NHL Predictions 2012: Can Phil Kessel Be the Star the Toronto Maple Leafs Need?

Adam DavisCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 06:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on April 6, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

When all the dust settled after Toronto's second win of the season, the Maple Leafs are undefeated thanks in large part to Phil Kessel.

The young forward recorded his first three-goal night with the club Saturday night over Ottawa, and currently sits with five points on the season. Kessel was the reason that Toronto won its second game, and it seems that he is really focused to start this season.

The Maple Leafs picked up Kessel in a trade with Boston that didn't sit well with many fans in the city. A lot of people were critical of Toronto giving up two top draft picks for a player that had not entirely proved himself as a solid scorer.

However, while it is still extremely early to gauge just how valuable Kessel will be to the Leafs this year, he does seem to have matured to the point where he knows he is the go-to guy on the team. He seems to have embraced his role as the offensive spark plug on the Leafs. 

Kessel is an interesting player in that he has picked up on one assist in game one, and three goals and an assist in game two. Whatever the final tally may be, after those first two games Kessel seems to have an effect on the Leafs offense overall. 

While captain Dion Phaneuf is the the leader of the Leafs, Kessel is their boy wonder. Considering he is one of the main faces of the team, the spotlight is constantly shining on him. Fans love goals more than motivational speeches in the locker room, so more is expected of the young Kessel than the gritty captain. 

Playing 82 games last year for Toronto and racking up 32 goals hasn't been enough to win over the harsh, critical Toronto fans. Kessel has three goals and two assists thus far and seems to be completely comfortable and confident. 

Can Kessel step up his game to the point of being the superstar that Toronto so desperately craves?

Yes, he can.

Kessel has racked up 55-plus points in the last three seasons with Toronto, and considering the overall unimpressive talent that lines up with him every night, he has potential for much higher totals. 

Saying that Kessel is on pace for 200-plus points because he has five in two games is ridiculous, but to expect 80-plus from him is something that not only do I believe he can do, but I expect him to pull off this year. 

Kessel is an All-Star, Olympian and former fifth overall draft pick. A lot was expected of him when he was drafted by Boston in 2006, and even more is being asked of him now in Toronto. I believe Kessel can step up his game this season, one in which Toronto needs him more than ever.

Kessel may not be the ultimate star that the Leafs need to make them relevant again, but he is the guy to take them places they haven't been in years.