Young Guns: Updating Maple Leafs Prospects
With a youth revolution encasing the whole Toronto Maple Leafs organization, it's only fitting they at least have a successful, young crop of prospects ready to challenge for roster spots.
This slide show will focus more on the players who haven't played a game in the NHL/AHL so far, and will therefore exclude young players like Gunnarsson, Schenn, Stalberg, Hanson, Bozak, and Aulie.
Take into account that these players are young, still maturing, and have tons of potential to grow into.
Come June 25/26, many of these names might be switching teams as well.
With all the wonderful trade "rumors" being tossed around, any one of these prospects could be packaged with other players to bring in bigger fish.
Toronto Maple Leafs
• 1 (7) Nazem Kadri, C, London (OHL).
• 2 (50) Kenny Ryan, F, U.S. under-18 (USDP).
• 2 (58) Jesse Blacker, D, Windsor (OHL).
• 3 (68) Jamie Devane, F, Plymouth (OHL).
• 5 (128) Eric Knodel, D, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers (U.S. Major AAA).
• 6 (158) Jerry D’Amigo, RW, U.S. under-18 (USDP).
• 7 (188) Barron Smith, D, Peterborough (OHL).
Here's a great cliché. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you never make.
All eyes were on Toronto GM Brian Burke Burke, as the hockey world thought he would move up in the draft for a shot at either Tavares, Hedman or Duchene – or at the very least, Braydon Schenn.
The price was too high, however, and Burke did not pull the trigger. While far from a consensus pick, Kadri could prove to be a solid offensive forward, which the Leafs desperately seek.
Ryan is a very solid forward. Blacker was overshadowed on the blueline in Windsor, but was a solid pick for the Blue and White.
Devane had similar numbers this season to Milan Lucic in his draft year. Leaf Nation can only hope!
Jerry D’Amigo was a fantastic grab in the sixth round. He had an outstanding WJC-U18 for the gold medal winning American squad.
He was viewed as a second rounder by many heading into draft weekend. The son of Steve Smith, the Leafs just hope Barron knows which goal he is defending.
Jimmy Hayes is now a Chicago Blackhawk. He was traded for the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft, which is not Brad Ross.
Jesse Blacker - D - Owen Sound (OHL)
Standing in at 6'1" and 190 pounds, Blacker still has a little more filling out to do. He spent this past season with the Owen Sound Attack and put up very respectable numbers.
In 57 games played, (nine with Windsor before being traded) he tallied six goals and 27 assists for 33 points.
Blacker has a very high hockey IQ and consistently plays a smart, edgy game.
His one flaw from this past season was a -23 rating, but even with this, he is still expected to challenge for a roster spot.
He will most likely start the year on the Marlies, but no team is safe from the injury bug.
Jamie Devane - LW - Plymouth (OHL)
At 6'5 and 217 lbs, you can already tell what Brian Burke saw in Devane when taking him 68th overall (Round three) in 2009.
Devane is a very big body, but doesn't bring a ton of skill to the table. He is not a weak player, however, he flourishes in the physical game.
In 51 games this season, he put up six goals and eight assists for 14 points.
However, as stated before, he is more of a physical presence, tallying 10 official fighting majors this year, and 14 last year.
Devane's weakest skill is definitely skating and he will need to work on his mechanics before making the jump to the NHL.
As the commentator says, Devane is one "big cowboy".
Chris DiDomenico - C - Drumondville (QMJHL)
After suffering a horrific broken femur in the QMJHL finals in 2009, no one thought DiDomenico would play at such a high level again.
But he made his return this season, and he put up impressive numbers in those games.
In 12 games, he netted seven goals, along with 15 assists for 22 points. And in 14 playoff games he netted seven, with a cool 14 assists for 21 points.
Not bad, considering people didn't think he'd ever play at a high level again.
DiDomenico is a gifted passer and a solid skater. He is on the smaller side at 5'11" and 185 lbs, but makes up for it with his skill.
Skip through the garbage, DiDo makes the pass out of the corner at about 29 seconds.
Nazem Kadri - C - London (OHL)
Kadri, hovering at around 5'11" and 177 lbs, is not going to be the biggest guy on the team. But hell, in a couple of years, he might be one of the best.
He is a natural center, great in the face-off circle. Kadri is also blessed with great hands, which he uses to feed his wingers.
He's also a shoot-out specialist (see shootout versus Penguins).
