Versatile, consistent, reliable. These are just a few words that come to mind when you hear the name “Alex Kerfoot.” He may not be known for his flashy passes or his highlight reel goals, but his consistency and reliability has made him an integral part of this current Leafs team. In just 41 games, he’s put up an impressive 6 goals, 25 assists, 31 points. His assists alone are almost doubled from the all-Canadian division last season, not to mention that’s in fifteen fewer games. To say that he has made his presence known this season is an understatement.
Flashback to last season, many Leafs fans were calling for #15 to be traded. As a 3C on a cap-strapped team, the general consensus was that he was overpaid. There were cheaper options and they felt the money could be spent better elsewhere. Fast forward to the beginning of the 2021-22 season and Alex Kerfoot is playing left wing on a line with John Tavares and William Nylander. This was a line that originally left many people scratching their heads. Could Alex Kerfoot really take on a role in the top six? The answer is yes.
Kerfoot has shown time and time again that he belongs in the top 6. He demonstrated this as recently as Monday night against the Devils. Keefe juggled the lines, resulting in Kerfoot playing on the fourth line. (Yes, I had a beef with Sheldon for a hot minute there.) Once again he showed resilience and earned his way back to his usual position on the second line by mid point in the game. He capped off this performance by setting up the game winning goal, while killing a penalty in the final minutes of the third frame. He saw 15:19 of ice time during the Devils game, enough for him to notch two assists. Proving that he is a player who can seamlessly move up and down the lineup. Whether it’s a top six role or a bottom six role, you know exactly what you’re getting with Alex Kerfoot.
After his hot start to the 2021-22 season, many Leafs fans have started to take notice of his value to the team. Some calling this a “career season” for the Vancouver native. But members of Leafs Twitter aren’t the only ones talking about him. Kerfoot has recently been named a “Swiss Army Knife” by the media. A nickname that he rightfully earned after his playoff performance last season. When an unfortunate injury took JT out of the lineup against the Canadiens, Alex stepped up and filled the role of 2C. The chemistry that #15 and #88 had was electric. Both players really elevated their game in that series. In seven games, Kerfoot had six points. He was second in playoff points production, only behind Nylander (eight points in seven games.) This pleasantly surprised a lot of fans, including myself. That duo was one of the bright spots of the 2020-21 playoffs.
Sheldon Keefe often praises Kerfoot for his ability to be flexible and to play in different roles when called upon. He also talks about his consistency in said roles. Something that occasionally goes unnoticed during games. It’s no secret that Keefe sees Kerfoot as an asset to this team. As he should.
His teammates love and appreciate him as well. Many of them giving him shoutouts in their postgame interviews after a big win. Marner was the most recent teammate to do so after their 6-4 win over New Jersey on Monday night (a game that I definitely needed a glass of wine per period for.) Although the Leafs faced some adversity in that game, Kerfoot managed to shine, setting up Mikheyev for the game winner and allowing Leafs Twitter to breathe normally again.
So when will Alex Kerfoot get the respect he deserves? While I realize that Kerfoot is having an impressive season on a line with Tavares and Nylander, I also realize that Tavares and Nylander are having impressive seasons on a line with Kerfoot. All three players compliment each other nicely and make the team harder to play against. There’s no question about that. At the half way point of the season, Kerfoot is ranked sixth on the team in points. An impressive feat on a team full of big names. Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Rielly, to name a few. Those are currently the only players with more points than Kerfoot. Let that sink in.
With three seasons as a Maple Leaf under his belt, the sample size is growing and his game is only getting better every time he plays. Instead of viewing Alex Kerfoot as a $3.5M anchor on the salary cap, it’s time to start viewing him as a proven forward who is a key component to this Leafs team’s recent success. He has more than earned our trust.