With more than nine players expiring after this season, the Leafs sit in a pretty good situation going forward, as most of the expiring players after this season are merely depth players and easily replaceable given their costs.
Whether its this season or 2013-14, the Leafs are expected to have more than a handful of rookies make an impact with the club on a regular basis. Here are your five Leaf prospects expected to make an impact either this year or next.
C/LW Nazem Kadri
The time is now for Kadri. With Ron Wilson long gone and a new defensive minded head coach to help mold him into a passable defensive player, Kadri should make an impact this year on the team's second or third line as a winger.
A distant possibility remains that he could center the first line alongside Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, but that may be asking too much out a player who hasn't played a full season yet in the NHL.
RW Matt Frattin
Alongside goalie Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin may have been the Toronto Marlies' team MVP down the playoff stretch, as his goal scoring prowess powered the Marlies to a Calder Cup Final appearance. Sadly for Frattin, he injured his knee and was unable to compete in the Final, and the Marlies eventually lost in four straight games to the Norfolk Admirals.
I fully expect Frattin to take over Colby Armstrong's role with the club as the Leafs' third line right winger this season. Expect him to pot a few goals, but hopefully develop into a solid two-way player alongside center Jay McClement and likely left winger Clarke MacArthur.
D Jake Gardiner
Even though he played last year and impacted the Leafs' roster, the upcoming season may be Jake Gardiner's coming out party to the NHL. I compare his game to Senators defender Erik Karlsson.
Both struggled early in their careers defensively, as Karlsson struggled to a -35 rating in his first 135 games as a pro. Since then, his offensive prowess from the point has helped lead the Senators to a playoff berth, and possibly more to come.
His ability to carry the puck and lead a power-play is what Gardiner hopefully will try bring to the Leafs this season or in 2013-14.
G Ben Scrivens
If James Reimer falters, I fully expect the reigns to be handed over to Leafs prospect Ben Scrivens. At the age of 27, Scrivens isn't a spring chicken, but his experience leading a defensive-minded Marlies squad, led by coach Dallas Eakins, should stand him in good stead moving forward with the Leafs.
Hopefully for Leaf fans sakes Reimer recovers and becomes the goalie everyone expects him to be.
LW/RW Leo Komorov
A name few may recognize, Leo Komorov makes an appearance on this list, as he'll likely compete with many Leaf forwards for the final roster spot along side Mike Brown and David Steckel.
Komorov's ability to get under the opponents' skin and really get them off their game could be a huge asset to a Leafs squad that was deemed by many as being too soft and easy to push around.
Komorov's size won't help that out, but his tenacity, belligerence, and pugnacity should leave a good taste in the mouths of many Leaf fans, and especially the big guy, Brian Burke himself.
Thanks for reading.
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