The Leafs have begun the 2010-11 season with a bang having won their first four games of the season. Since then the Leafs have encountered some troubles in their quest for the cup. In this last three games the Leafs could only muster four goals and have lost all three games, one of which was in overtime.
The best thing about this season however is the progress being made by many of the Leafs better prospects. In years past, the Leafs would not have much to look forward to regarding the progress of their prospects.
This was mostly due to the fact they traded decent prospects away so quickly without giving them a chance to develop (see Tuukka Rask, Brad Boyes, Alex Steen, Carlo Colaiacovo etc). Under the new Burke regime, the days of trading away prospects without knowing what they have is probably coming to an end, or at least the trading away of prospects will be for younger players, rather than older, aging has beens.
Here's an early look at how some of the Leafs prospects are fairing so far this 2010-11 season.
C/LW Nazem Kadri—six GP, 3 goals, 4 assists
Easily the best prospect on the list and really starting to come on lately. After scoring probably the nastiest goal so far this AHL season, Kadri has elevated his offensive game and is averaging more than a point per game. His play in his own zone is improving slowly, which is forcing the Leafs to keep the dangling Nazem Kadri grounded at Ricoh Coliseum.
C/LW Greg McKegg—13 GP, eight goals, 14 assists
McKegg was an under the radar pick originally in the 2010 draft, but now it appears the Leafs may of found a steal in the third round. McKegg has been an absolute stud as Pierre McGuire would say.
McKegg while playing with one of the worst teams in junior hockey, the Erie Otters, has been one of the lone bright spots for a team that is once again at the basement in the Western Division. McKegg also earned Player of the Week honors in the OHL early this season.
LW Brad Ross—12 GP, six goals, six assists, 33 penalty minutes
Ross again is setting the Western Hockey League a storm so far this year. Playing on a line alongside fellow 2010 draftee Ryan Johansen, Ross has proved why the Leafs decided to trade Jimmy Hayes for the rights to draft him. Ross so far is showing a great blend of skill, speed, and pugnacity in the 2010-11 season for the Winterhawks.
All Leaf fans can't wait to see this guy in a Leafs uniform. At 6'1" 175, Ross should eventually get up to 200 pounds and maybe gain an inch in height; if that does happen, Ross will be a wonderful power forward in the NHL one day.
C Brayden Irwin—six GP, two goals, four assists
Irwin playing alongside Nazem Kadri and Joey Crabb have been the Marlies most explosive line so far this season. Irwin, at 6'5" and nearly 210 pounds already, looks to be a nice project the Leafs have in their system. He still needs to work on his skating, but when he does put it together, he could be a real steal off the college free agent wire.
RW Kenny Ryan—12 GP, three goals, five assists, eight points
Ryan is playing a decent all around game so far with the Windsor Spitfires. With the loss of such stars as Adam Henrique, Gerg Nemisz, Leafs prospect Dale Mitchell, Scott Timmins and most notably, first overall draft pick Taylor Hall, the Spitfires offence is far from what it used to be.
Ryan, who is playing on the same team as Zack Kassian—who is lighting the OHL up nightly averaging more than two points per game—is looking more comfortable playing in the OHL. At 6'0" 210 pounds Ryan has the size to be a force in the NHL one day.
C Sam Carrick—three GP, two goals, one assist
Never really considered a threat to the top six, Carrick is slated to be one of Burke's members of the bottom six. Carrick, although small in size, doesn't play that way, as he's willing to do all the dirty work, including dropping the gloves.
Carrick's best trait is probably his character and a strong work ethic which only bodes well for him for future success in the levels ahead. Do I expect him to light up the NHL, absolutely not, however, Carrick stands a good chance in the years to come to actually cracking the Leafs lineup.
C Andrew Crescenzi—10 GP, five goals, one assist
Crescenzi, the latest Leafs prospect to sign with the team, has started out his second junior season much smoother than his first. At nearly 6'5" 200 pounds, Crescenzi is blessed with massive size and a good set of hands. He will need to add a few extra pounds of muscle so he can be a good two way player in the NHL. He is more than likely another bottom six forward for the Leafs in the future.
RW Matt Frattin—six GP, seven goals, two assists, nine points
Frattin, at 5'11" 175 lbs is easily one of the smallest players in the Leafs system. So far this season playing for the University of North Dakota, Frattin has exploded offensively averaging better than a goal per game while playing in college hockey, which is not really thought of as a league with loads of offence.
Frattin will need to add about 20 to 30 pounds of muscle and gain more strength so he can adjust better to the pro game, but I still found his stats were at least worth mentioning.
C/RW Josh Nicholls--11 GP, five goals, seven assists, 12 points.
Nicholls, the Leafs last selection in the 2010 draft, is starting out his season with the Saskatoon Blades in fine fashion. Never really though of as much of an offensive player, Nicholls is a better two way forward and penalty killer than anything, but playing in his last year of junior, it is to be expected to see a spike in offensive production.
A bit on the thin side at 170 lbs, Nicholls will need to gain weight and strength before ever amounting to anything outside of the WHL.
D Jesse Blacker—10 GP, two goals, six assists, eight points.
Blacker, who is the Storm's best defenceman, is helping the team to one of the best records in junior hockey in Canada. Blacker right now is probably the Leafs best ranked prospect defenceman, and so far this season, Blacker has re-affirmed that status. His game if all around very sound and he's rarely found out of position.
If that's the case, look for a breakout season from Blacker this year and possibly a spot on the Canadian Junior Team at Christmas time. The same can be said with Brad Ross and Greg McKegg as well making the junior team.