The Toronto Maple Leafs are undoubtedly a contender this year - enough of the season has transpired to make such a statement. Through 27 games, they are 17-9-1, which puts them in a 4-way tie for second most points in the entire NHL.
Their pace of approximately 1.3 points per game has them on track to hit 106 points this season, which is a remarkable 11-point boost over their 95 points in 2016-17. Whereas they slipped into a wild card spot by the skin of their teeth last season, they will comfortably hold a divisional berth come playoff time, assuming they keep up their pace.
As Jeff Veillette illustrates in this graphic, the Leafs are on a torrid pace this year and have consistently been better than the record they had put up in 2016-17. Furthermore, they could play at a very mediocre pace for the rest of the season and still get 95 points, which will almost certainly be enough to make the playoffs this season - given the extreme parity in the league and the weak Atlantic division.
It's going to be a fun season.