Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs' Most Underrated Prospect at Each Position

James OnuskoContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2014

Toronto Maple Leafs' Most Underrated Prospect at Each Position

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Toronto Maple Leafs have had to lean on some of their better prospects this season with the number of injuries they have sustained, particularly at the forward positions.

    There was a time when it would have been challenging to get excited about the Leafs' prospect pool as it was woefully small. That has begun to change slowly as there are a number of players who should be impact NHLers if they are given the time to mature and improve.

    While some prospects can make a splash as teenagers (think Morgan Rielly here), the overwhelming majority have to spend an extra year or two in juniors as well as some time in the minor leagues.

    Defencemen, in particular, often need multiple minor league seasons under their belts in order to be ready for the physicality and rigours of playing defence at the NHL level. It is similar with goalies, with many not being NHL-ready until they are at least 23 or 24 years old.

    With all of this in mind, by position, here are the most underrated prospects in the Leafs organization.

    All stats can be found on hockeydb.com.

Jerry D'Amigo, Left Wing

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    Jerry D'Amigo has been a good contributor at both ends of the ice for the Leafs this year. The Binghamton, N.Y. native has two points at the NHL level, but his strengths lie elsewhere.

    He's an underrated skater who can play solid two-way hockey. He brings a physical style to the rink, and while he is unlikely to be more than a third-line winger, he could be one of the better ones in the league in the coming years.

    D'Amigo has nine points in the AHL this season, but it's difficult to compare this season to last when he had 29 points in 70 games with the AHL Marlies.

    He will never offer flash and dash, but he's the type of player who is dependable, hard-working and honest. All coaches appreciate these kinds of players.

Carter Verhaeghe, Centre

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Carter Verhaeghe has been one of the most important offensive threats for the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs this season. The 2013 third-round pick is not as highly touted currently as Peter Holland and Frederik Gauthier, but he has tremendous offensive upside.

    The Leafs are in need of scoring centres in the here and now, but letting Verhaeghe develop slowly is the best recipe. He won't be 20 years old until next August, so there is no reason to rush this talented scorer.

    Verhaeghe is 6'1" and should continue to fill out over the next few seasons. He has the tools to be a top-six centre and be an offensive threat for the Leafs down the road.

    He's got great hands and can make plays at high speed. Leafs fans should be very excited about his potential.

Tyler Biggs, RW

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Tyler Biggs has physical gifts that few of the Leafs prospects can match. He's 6'3" and over 220 pounds. Yet, like many big men, he needs to work on his foot speed.

    He's also not nearly consistent enough, but that is not shocking for a 20-year-old. Biggs is a tremendous force down low. When engaged in the offensive zone, he's very difficult to handle.

    It could be easy to look at his poor stats line of just five points in 33 games and begin to question his abilities. However, Biggs is a large young man, and inevitably players with his size take a lot longer to develop than smaller skaters.

    As with many other prospects, the Leafs need to be patient and let the Loveland, Ohio native continue to grow his game.

Tom Nilsson, D

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Tom Nilsson is not one of the more heralded Leafs prospects on the blue line. But the Swedish rearguard has all the qualities to make him an above-average NHL defender.

    Nilsson will not be an offensive threat in the NHL, but he's a good skater with an in-your-face style. He takes the body well and has the makings of being a defenceman who will make life miserable for opposing forwards.

    He's the kind of rugged defender who could fit in well in Toronto in the near future. He plays the game in many ways like fellow countrymen Niklas Kronwall and Ulf Samuelsson have before him.

Christopher Gibson, G

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    Predicting future success for young goaltenders is never easy. Christopher Gibson is with his second NHL franchise now as he's moved on from the Los Angeles Kings.

    There is no shame in that, though, since the Kings are likely second only to the Anaheim Ducks in terms of organizational goaltending depth.

    Gibson is a product of the Finnish minor hockey system before coming over to Canada to play in the QMJHL. Like many of his countrymen, he's got very good fundamentals as he's rarely out of position.

    At 6'1" and close to 200 pounds, he has decent size to go along with his athleticism. In three games with the Marlies this year, he has a .946 save percentage. He's a prospect worth keeping an eye on.

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