and the market itself.

As for William Nylander, they believe he will be under the microscope because of his contract situation - and rightfully so. Contract years tend to bring out the best in players and Nylander has only improved on a yearly basis, which should bode well for his chances.

Nevertheless, contract negotiations between team and player haven't gone as smooth as Matthews' but it's also not a dead-end. If he can outperform his 2022-23 season, where he scored 40 goals and 87 points, it will be hard not to oblige to his 10 million dollar demands.

The Score simplified it as, if he does sign a contract extension before the season starts then he will be in Matthews' boat where he has to prove the heftiness was worth it. If he walks in without a contract extension then he has to prove he's worth every penny he's asking for.

Toronto will always be under the microscope and with one player signing a record deal and the other looking for a big extension, it only adds more intrigue as we enter an important 2023-24 campaign. To round out the list, The Score also featured Connor Bedard, Jacob Markstrom, and Alexis Lafreniere in the article, which you can find here:

September 14   |   86 answers
Pair of Leafs listed among the top-5 players with the most to prove this season

Who has more to prove in 2023-24?

Auston Matthews4754.7 %
William Nylander3945.3 %
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