Latest Updates on Toronto Maple Leafs' Top Prospects
With the excitement of the NHL regular season upon us again, most of the chatter about the Toronto Maple Leafs (and most teams, for that matter) is now centered around the big club, and less attention is paid to the prospect pool and its development.
Of course, that's understandable, but keeping track of who remains in the Leafs' farm system and how they're doing is also important.
With the NHL season being six games old, the AHL and minor hockey seasons have also commenced.
Here's a look at how Toronto's top 10 prospects are faring early on.
Note: The 10 prospects chosen for this article are the top 10 according to the hockeysfuture.com.
Greg McKegg was Toronto's third-round draft choice back in 2010.
McKegg burst onto the scene during the 2009-10 season with the Erie Otters as a 17-year-old, registering 85 points in just 67 games.
The next season, he tallied 92 points in just 66 games.
By the time his junior career came to a close, McKegg was a point-per-game player.
Last year, McKegg made the jump to the professional level and had a mediocre season for the Toronto Marlies. This season, he's played in three games for the Leafs' minor-league affiliate, scoring one goal and logging four penalty minutes.
Tyler Biggs was one of two first-round draft picks for the Leafs in 2011.
Biggs came up through the U.S. National Development program, playing for their Under-17, Under-18 and their Development teams.
Biggs then played a year of college hockey and one year for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
He never put up any eye-popping offensive numbers along the way, but he projects to be a solid two-way forward with grit. He's a solid type of third-line player with a bit more offensive ability than your typical third-line grinder.
He'll play this season with the Toronto Marlies as well. Through his first three games, Biggs has scored a goal and has a plus-one player rating.
Much like Tyler Biggs, Jerry D'Amigo was a player taken by the Leafs out of the U.S. National Development program.
D'Amigo, however, was a 2009 draft selection and was taken in the sixth round.
The 2013-14 season represents D'Amigo's third full season playing for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
Being more seasoned at the pro level, D'Amigo is one of the more NHL-ready prospects in Toronto's system.
He's not necessarily a gifted player, but could provide some quality play for the Leafs if needed.
Through three Marlies' games this year, D'Amigo has two assists and a plus-three player rating.
Another Leafs' 2009 draftee (this one from the second round), Jesse Blacker has been proving his worth in the minors for a few seasons now.
Billed as the next defenseman to be called up before the season, Blacker's future became a whole lot murkier when the team elected to sign T.J. Brennan and draft standout prospect Morgan Rielly.
As of now, Blacker has yet to play in 2013-14 for the Leafs' organization.
Carter Ashton is the first player on this list that isn't a homegrown prospect.
Ashton was originally part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's farm system (they drafted him 29th overall in 2009) and came to Toronto in exchange for defenseman Keith Aulie.
Ashton is another player who projects to be a pesky third-liner in the NHL.
So far, he's maintained that image.
In five games this season for the Leafs, Ashton has one point, a plus-one rating and five penalty minutes.
Stuart Percy was Toronto's other first-round pick in the 2011 draft (25th overall).
Percy spent last season with the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads, amassing 44 points in 68 games and two points in six games.
This season, he's made the jump to the professional ranks. While he hasn't found his way onto the score sheet for the Marlies just yet, his plus-four player rating through just three games is very encouraging.
Matt Finn was drafted by the Leafs in the second round of the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Widely expected to be a first-round selection, Finn slid to the second round, where the Leafs scooped him up.
Finn is currently playing his fourth season with the Guelph Storm of the OHL.
Finn's offensive numbers hovered around the same level in 2012-13 as 2011-12 (he dropped from 0.78 points-per-game to 0.76 points-per-game), but he cut his penalty minutes per contest and improved his player rating.
So far this season, he's scored seven points in seven games and has an astounding plus-10 rating.
Josh Leivo has seen his stock skyrocket within the Maple Leafs' organization over the last year.
After being considered a middle-of-the-road prospect last season, Leivo found his way to the fourth spot in hockeysfuture.com's rankings and competing for a roster spot during the preseason.
Leivo was chosen in the third round of the 2011 draft (two rounds later than both Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy), yet he has already found his way into the Leafs' lineup.
He may not have started the 2013-14 season with the Leafs, but he did have a good enough training camp and preseason to make himself one of the first call-ups among forwards if any injuries were to occur.
So far, Leivo has played in two games for the Marlies and two for the Buds, picking up one point for the AHL club and none for the Leafs.
The lone 2013 draftee in the Leafs' top-10 prospect list is 2013 first-rounder Frederik Gauthier.
A center that stands 6'5" and weighs 205 pounds, Gauthier made the jump right to No. 2 among all Leafs prospects.
Last season was Gauthier's first playing in the QMJHL, and the no-18-year-old registered 60 points in 62 games, while posting an impressive player rating of plus-22.
Through nine games this year, Gauthier has tallied eight points and a player rating of plus-three.
Toronto's No. 1 prospect, by a wide margin, is 2012 fifth overall selection Morgan Rielly.
Easily Toronto's most dynamic youngster, Rielly has already made the Leafs squad at the age of 19.
His play has seen its ups-and-downs (as would be expected of a 19-year-old rookie), but the fact that he's stuck at the pro level is a testament to just how good he is.
In four games with the Leafs, Rielly has one assist (his first career NHL point) and a disappointing minus-three player rating.
Defensively, Rielly has been caught a few times out of position in his own end and has been caught pinching in the offensive zone as well (though his incredible speed has helped him recover from some of those errors).
Being more disciplined on the ice should be Rielly's number one goal moving forward.
At this point, the Leafs may still send him down before the team loses a year of control in the future.