|Depth Chart Location:||Top 6 W|
|Contract Status:||- Two more seasons at $2.9 million AAV
- Becomes UFA on July 1, 2018
Leo Komarov, a sixth round pick of the Maple Leafs in the 2006 entry draft, has developed into a folk hero, of sorts, and a Toronto fan favourite. Komarov had some hidden offensive ability that belied his usage under Randy Carlyle during the 2012-13 season, when averaged only 13:56 a game in his first stint with the club. Earlier in the lockout-shortened season, after a short 14-game stay with the Toronto Marlies, Komarov played in the KHL for Dynamo Moscow for 13 games, at times sharing the ice alongside stars such as Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He didn’t look out of place as the primary puck retriever on his line, freeing up his star linemates to play in the middle of the ice more frequently while chipping in some offence.
Shown to be more than an aberration, he played bigger offensive roles again in the KHL for Dynamo Moscow over a full season in 2013-14, leading his team in points while serving as Dynamo’s assistant captain. His plan of playing more minutes in the KHL to show his wares for one and a half seasons worked out as he was selected to represent his country at the World Championships, and again in Sochi for the Olympics.
After returning to Toronto on a four-year contract in the 2014 offseason, Komarov served various roles for the team during the 2014-15 season. He got off to a great start offensively; in the first 23 games, he put up 16 points (4 goals and 12 assists; on pace for a 66-point season with 14 goals, 42 assists) before being taken out of the lineup by a very questionable hit to the head from Alexander Ovechkin. While he was riding some high percentages, his improved confidence with the puck was noticeable and his previous pigeon-holed fourth-line line status was looking unfair. While not a top six player in the truest sense of the label, Komarov proved to be a tremendous forechecker who was hard to strip of the puck, and showed enough intelligence on the ice to get into position at the right times and/or get the puck to teammates in the right areas. However, he returned from the head injury and was not the same player for the rest of the season.
The 2015-16 season was another step forward for “Uncle Leo.” He was given first line duties on a team that was short on talent, but he earned the favour of new head coach Mike Babcock with his work ethic, attitude and edgy play, as well as his growing confidence with the puck.
I didn’t know he was this good, that he played this hard and was this competitive,” Babcock said. “He’s an important part of our team. He’s a constant, you can count on him every day. You (give direction) and he just does it. He’s mean, he really skates, he glides with the puck better than I expected. “He has seven goals, but he can kill penalties, play on the power play, do whatever you need him to do.
Babcock is known to deploy players such as Komarov on scoring lines (Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm); players who can “go and get the puck” while dragging their more skilled linemates into a more determined style of play.
“I think skill players want the puck,” said Babcock of matching up the grit of Komarov. “I coached in Detroit a long time and (Pavel) Datsyuk wanted (Darren) Helm and (Henrik) Zetterberg wanted (Justin) Abdelkader. So why was that? Because someone got them the puck. Someone took someone to the net. Someone did the heavy lifting for them. So that’s what skill guys normally want.”
2015-16 featured career highs for Komarov with 36 points (19 goals and 17 assists) in only 67 games (22 goals, 21 assists prorated over 82 games), again with some high percentages — this time with a lofty shooting percentage of 14.6%. That’s something that will probably come back down to earth, but his production is certainly trending in the right direction. Another plus was Komarov’s possession statistics, which ranked among the best on the team: 53.3 Corsi For %, and a CF%Rel of 2.9. Something that did come as somewhat of a surprise was Komarov’s selection to the All-Star team. While it felt like there was some gimmick to his addition, his teammates and coaches absolutely loved the nomination considering he was leading the team in points at the time and is widely considered a token “beauty” among his teammates.
Something that may be of concern with Komarov is his time spent on the injury reserve. His robust style of play earned him a three-game suspension for a hit on Ryan McDonagh, but he also sat out a sizeable chunk of games with a lower-body injury; this after losing 20 games to a concussion the season previous.
In addition to James van Riemsdyk, Komarov is one of the few players on the Maple Leafs who is able to provide an effective net front presence on the powerplay. It’s not a given one of the new additions takes his place there; screening a goalie and tipping shots of up to and over 100ph, while not fancy, is vital to a successful powerplay and classifies as a specialty skill if done correctly.
Uncle Leo, while he rode the aforementioned 14.5% shooting percentage and should see that regress somewhat, will also play in a more talented lineup next season featuring some supremely-skilled youngsters, specifically on the powerplay, where the Maple Leafs finished in 29th place last season. A 20-goal, 20-assist season from Leo isn’t out of the question, given that he’s a favourite of Mike Babcock and should continue to see time alongside skilled players — either Nazem Kadri and van Riemsdyk, and/or new rookies William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected 2016-17 Depth Chart
This chart will update as we slot each player on the depth chart following the publishing of each player preview.
|J. van Riemsdyk||1C||Leo Komarov|
Leo Komarov Career Boxcar Statistics
Leo Komarov Career Enhanced Statistics
Leo Komarov HERO Chart