Ian White, he is perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs' most underrated defenseman. And how, you ask? It's simple: White has the potential to put up 10-15 goals and 40-45 points next season.
After reading through The Hockey News' fantasy pool guide magazine, I couldn't help but notice White was nowhere to be found in their list of 350+ projections of skaters and goalies. So I flipped to the page dedicated to the Leafs--an underwhelming vague page at that--and found White in their projections. They predicted him for a measly 18 points, ranking him at the very bottom of their list. No explanation, no nothing.
White, who is 25 years-old, and produced an impressive 10 goals and 26 points in 71 games played, is expected to be trending down, according to The Hockey News. But I guess they forgot he made Team Canada in the IIHF World Hockey Championships--which was unfortunately cut short due to a neck injury. I guess they forgot he scored 10 goals (eight of those at even-strength) and averaged 22:50 of ice-time. I guess they forgot he was tied for first on the team in +/- with +6. He also ranked second among Leafs defensemen in shots with 158 with a shooting percentage of 6.8%.
Make no mistake; White is an asset to the Leafs. And this is only the beginning for the versatile rearguard, who played in his third campaign in the National Hockey League last season. Consider that defensemen generally take longer to develop in the big league, so this could be White's coming-out party. Also, history shows us that a number of NHL players have broke-out in their fourth seasons. Will this be the case with White? Who knows, but if Brian Burke's plan to give the offensive-minded players more room to play by importing more toughness to lineup proves to be successful, then you can bet White will be a direct beneficiary.
While White may lack the size and physicality of an ideal top-four defenseman, his skill and hockey sense allow him to make quick and logical decisions in his own end. He can also make a strong first pass out of the zone. Granted, White has been caught flat-footed in his own end before, and does require some seasoning in the defensive end. However, it's his presence in the offensive end that makes him a valuable commodity. Not only does he have a booming shot from the point, but he's aware of his surroundings and can set-up a play just as easily as he puts the puck in back of the net. And as far as leadership is concerned, you'll never see White flee away from the media, as he is often found voicing his concern (hey, last season was no treat) with the club.
This leads me to the departure of Pavel Kubina. Kubina, who was a staple with Tomas Kaberle on the powerplay, was lethal from the point, scoring 14 goals. This pushed White down the depth chart on the PP, and he was forced to play second-unit minutes.
But no more, folks. It's White's time to shine. Even though newcomer Francois
Beauchemin will surely be penciled in as Kaberle's PP partner, I believe it will only be a matter of time before White overtakes the position, and proves all the naysayers wrong. While Beauchemin is a presence on the PP, his career-high in goals is 9, which means White has him beat in that department already. If there's anyone who could come close to repeating the magic between Kaberle and Bryan McCabe on the PP from seasons past, it's White.
Some have mentioned converting White to a forward is an option, and perhaps it is worth a try, but personally, I'd much rather the roster spot be given to players such as Tyler Bozak or Christian Hanson, as White would require a position in the top-six to be effective, considering his physical shortcomings.
While White may be used as #5 defenseman five-on-five, he's going to be lethal on the PP, and log a whole lot of minutes.
I guarantee it.
Plus, he totally has a badass mustache. Why would you underestimate him to begin with?
Bold prediction: 13 goals, 42 points