Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs' Top 13 Prospects Heading into the 2012-13 Season

Brad LeClairCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs' Top 13 Prospects Heading into the 2012-13 Season

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    After a pretty impressive 2012 draft, the Leafs head into the season as having one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL.

    With quality centers, wingers and defenders aplenty, the Leafs are well on their way to improving themselves into playoff contenders. Goaltending remains to be a sore spot for the club, but goaltenders generally develop later than other prospects.

    For the purpose of this article, I am considering Leaf prospects who have played less than 60 games with the big club, thus Jake Gardiner is not included in this list.

    Without further interruption, your top 12 Leaf prospects as of today.

13. Josh Leivo: Right Wing

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    The Innisfil, Ontario native makes an appearance on this list as a result of his strong play last season with the Sudbury Wolves. This season he will be the leader of the team with the OHL's leading scorer Michael Sgarbossa likely playing in the AHL with the Colorado Avalanche's farm team the Lake Eric Monsters.

    Leivo at 6'3" already has NHL size and will just need to fill out his frame. He's got top-six power forward potential and will likely be a solid second or third-line player in the NHL.

    Expected Arrival: 2014 or 2015 Season

    Best Case Scenario: Glen Murray

    Worst Case Scenario: David Jones

12. Carter Ashton: Right Wing

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    Carter Ashton was acquired for Keith Aulie in the only deadline deal that affected the Leafs active roster last season.

    Ashton projects more like a third line power forward, but he still has some upside to get him to the second line if he improves his offensive touch and consistency.

    Ashton got some time with the big club last year, but this year should be a different story barring too many injuries. He will likely see a year in the AHL before making an impact with the Leafs.

    Expected Arrival: 2013-14 season

    Best Case Scenario: Dwight King or Nikolai Kulemin

    Worst Case Scenario: Alexei Ponikarovsky

11. Jerry D'Amigo: Left Wing

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    Jerry D'Amigo has shot up the depth chart on the Leafs prospect list after his strong playoff performance this past season with the Toronto Marlies.

    The smooth-skating forward helped pot eight goals with the Marlies in 17 games and added five assists to his tally. Without Matt Frattin on his wing, he saw his point total decrease, but with Frattin on the squad, he was nearly a point per game player.

    At 5'11 he's small in height, but at over 210 pounds, D'Amigo is easily stocky enough to play the energy forward role for the Leafs.

    Expected Arrival: Leafs Bottom Six 2013-14 Season

    Best Case Scenario: Zach Parise lite (think 20 goals 30 assists)

    Worst Case Scenario: Brian Gionta

10. Stuart Percy: Defenceman

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    Percy is one of those invisible defencemen: Rarely does he really stand out to the casual hockey fan, but for a coach, he's one of the easiest players to coach and watch as he rarely makes mistakes and always seems to be in good position.

    Not overly physical, Percy relies more on his hockey IQ to get him out of sticky situations. Always makes a good first pass, Percy will need to work on his offensive game and his skating before he makes it to the next level.

    Expect a year or two in the minors before we see Percy in a Leafs uniform.

    Expected Arrival: 2013-14 Season

    Best Case Scenario: Dan Hamhuis

    Worst Case Scenario: Carl Gunnarsson

9. Jesse Blacker: Defenceman

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    Blacker is probably one of the more underrated prospects in the Leafs system. A good two-way defender, solid skater and adequate scorer, Blacker is rarely out of position and will likely man a top-four defensive spot on the Leafs roster by 2013 or 2014.

    Last year he saw some time with the Marlies scoring once in 58 games while piling up 73 penalty minutes.

    Expect him to get at least one full year in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.

    Expected Arrival: 2014-15 Season

    Best Case Scenario: Dennis Wideman

    Worst Case Scenario: Matt Niskanen

8. Matt Finn: Defenseman

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    Generally regarded as a second-round steal, the Leafs managed to take Guelph Storm defender Matt Finn 35th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. A solid two-way defenceman who is very good in all areas, Finn will likely need more seasoning in junior hockey and a year or two in the AHL before he makes an impact with the Leafs.

    Expected Arrival: 2014-15 season

    Best Case Scenario: Dan Girardi

    Worst Case Scenario: Carlo Colaiacovo

7. Tyler Biggs: Right Wing

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    Tyler Biggs was taken with the Leafs' first-round pick in the 2011 draft they received from Philadelphia in the Kris Versteeg deal.

    Biggs is likely the hardest-hitting, nastiest piece in the Leafs' prospect arsenal. He combines good size, good skating ability, offensive touch and most of all, physicality—the ability to throw huge hits against opponents.

    He will likely play a year of junior hockey and then a year in the AHL before he makes an impact in the NHL with the Leafs.

