What To Expect: MGK Line
Not a soul could have predicted it before the start of the 2010-11 season, but the trio consisting of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin was the Toronto Maple Leafs' most productive line since the lockout.
In fact, the line amassed 110 points, which ranked as the second most productive line in the National Hockey League last season. Considering the fortunes of the Leafs in the past decade, the fact that all three players had breakout campaigns in the same season while also establishing chemistry was nothing short of a miracle.
However, with the Leafs missing the playoffs for a sixth-straight season, the short-term significance of the MGK line meant little in the end. But one of the question heading into next season, and there are many surrounding the Leafs, is whether the club's most productive line can sustain its chemistry. That questions obviously hinges on several factors, including the individual performances of all three players.
While Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski have developed in the NHL and are now fulfilling their potential, Clarke MacArthur remains an enigma. That is due to the fact that MacArthur was never expected to blossom into a 62-point forward after the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from an arbitrator's ruling that awarded the 26-year-old a $2.4-million cap-hit. But low and behold, MacArthur finished second on the Leafs in points and was consistent throughout the season---never scored less than 8 points in a month when playing 10 or more games.
But the question looms of whether MacArthur is the real deal or if he simply rode the coattails of Grabovski and Kulemin. And if either of the trio suffer a decrease in production, will the line wither away and subsequently leave the Leafs in a dire state? It's a fair question when analyzing the future of three relatively young, unproven and developing players. It's encouraging to note, however, that both Grabovski and Kulemin were taking strides towards reaching the next level before the MGK line was even established. And it should be noted that, before last season, MacArthur never averaged more than 14:41 of ice-time. While that statistic is indicative of his play at the time, it could be argued that, considering his age, MacArthur required the proper setting to establish himself as a top-six forward.
Regardless, considering the lack of first-line talent on the Leafs, it's likely that MacArthur will play a pivotal role not only in the success of the MGK line, but the overall consistency of the Leafs' top-six unit.
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