In 56 games this past season, he tallied 35 goals with 58 assists for 93 points.
But the thing about Kadri, which you don't see on paper, is that he plays with courage.
He goes into corners and fights for the puck.
Kadri is an exceptional skater with an excellent shot. He has great hands and will definitely be a great first-line center for years to come.
Dale Mitchell - RW - Windsor (OHL)
Dale Mitchell exemplifies what Brian Burke looks for in a player. He is technically short by the modern standard, but he is built like a rock.
At 5'11" and 200 lbs, he plays a very effective role on a great team.
Primarily a checker, but playing on a scoring line, he is given the chance to let both sides of his game shine.
He is usually the first in the corner and is back down the ice, playing tough defense.
This past season, which was capped off with a second straight memorial cup, Mitchell played 51 games, with 23 goals and 36 assists for 59 points.
Philippe Paradis - C - Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Paradis was acquired in a trade for resident porn-star Jiri Tlusty. (I still remember yelling at the TV to take Giroux. Great job JFJ.)
In that trade, Toronto definitely ended up on top. In return for a first round bust that will probably stay as a third liner, even in the most optimistic case, we got Paradis.
Paradis is a 6'1" and 206 lbs center, and is an excellent skater with great hands.
He plays on Shawinigan's top line, but plays the style of a third line center. He gets dirty and can put the puck in the net.
This season, he tallied 26 goals and 21 assists for 47 points in 69 games.
Paradis has been mentioned in many "trade rumors" as a prospect packaged with [insert players here] to acquire [insert players here].
Kenny Ryan - RW - Windsor (OHL)
Coming from the US Under-18 Development Program, he started the year off with Boston College. But after playing only a few games, he left BC for the Windsor Spitfires.
At 6'0" and 204 lbs, he has size, but can also move. Ryan is primarily a goal scorer, but is not afraid to go into the corners and get the puck.
He was a key player in many of Windsor's wins in the road to the Memorial Cup this year.
In 71 games, he scored 17 goals and racked up 23 assists, for 40 points.
These numbers are not spectacular, but he has a lot of maturing to do. And with the departure of Taylor Hall, Dale Mitchell, and others, he will need to take a larger role on the team.
Barron Smith - D - Peterborough (OHL)
Barron Smith, drafted 188th overall, is pretty much a dedicated stay-at-home defenseman.
He's 6'5" and 210 lbs and plays a very physical game. He only had four points (all assists) in 39 games, but he was only a -1.
He is a fairly solid defensive defenseman, and he loves to take the body.
Mikhail Stefanovich - C - Quebec (QMJHL)
Stefanovich is considered to be one of the top prospects in the QMJHL, which is why he was rewarded with the 2007-2008 Mike Bossy Trophy.
At 6'2" and 202 pounds, Stefanovich is no small man.
He uses his size well in the offensive end, but does not seek contact.
His skating, along with his defensive play, could use help. And if they are improved, he could be on the Leafs roster in 2-3 years.
This past season, he played 53 games and in those games he scored 25 goals along with 43 assists for 68 points.
Brayden Irwin - C - Univ. of Vermont (NCAA - H-East)
The 6'5 215 lbs center was signed at the end of last year, for a 2 year deal. Meaning he will be an RFA at the conclusion of the upcoming 2010/2011 season.
Irwin is a power forward who plays a very physical game. But his biggest weakness that is holding him back from being a complete player is his skating. The general consensus is that he needs to work on his acceleration.
Irwin will most likely not start the season with the Maple Leafs, but that does not mean he won't play 15-20 games as a call up for the big club.
This past season at Vermont, he played 39 games, with 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points.
Chris Peluso - D - Bemidji State (NCAA - CHA)
Peluso is a smaller defenseman at 5'11" and 180 lbs, but he does not thrive off the defensive game.
He is very offensive minded and is good at starting the breakout or creating a rush for himself or a teammate, with smart first-passes.
In 29 games this past season, he had one goal and eight assists for 9 points.
He was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh for a 2010 6th round draft pick.
Tyler Ruegsegger - C - Univ. of Denver (NCAA - WCHA)
If you've noticed the recurring pattern of big bodies, here's a change of pace. At 5'11" and 195 lbs, Ruegsegger is not small, but size isn't going to be an advantage for him. He has exceptional scoring touch, but could use work on his skating.
If he can improve his skating ability and combine it with his scoring ability, he could be a solid second liner in the NHL.
