Toronto Maple Leafs: Ranking the Top 10 Players in Their Minor League System

John DohertyContributor IISeptember 14, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs: Ranking the Top 10 Players in Their Minor League System

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    As  the NHL regular season creeps closer and closer, one thing is guaranteed for players trying to crack the Toronto Maple Leafs' opening night roster: earning a spot will be very, very difficult.  With additions like Matt Lombardi, Cody Franson, Tim Connolly, and John-Michael Liles, the chances of making the big squad for players who have not yet defined themselves as NHL-worthy players just yet are pretty slim.

    What makes things even more competitive is the vast amount of talent in the Toronto Maple Leafs' minor league system, which boasts a number of highly touted youngsters who were either drafted by the Maple Leafs in recent years or traded for by GM Brian Burke. 

    The talent and depth of these (fingers crossed) future stars for the Toronto Maple Leafs rivals any team's prospects in the NHL, as has been showcased in the recent NHL rookie tournament, where the Leafs' prospects have played very well against the competition facing them.

    Although it is unclear right now who will in fact still be in the minors come October, here are the top 10 players in the Toronto Maple Leafs' minor league system.

10. Ben Scrivens

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    Date of birth: 9/11/1986   Age: 25

    Height: 6'2''  Weight: 183

    Shoots: Left  Position: Goalie

    Stats: 13-12 / 2.33 GAA / 0.924 S% for the Toronto Marlies

    The Toronto Maple Leafs boast a ton of depth in goaltenders, and there is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition amongst teammates.  It appears the opening day roster for the Toronto Maple Leafs will include James Reimer as the starter, with Jonas Gustavsson backing him up. 

    But that is not to say Ben Scrivens is completely out of the mix.  Scrivens is an extremely talented goaltender who last season shared playing time primarily with Jussi Rynnas for the AHL's Toronto Marlies. 

    Scrivens relies primarily on his size and calmness to make saves, and has most of his success when he keeps it simple between the posts (so perhaps the exact opposite of Tim Thomas). 

    Pending injuries or poor play from the goalies on the big club, watch out for Scrivens to turn some heads in 2011/2012.

9. Brad Ross

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    Date of birth: 05/28/1992  Age: 19

    Height: 6'1"       Weight: 175

    Shoots: Left     Position: Left Wing

    Statistics: 67 GP, 31 G, 69 P  for Portland-WHL

    Brad Ross had a terrific year for Portland of the WHL last season, with most of the credit going to his line mates, Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. 

    But don't let that spoil your optimism on Ross' potential in the AHL and beyond; he can play.  Ross is an extremely physical forward who can find the back of the net, and draws a ton of comparisons to Leafs fan favorite of the past, Darcy Tucker. 

    An agitator in his own right, Ross is likely to be a third line NHL player with a strong upside.

8. Matt Frattin

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    Date of birth: 01/03/1988   Age: 23

    Height: 6'0''     Weight: 207

    Shoots: Right   Position: Right Wing

    Statistics: 44 GP, 36 G, 60 P  for the University of North Dakota

    Matt Frattin's journey to even be in this conversation has been a long one, with him being kicked off of the University of North Dakota's hockey program briefly because of a number of alcohol-related offenses. 

    But Frattin returned and regained his scholarship in his senior year, where he scored an NCAA-high 36 goals and had 24 assists for 60 points.  Frattin also had an eight-game goal-scoring streak season and a nine-game streak that ended in his last game. 

    Frattin is a talented scorer and has solid hands, with a strong physical side especially on the fore-check.  One area where he must improve is his skating, which is below average at the NHL level.

7. Jerry D'Amigo

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    Date of birth: 02/19/1991   Age: 20

    Height: 5'11''    Weight: 213

    Shoots: Left    Position: Left Wing

    Statistics: 43 GP, 5 G, 15 P for the Toronto Marlies, 21 GP, 12 G, 28 P  for the Kitchener Rangers

    It is no secret that Brian Burke loves adding quality American talent to his rosters, and Jerry D'Amigo is no exception.  The 20-year-old left winger is one of the strongest forwards in the Maple Leafs' minor league system, and also one of the most hardworking. 

    He is extremely hard to deal with in the corners on both ends of the ice, and his two-way play will most certainly make him a fan favorite in the future. 

