Phil Kessel Scouting Report by Gus Katsaros and Ryan Dadoun
Phil Kessel is no stranger to hot starts, but even by his standards, the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign was something special. He found the back of the net seven times to start the season (5-7-5-12) – the most by a Maple Leafs player since Sweeney Schriner scored eight goals in the same span. With 10 goals in his first 10 games, Kessel joined Rick Vaive as the only Leafs player to score 10 or more in Toronto’s first 10 contests. Kessel couldn’t maintain that monstrous pace, but he didn’t fizzle out either, setting new career-highs with 37 goals and 82 points. Part of the transformation can be credited to lessened predictability. The 2006 first-round selection now approaches defenders from different angles to keep them guessing. He also displayed chemistry with Joffrey Lupul, scoring just three goals during a 16 games stretch at the end of the season where Lupul was sidelined, and played through a wrist injury of his own. He recorded just 12 hits, which was least among players that surpassed the 20-goal milestone. He did display an increased effort when it came to backchecking and defensive presence due in part to Tyler Bozak’s defensive accumen, but he didn’t always commit to assignments in his own zone. Still, with his speed and rocket-propelled wrist shot, Kessel is the best offensive weapon the Leafs have up front. Keyed on by opposition every game, he still performs, getting little credit outside of the association with Tyler Seguin, the player chosen with one of the two first-round draft picks to acquire him.
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