In 41 games this past season, he potted 16 goals and 25 assists for 41 points.
Ben Winnett - LW - Univ. of Michigan (NCAA - CCHA)
Ben Winnett is 6'0" and 173 lbs and doesn't follow the mold of a lot of the aforementioned players. He has the height, and he has excellent speed and skating ability.
His weakness is easier to fix than others, he needs to put on a little meat. He is very good at beating defenders off the rush and has a very good wrist/snap shot.
In 44 games this past season, he only netted six goals and eight assists for 14 points, but if you watch in-game footage of him, he shows potential to be an offensive threat.
Matt Frattin - RW - Univ. of North Dakota (NCAA - WCHA)
Although Frattin has been labelled as a "troublemaker" for an off-ice incident at a frat party, there is no doubt he has tremendous skill on the ice.
He has a cannon of a shot, that he uses to keep defenders honest, but compliments this with only average speed.
He offsets this by going into the corners with his 5'11" and 185 lbs frame, playing with tenacity and a physical edge. (See Picture)
This season he played in 24 games, scoring 11 goals with eight assists for 19 points.
Jimmy Hayes - RW - Boston College (NCAA - H-East)
Jimmy Hayes, at 6'5" and 210 lbs., is a pretty big man. But for someone that size, he plays a very skillful brand of hockey.
He plays in front of the net very well, and he has tremendous speed for someone that big.
His major flaws are his actual skating mechanics, and it has been said he has a choppy stride and this doesn't allow him to fully reach his top-speed.
He also doesn't play as physically in the corners or along the boards as someone his size could/should.
His work ethic is quoted as being "outstanding" and set records during his time on the USNTDP for physical training scores.
This past season, he played 42 games for the Eagles, netting 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points.
JIMMY WAS TRADED TO THE BLACKHAWKS FOR THE 43rd OVERALL PICK IN 2010 (BRAD ROSS).
Jerry D'Amigo - LW - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NCAA - ECAC)
With all the potential and goal scoring ability D'Amigo possesses, he was predicted as high as a 2nd round draft pick. Fortunately for us, he slipped all the way to the 6th round.
His drop in the draft is mostly attributed to his size, 5'11" and 195 lbs, and to the fact that his on-ice decision making is still developing.
But with the latter, maturity will help fix this. He's only a freshman. In 35 games with RPI this year, he scored 10 goals with 24 assists for 34 points. Stellar freshman season.
He was named ECAC rookie of the year and was named to the INCH All-American Freshman team.
Andrew MacWilliam - D - Univ. of North Dakota (NCAA - WCHA)
Standing in at 6'2" and 214 lbs, MacWilliam is a very solid stay at home defenseman. His skating ability is average but he is great at leading breakouts.
What he lacks in offensive ability, only registering the assists in 43 games, he makes up for in the defensive end. He plays a gritty, edgy and tough style of defensive hockey, and is a great shot blocker.
Eric Knodel - D - Univ. of New Hampshire (NCAA - H-East)
Knodel, at 6'6" and 216 lbs is a very big man. He is committed to UNH for the 2010/2011 season.
He played this past season with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL, scoring three goals and 17 assists in 50 games, for 20 points.
He has long reach, which is a huge advantage for dispossessing forwards on a rush, and can instantly turn a play from a two on one into an offensive chance the other way with his good on-ice vision and his ability to make stretch passes.
Korbinian Holzer - D - DEG Metrostars (DEL)
Holzer was recently signed to a 2 year entry-level contract. He will most likely start next season on the Marlies, but will challenge for a spot on the big club.
At 6'3" and 190 lbs, Holzer has some filling out to do before he will be a legitimate defensive force, but with a 6'3 frame, the size is there. Holzer has excellent skating ability and can make smart breakout passes.
This past season in the DEL, he played 52 games, scoring six goals and 16 assists for 22 points.
He plays physically and is not your typical "soft offensive defenseman from Europe".
Jussi Rynnas - G - Ässät (SM-liiga)
Brian Burke went fishing in Scandinavia again, this time he caught a Finn. Last summer he returned with "The Monster" in his pocket, this time he came home with Jussi Rynnas.
Rynnas is 6'3" and 205 lbs. and has unbelievable pad speed for someone that big. Both Gustavsson and Rynnas are 6'3 and chose the Leafs because goaltending coach Francois Allaire is known to be a guru for tall 'tenders.