    Expected Arrival: 2014-15 season

    Best Case Scenario: Dustin Brown

    Worst Case Scenario: Colby Armstrong

6. Brad Ross: Left Wing

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    Brad Ross will likely be a force to be reckoned with in the NHL when or if he makes it. A pesky, tough forward who will get under the opponent's skin, Ross will likely find himself in the Leafs' top six as a protection guy who can pot 15 to 25 goals in a season.

    I say this because two seasons ago with Portland he played with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, and this past season I saw him play with Sven Baertschi and Ty Rattie in Portland. He's got enough offence to allow him to play on a team's top line.

    Think of him like a Steve Ott or Darcy Tucker-type of forward. He will likely require a year or two in the AHL before he makes the NHL club.

    Expected Arrival: 2013-14 Season

    Best Case Scenario: Steve Ott or Darcy Tucker

    Worst Case Scenario: Travis Moen

5. Greg McKegg: Center/Left Wing

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    Greg McKegg is quickly rocketing up the Leafs depth charts this offseason as he looks to cement himself in a Leafs jersey. Last season he was dealt by the Erie Otters to the London Knights where he enjoyed great success scoring 41 points in 30 games, along with a plus-five rating, a far better improvement from his 34 points in 35 games and minus-39 rating with the Otters.

    His play away from the puck, much like Leafs first-round pick in 2009 Nazem Kadri, is the biggest weakness in his game. Hopefully a year or two with Dallas Eakins in the AHL will help McKegg's defensive play improve.

    Expected Arrival: 2013-14 season

    Best Case Scenario: Jamie Benn

    Worst Case Scenario: Michael Ryder

4. Matt Frattin: Right Wing

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    Matt Frattin's scoring outburst in the NCAA vaulted him from relative unknown to likely the Leafs' best pure sniper they have in their system.

    Last season he struggled to find the net with the Leafs, but it wasn't until he played with the Marlies in the playoffs that his true talent shone through.

    Scoring 10 playoff goals with the Marlies, Frattin was easily the team's best offensive weapon in the playoffs, joining goalie Ben Scrivens as co-MVPs of the Marlies' playoff run.

    He's got a legitimate shot at making the Leafs roster this season, so expect him to make an impact this season.

    Expected Arrival: This Season

    Best Case Scenario: Dustin Brown

    Worst Case Scenario: Matt Moulson lite

3. Joe Colborne: Center

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    Likely the most intimidating presence and standing over 6 feet 5 inches tall, Colborne is a lanky, smooth-skating center who projects more like a goal scorer than a set-up man like many experts pegged him to be.

    The Jumbo Joe comparisons ran wild throughout his tenure with Boston until he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with the Bruins' first-round pick in 2011 (Percy), and a conditional 2012 second-round pick, which ended up being dealt for John Michael Liles.

    That deal will likely go down as one of the better deals Brian Burke has made with the Leafs.

    Colborne is in a tough situation. The Leafs have limited first line centers, but many claim he is not ready for prime time minutes yet. They also have centers Tyler Bozak, Tim Connolly and Matt Lombardi all taking up space on the roster—who in the end may not be included in the Leafs' long-term plans.

    I expect Colborne to get his shot either this year (injuries), or next year (when the above three deals expire).

    Expected Arrival; This Year or Next

    Best Case Scenario: Blake Wheeler

    Worst Case Scenario: Nik Antropov

2. Nazem Kadri: Center/Left Wing

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    Nazem Kadri has been ready for the NHL for at least a year now. Having endured Ron Wilson's wrath and coming out of it rather cleanly, Kadri will look to impress coach Randy Carlyle enough to warrant a roster spot this season.

    I expect by the end of the season that Kadri will be centering the top line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

    Kadri needed to work on his defensive game before being called up to the big show, but in all seriousness, that was just an excuse the Leafs were using. In the end, their entire roster needed work defensively, and to single out Kadri for his defensive ability was not only wrong, but could have damaged his potential as an elite set-up man in the NHL.

    Expected Arrival: This Season

    Best Case Scenario: Marc Savard minus concussions

    Worst Case Scenario: Scott Gomez lately

1. Morgan Rielly: Defenseman

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    Morgan Rielly went from one of the more unknown names in the 2012 NHL Draft due to his injury trouble last year to one of the more talked about drafted players in years.

    His innate offensive ability and his pure footwork make him an incredible talent and likely a top-pairing defender for years to come.

    He will likely play another year of junior hockey this season in Moose Jaw and likely anchor the World Junior defence in Ufa, Russia at Christmas. Expect him to really push for a roster spot next year, but you never know, he could find himself on the opening night roster much like Jake Gardiner did last year.

    Expected Arrival: This Year or Next Year

    Best Case Scenario: Erik Karlsson

    Worst Case Scenario: Bret Hedican with more offense