Toronto Maple Leafs: Future Still Bright and Getting Brighter
As most of Leafs Nation knows by now, Toronto is not going to make the playoffs unless they go on some sort of miraculous run, which I wouldn’t bet on.
So we have to look ahead and try to figure out who will be the impact players for Toronto in the future.
One that has stepped to the forefront of my mind and continually puts himself in a position to make the roster next year is one Nazem Kadri.
Not only did he have a great showing with the Canadian juniors, he has been tearing it up with London Knights of the OHL too.
Kadri has 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points in 36 games. He added nine points over the weekend to those totals in two games.
Friday he had one goal and four assists against the Erie Otters, and Sunday he had two goals and two assists against the Peterborough Petes.
A definite bright spot!
Jerry D’Amigo is another young guy who had a great World Junior showing and is sure to make an impact once he is given the chance. He can score under pressure, has great speed, and has the skills overall to get a regular shift in the NHL.
Tyler Bozak, who is getting his shot up with the big club as we speak, has shown some sparks of greatness and the ability to adjust to the NHL, and has a respectable five points in eight games.
Obviously Phil Kessel is going to be here in Toronto for a good time to come unless the Edmonton Oilers want to trade two first-rounders and a second-rounder for him. Considering the Oilers are going to finish last overall in the NHL and should draft either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, I wouldn’t bet on that trade happening.
Between the pipes it looks like the Leafs are going to be giving the "Monster", Jonas Gustavsson, the reins for the rest of the season, and he has shown sparks of greatness but will need to be signed. Who the other goalie will be is anybody's guess.
The young guys from the Marlies, including Victor Stalberg and Christian Hanson, who have both seen time with the club with varied success, may get more time up and additional ice time.
One guy I have talked about before who never seems to get a chance and who would help address one of the glaring problems the Leafs face as a whole, which is goals against, is Daryl Boyce. He is an excellent two-way forward, great forechecker, and tenacious on the penalty kill. He can also skate like the wind.
It is surprising to most, aside from a few who have followed the Marlies over the last couple years, that Andre Deveaux is leading them in points because of the call ups to the big club. Deveaux is a tough guy, as some of Leafs Nation may have seen when he’s had his opportunities up with the Leafs, but he is also great on the boards and in front of the net.
On the back end, Leafs fans may get a look at stay-at-home rugged defenseman Phil Oreskovic and perhaps newcomer tough guy Brennan Evans, who leads the Marlies in penalty minutes with 144 in 45 games.
Leafs Nation is getting a good look at D Carl Gunnarsson, and he sure isn’t disappointing, as he is another bright spot for Toronto in the future.
Another young guy who should get a look in the future is Owen Sound Attack D Jesse Blacker, who has four goals and 21 assists for 25 points in 33 games.
There are a few others like F Ben Winnett, F Mikhail Stefanovich, F Jerome Flaake, and F Jimmy Hayes.
I’d really like Leafs General Manager Brian Burke to give some of the players who haven’t gotten a fair shake up with the big club their chance to shine.
Burke said it would take time to right the ship, and that’s the truth.
The shakeup at the end of this year, with all the free agents and the possibility of moves before the Olympics or before the trade deadline, along with all the offseason signings, will certainly give the team a whole new look when next year begins.
What the Leafs roster will look like is almost impossible to speculate on truly. There are a few faces that will be there, but as a whole the team will have an extremely new look to it, I’d bet, especially after its performance this year.
Leafs Nation, I believe, is more than ready to go young and grow from within, though after missing the playoffs for such a long period of time, immediate success is yearned for as well.
We’ll have to see if Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs management team can bring one or both to the disheartened fans of the blue and white.
In case you didn’t know, Gabe Morency (formally of The Score ) has launched his new website. Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter, my B/R counterpart, and I will be throwing down our podcast “Get The Puck Out ” every Saturday from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
We’ve had Johnny Bower and Wendel Clark on the show. The next show will be Jan. 30.
We’ll be giving you our opinion and taking your calls on the hottest topics in the hockey world.
The live podcast will be broadcast in studio from downtown Toronto, featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team/player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.
Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. Don’t miss it, puckheads!
You can catch Morency and “Get The Puck Out” at www.morencysports.com
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