Nikita Zaitsev reflects on his rookie NHL season, the Leafs rank sixth in Sportsnet’s off-season moves power ranking, and more in the links.

Leafs Links

Newcomer Dominic Moore says Leafs’ Matthews already a leader (Toronto Sun)
And even though he’s still just a teenager, it is Matthews, the developing face of the franchise, who is among the leadership group providing the glue bonding this young team. Just ask Dominic Moore, who learned that lesson firsthand last week. A veteran of 10 teams in his 14 NHL seasons, Moore, 36, received a call out of the blue last week congratulating him on this, his second stint with the Leafs. The voice at the other end: Auston Matthews.

Ep.184: The Bourne Resurrection (Hockey PDOcast)
Justin Bourne provides a peek behind the curtain by discussing his role with the Toronto Marlies coaching staff (2:44), what he looks for when watching tape and which player types he’s drawn to (15:48), the AAAA player and why certain guys can’t seem to take the next step (21:00), and which AHLers look poised for a breakout year (26:42).

Zaitsev looking to build on successful first NHL season (The Hockey News)
“I got a lot of lessons,” Zaitsev said. “I will think about it this summer and get better. I know what to do.” The rearguard headed back to Moscow for the off-season, where part of the mission was to get bigger. Already 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Zaitsev doesn’t have too far to go in that regard, but the rigors of the NHL became clear to him and the post-season in particular was an eye-opener. “It’s more simple hockey,” he said. “More battles, more physical – it’s absolutely a different game.”

NHL Off-Season Power Rankings: Who’s improved most (so far)? (Sportsnet)
6. The Maple Leafs’ dip into the UFA pool marks a gear shift from “happy to be here” to “we’re coming for ya.” Patrick Marleau, Ron Hainsey and Dominic Moore — three character vets who’ve been to Round 4 — add maturity and experience to a young, speedy group. We still believe Toronto needs one more D-man, though.

On The Big Three, high-performing NHL rookies, and sophomore slumps (MLHS)
When it comes to concerns about the repeatability of last year’s offensive success, I tend to look at the overall health of the team as well as the career years of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri. While I could see a “sophomore slump” potentially factoring in with players such as Zach Hyman or Connor Brown, ‘The Big Three’ (Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner) are true “drivers” and special enough talents where this appears unlikely, barring significant injuries. And if that’s true, by how much could we realistically expect them to improve on their rookie-year numbers as sophomores?

Isles keep Cronin, promote him to associate coach (PHT)
“Greg’s hockey knowledge and experiences of over 30 years in the coaching profession are an asset to our coaching staff,” Weight said in a release. “He’s run our penalty-kill the past several seasons and each year, it’s been one of the best in the league. He has a tireless work ethic on the bench during games, at practice and in meetings. His desire to get the best out of every player, to help achieve our goal of winning is impressive and I’m thrilled to continue to work with him.”

Colton Parayko deal gives Blues incredible value on young star (Puck Daddy)
According to the Post-Dispatch, the Blues submitted offers of $3.4 million and $3.6 million for each of two years. Parayko wanted one year at $4.85 million. So rather than risking that one-year bridge moving the bar up on a longer-term deal next summer, the Blues closed him at $5.5 million over five years. One could argue that, after just two seasons, the Blues are already getting incredible value here, let alone three or four years into this deal.

Moore: “I can learn from Matthews and he can learn from me”