September 18th, 2011 was a very special day indeed, it was the two year anniversary of the â€œdreadedâ€ Kessel trade. On September 18, 2009, the Boston Bruins traded Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he quickly signed a five-year, $27 million contract. The Leafs gave Boston their first and second round Entry Draft picks in 2010, as well as a first round Entry Draft pick in 2011. These picks turned to players Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and Dougie Hamilton.
Please keep in mind that Iâ€™m not playing this card now because Kessel is on fire and has 8 points in three games (including 5 goals) but because I think this is a moment worth remembering. Iâ€™m also not looking to start the Kessel deal debate all over again. It was what it was and Iâ€™m happy with what/who we got back. That is all.
To me, that day marks the first time since Sundin left that we had a legitimate star player on our hands. Sure, you can claim that it was quite a stretch ranking him next to say Zach Parise, but fact remains that even before Kessel came to the Leafs, he was an already established goalscorer in the NHL (66 goals in three seasons, and a breakout year that included 36 goals) with tremendous speed and a deadly shot.
What else do you call him right now? In both his first two seasons in Toronto (first being shortened by shoulder surgery recovery) he scored at least 30 goals. But, he was often criticized for being a one dimensional, streaky player that wouldn’t do the work defensively.
This season (even in spurts last season) he does the defensive work. Last year he showed everyone that he wasnâ€™t â€œjustâ€ a scorer and heâ€™s equally adept at passing the puck. Being a 24 year old player now, it was always expected, as a part of his development and growth as a player.
Phil Kessel now has 5 goals and 3 assists, 8 points in 3 games played this season. He is also + 7 during that span. If you count back to last season, he is on a 13 game point scoring streak. Is it too early to call him a star? Maybe, but to call him our star? That is quickly becoming fact.