Alex Kerfoot has been nothing short of a pleasant surprise for the Toronto Maple Leafs thus far and maybe this is something that Leaf fans should have seen coming.
Kerfoot was selected in the 5th round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, by the New Jersey Devils (150th overall). Following the draft, he decided to announce his commitment to the NCAA and play for the Harvard Crimson men’s hockey team. In four years of collegiate hockey, Kerfoot managed to score 123 points in 121 games (36G 87A). He was the team’s assistant captain and a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (best college player) in 2016-17. He also earned NCAA (East) Second Team All-American, ECAC Hockey First Team, All-Ivy League First Team, and New England D-I All-Star recognition.
After an impressive college career, Kerfoot declined the opportunity to play for the Devils and opted to enter free agency where he then signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The 23-year-old centre had a modest campaign with the Avs tallying 85pts in 157 games.
On a team with an abundance of talent and a top-six forward unit that is pretty much solidified, Kerfoots impact on the third line has been that much more impressive. Pairing alongside Toronto Marlie graduate Trevor Moore and newly acquired Ilya Mikheyev, the trio have shown that they are more than just depth players on a good roster and that they can become impactful pieces for Toronto. Combining skill, speed and a little bit of grit, the third line continues to find ways to score early on in the season, by being hard on the forecheck, simple with their passing and finishing their chances. Kerfoot often found himself on the top two lines in Colorado, shouldering the pressure of being a consistent producing forward. Now, he is tasked to be a shutdown centremen, against much weaker line matchups that should play heavily in his favour.
Kerfoot has the ability to become the versatile player Toronto desperately needed. His skill set allows him to play a 200-foot game, which can be done on either the wing or at centre. He is responsible in the defensive zone, which is something Toronto has struggled with mightily over the last few years.
This season, Toronto will have to rely on depth players to step up offensively. This third line and Kerfoot, in particular, are suited to fill the void that escaped them last season. He has shown flashes of incredible skill and playmaking ability, thus giving Babcock the opportunity to make unique changes if need be throughout the year. These talented “depth” players become the cornerstone of success in the playoffs.
Kerfoot has all the makings to become a fan favourite and an important piece to Toronto’s future success. If Kerfoot and the third line continue to play well, there is a good chance he exceeds his career-high in goals and assists (19G 27A). That is more than possible on a team that should be able to score at will.