Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects: Under the Radar Guys Fans Should Pay Attention to
Just about every Toronto Maple Leafs fan knows who Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne are.
Those three young guns are constantly under the microscope and being watched like hawks by Toronto's media and fan base.
Even guys like Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy have fairly high expectations bestowed upon them (heads-up to Leafs fans, the former can be seen at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships).
Yet the Leafs also have some lesser known prospects who have shown signs of promise, despite their draft position or the fact that they're not considered among the team's top prospects.
Here are a few to keep an eye on:
Greg McKegg became one of the more controversial prospects in the Leafs' system after the 2010-2011 season.
Controversial in the sense that some were ready to crown him as the next great Leaf after he tallied 92 points in his third season of junior hockey, while some still felt he was just another average, undersized prospect.
This season, however, was the year that McKegg would really be put to the test, as he made the jump to professional hockey from the junior ranks.
And so far, so good.
While he hasn't been an offensive juggernaut (nor was he expected to make an instant impact at the pro level), he's managed to put up a positive player rating (plus-1) and has been very fairly disciplined, taking just two minor penalties in 19 games this season.
He's also notched four goals and added three assists, for seven points.
It seems as though McKegg is holding his own for the moment at the professional level. Another year or two of developing under the tutelage of Dallas Eakins (should he stick around), and McKegg could be ready to make the jump to the NHL level.
Dominic Toninato was Toronto's fifth-round selection in the most recent NHL entry draft.
Taken out of high school in Minnesota—where Toninato absolutely dominated his competition—the Leafs took somewhat of a risk.
This season, Toninato is playing his first full season in the USHL, a developmental league, and has maintained that high level of play.
Through 26 games with the 13-8-5 Fargo Force, Toninato has 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points and a plus-13 player rating.
Now, the USHL may be far removed from the NHL, but let's compare Toninato's first full USHL season with those of NHL players who also used the USHL to develop before finding success at the NHL level.
Montreal Canadiens scorer Max Pacioretty played his lone year of USHL hockey with the Sioux City Musketeers, registering 63 points in 60 games, and a plus-20 player rating.
Teddy Purcell, who has made a name for himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning, played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL and amassed 67 points and a plus-20 player rating in his first season in the developmental league.
Some others with similar numbers in their first seasons at that level include Chicago Black Hawks star Patrick Sharp (43 points in 55 games), Paul Stastny (30 points, plus-4 rating in 57 games) and Buffalo Sabres star Thomas Vanek (33 points in 35 games).
Folks, those numbers are nothing to scoff at.
Toninato is still far from being a guarantee, but his progress up to this point has been more than sufficient and he's definitely worth keeping an eye on if you're a Leafs fan.
Another fifth-round selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Cameranesi was taken in 2011 as opposed to 2012), Cameranesi also chose the route of playing in the USHL, and now plays collegiate hockey for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Which prospect do you think is the most promising?
Playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in 2011-12, Cameranesi registered 42 points in 55 games played, giving the Leafs a glimpse into what kind of player they had drafted.
This year with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Cameranesi has stepped up his game, tallying 19 points in just 18 games and posting a neutral player rating (an improvement from the minus-9 he posted last season) against a higher level of competition.
Much like his fellow Minnesotan, Toninato, Cameranesi looks like he could end up being a major steal for the Leafs if he continues to develop at this rate.
He's definitely worth keeping tabs on as the season progresses.
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