Tyler Toffoli’s first season with the Canadiens was certainly a strong one as he quickly became one of Montreal’s top scoring threats. What might he be able to do for a follow-up performance?
Toffoli couldn’t have gotten off to much of a better start as he potted nine goals in his first ten games and was the early leader in the Rocket Richard Trophy race. For someone adjusting to a new team in a position he didn’t have a lot of recent experience at, he vastly exceeded expectations that were already relatively high.
Naturally, there was a bit of a drop-off as the season went on; a near-goal-per-game pace isn’t sustainable for the best of players let alone one who had only broken the 30-goal mark once. However, late in the year where the Habs were struggling mightily to score amidst the highly-compressed schedule, Toffoli managed to finish off strong, notching nine goals and 14 points over his final 15 games, sending him into the playoffs on a high note.
Unfortunately, that didn’t result in a lot of playoff success at the beginning. Toffoli was quiet early on against Toronto, picked things up at the end of that series and did well against Winnipeg, and then was basically shut down over the final two series. He wound up second overall in playoff scoring so it certainly wasn’t all bad but they could have used some timely production in the final two rounds although he was playing through injury as the postseason progressed.
Season Stats: 52 GP, 28 goals, 16 assists, 44 points, even rating, 24 PIMS, 7 PPG, 5 GWG, 158 shots, 17:31 ATOI, 56.2 CF%
Playoff Stats: 22 GP, 5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points, -6 rating, 6 PIMS, 1 PPG, 2 GWG, 49 shots, 17:48 ATOI, 49.0 CF%
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
As is the case with many of Montreal’s wingers, this could go a few different ways. At first glance, sticking him on his off-wing with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield – the trio that was in place for a big chunk of the playoffs – would make some sense but he’d be more of a complementary player in that role and as we saw, his performance with those two was hit or miss. Accordingly, it may make more sense to pair him with newcomer Christian Dvorak on a second line that would be good enough to hold their own defensively while also chipping in more frequently than the Phillip Danault trio from a year ago. And if Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin both show themselves to be worthy of the top two spots on the left side (that’s a big if), I can even see a plausible scenario where he’d drop to the third line with Jake Evans with an eye on recreating a line similar to the Danault one, good defensively but with enough offensive talent to drive possession in the attacking end.
I know it sounds more than a little strange to have your leading goal-getter in the bottom six but if they want to go with three lines capable of scoring and don’t trust Drouin and Hoffman in a two-way spot, Toffoli becomes the candidate to move down. It also can’t be ruled out that he plays on his natural wing on the second line with someone else (probably Josh Anderson) shifting over. Long story short, Toffoli will have an important role but despite the year he had, there will be some uncertainty with where he starts next season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shuffled around a bit as the year goes on.
From a special teams perspective, Toffoli could take a hit on the power play. While he historically is a quality producer with the man advantage, Hoffman is an elite producer in that department and rightfully will be deployed ahead of Toffoli. A full season of Caufield will also cut into Toffoli’s time with the top unit. He’ll still have a big role if he drops down to the second unit but they won’t get as much ice time nor will they have the benefit of having someone like Jeff Petry anchoring that second wave as he’ll move up with Shea Weber done for the year (at least) already. That should likely result in a small dip in production. As for the penalty kill, Toffoli was largely a third option or used when they needed a late goal despite being shorthanded and that shouldn’t change.
Toffoli is one of the harder Habs to project. Is he really someone capable of scoring at a 40-goal pace regularly? Probably not which means his per-game projections need to be dropped. But to what extent? If he’s up with Suzuki, 50 or more points isn’t out of the question which would be the second-most of his career. But if they envision him as the new Tomas Tatar or at least playing that role, he could be in the 40s in points even over a full 82-game season. That’s more of his normal level of production as well.
Toffoli feels like a candidate to be drafted a little higher than he should based on his strong scoring totals from last season. In a deeper league, I like him as a fourth winger, especially with dual-wing eligibility while he is more of a sixth winger in shallower pools, shifting him from a slightly before mid-draft slot to closer to the back. Give him a small boost in leagues that score goals higher than assists and he’s a volume shooter so bump him up in those that have category as well.