Rynnas' first season as a starter last year was not expected to be anything special. Playing for one of the weakest teams in Finland, he played 31 games posting a record of 14-13-1. He had a GAA of 2.50 and a SV % of .929.
Let's hope Burke picked a winner in this Finner. (Lol).
Brad Ross - LW - Portland (WHL)
When the Leafs traded up to the 43rd overall spot, Brian Burke knew exactly who he wanted.
Ross, though only 6'1" and 173 pounds, plays a game very comparable to Darcy Tucker's. He plays with a certain edge, grit, and determination every shift and is one of the hardest workers in the WHL.
In 71 games for the Winterhawks, Ross tallied 27 goals and 47 assists for 68 points. More impressively, he was a +22 and had 203 penalty minutes.
20+ goals and 200+ PIM's are a very rare combination. This makes Ross a valuable asset, should he continue such stellar play.
If he puts on some muscle, Ross could see himself in the Blue and White (whether it be AHL or NHL) by the 2011/2012 season.
Greg McKegg - C - Erie (OHL)
When I first heard that Greg McKegg was drafted 62nd by the Leafs, I was shocked. At 6'1" and 200 lbs, McKegg already has the size to play in the NHL.
He is being compared to Ryan O'Reilly of the Avalanche, not because of his playing style, but because they were both overlooked on draft day.
O'Reilly made the big club and helped them reach the playoffs. McKegg is considered to have the same opportunity.
In 67 games this season, McKegg had 37 goals and 48 assists for 85 points. He was a +12, which shows that he has a defensive aspect to his game.
Sondre Olden - W/C - MoDo Jr. (SWE-Jr.)
Sonre Olden is one of those prospects where there isn't a lot of footage or information available. He was ranked higher than where he was selected, but Burke gave his reasons for reaching.
"He's tall, about 6'3" and he can play in the middle or on the wall. We like this kid."
Norway isn't a huge producer of NHL players, but this kid might change that.
He's 6'4" and 176 lbs, and has above average speed.
This past season with MoDo Jr., he played 32 games, scoring seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points.
Petter Granberg - D - Skelleftea Jr. (SWE-Jr.)
Granberg was the only defenseman selected by the Maple Leafs in the 2010 Entry Draft. And Burke, with the help of his scouts, was clearly going in a certain direction.
Granberg is a solid defensive defenseman, who had two goals and seven assists in 40 games for Skelleftea Jr.
Granberg is 6'3 201 and is rarely caught out of position. He is also a smart puck player who makes safe passes and decisions.
Sam Carrick - C - Brampton (OHL)
As the 144th overall selection, I really like Carrick.
He is willing to forecheck and backcheck equally hard, but is inconsistent from shift-to-shift sometimes.
He has a good shot, a quick release, and isn't afraid to mix it up in the corners.
He is 6'0 188 lbs, so size isn't his greatest asset.
In 66 games this past season, he had 21 goals and 21 assists for 42 points.
His numbers aren't amazing, but his effort is. That's what you get at pick 144.
Daniel Brodin - LW - Djurgarden (SWE)
Brodin, at 6'1 172 lbs, does not have enormous size. But he plays a skilled, big man-style game.
He plays with a high competetive streak, driving the net and playing with speed. He is a solid two way player.
He played 20 games for the Djurgarden Jr. team this year, posting five goals and two assists for seven points.
But he also played 30 games for the big club, scoring two goals and three assists for five points.
Josh Nicholls - RW - Saskatoon (WHL)
The Leaf's last pick in the 2010 draft, Nicholls is a solid two way winger, with defensive prowess.
He is known to be a hard worker who plays in the corners and on the boards on both ends of the ice.
Nicholls is 6'2" 180 lbs, and if he can fill out that frame, he might be a pro somewhere down the road.
In 71 games this season, he had 18 goals and 30 assists for 48 points. Even more notably, he was a +19, which shows his defensive abilities.
These are the prospects that are listed on the Maple Leaf's prospect report. I have not included Rollheiser or Flaake because to be honest, I got way too tired.
Hopefully these prospects give us Leaf fans something to cheer about in the near future.
As I said before, some of these prospects might not be in the organization come October, but hopefully we keep the right ones.
Jimmy Hayes was dealt at the 2010 draft to the Chicago Blackhawks for the 43rd overall pick (Brad Ross).
DiDomenico and Paradis (along with Stalberg) were dealt to the Blackhawks for Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt's rights (which were not retained).