    He had trouble in the AHL last season and was eventually sent to Kitchener to tone his game.  He should be a more mature and pro-ready player this upcoming season.

6. Stuart Percy

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    Date of birth: 05/18/1993    Age: 18

    Height: 6'1''    Weight: 186

    Shoots: Left   Position: Defense

    Statistics: 64 GP, 4 G, 33 P  for the Mississauga-St Michael's Majors

    Stuart Percy has the potential to be a premier puck mover in the NHL, especially being only 18 years of age.  He had a solid 29 assists last season for the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors.  

    Percy is a sturdy defender and boasts a decent amount of size, and can compete physically with most in the OHL. Skating is not said to be his strong suit, but he makes up for it with a great hockey sense, and has a lot of potential for the future. 

5. Marcel Mueller

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    Date of birth: 07/10/1988   Age: 23

    Height: 6'3''    Weight: 232

    Shoots: Left   Position: Left wing

    Statistics: 58 GP, 14 G, 33 P for the Toronto Marlies

    Marcel Mueller is one of the best skaters the Maple Leafs have in their minor league system.  He also has a significantly large frame for a left winger, standing at 6'3" and 232 lbs. 

    Mueller, signed as an undrafted free agent, went through a bit of a rough patch while learning to play on the smaller North American ice, but has the size and skill to make an impact in the future.

4. Greg McKegg

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    Date of birth: 06/17/1992    Age: 19

    Height: 6'0''   Weight: 195

    Shoots: Left  Position: Center

    Statistics: 66 GP, 49 G, 92 P for the Erie Otters

    If Greg McKegg's last season for the OHL's Erie Otters was any indication, this 19-year-old has a nose for the net.  With 92 points in just 66 games, McKegg turned heads and has so far proven to be a very solid third round pick by Brian Burke in 2010. 

    McKegg seems to have a future putting up above average numbers in the pros, and will be a major threat on the power play wherever he is playing.

3. Jesse Blacker

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    Date of birth: 04/19/1991   Age: 20

    Height: 6'2''    Weight: 190

    Shoots: Right  Position: Defense

    Statistics: 62 GP, 10 G, 54 P for the Owen Sound Attack

    As if the Maple Leafs didn't have enough offensively minded blue-liners in their system, Jesse Blacker is no exception. 

    A late second round selection in 2009, Blacker proved last season while playing for the OHL's Owen Sound Attack that he should have gone much earlier. 

    With a great slap-shot from the point, solid skating, and the ability to lay big hits at any given moment, Blacker is on his way to becoming a solid top four NHL defenseman. 

2. Joe Colborne

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    Date of birth: 01/30/1991    Age: 21

    Height: 6'5''    Weight: 213

    Shoots: Left   Position: Center

    Statistics: 77 GP, 20 G, 42 P for the Providence Bruins/Toronto Marlies

    Joe Colborne was the key piece acquired by Brian Burke in the Tomas Kaberle trade in February—a trade that many would say the Maple Leafs won by a long shot, given Kaberle's minimal contributions to the Bruins during his time in Boston. 

    If there is one thing the Maple Leafs need more than anything, it's a first line center.  Brian Burke and company hope that Colborne will develop into a strong candidate for the role, and pending injuries during the season, he may get his shot. 

    Standing at 6'5", Colborne has been criticized for his lack of physical play, one aspect of his game he must work on if he is to play at the NHL level.  His great skating stride and speed is admired by Maple Leafs management, as well as his superb play making ability. 

1. Jake Gardiner

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    Date of birth: 07/04/1990    Age: 21

    Height: 6'2''    Weight: 184

    Shoots: Left   Position: Defense

    Statistics: 41 GP, 10 G, 41 P for the University of Wisconsin

    Some will argue that Gardiner and Colborne's ranking on this list should be swapped, but I believe that Gardiner is closer to the NHL at the moment and most likely to make an impact in the Maple Leafs before Colborne. 

    If you have ever watched Gardiner play, most recently for the Maple Leafs during the 2011 Rookie Tournament, you would have noticed his incredible skating and puck rushing ability.  His first stride is seemingly unmatchable, and one he gets a full head of steam with the puck it is nearly impossible to stop him before he enters the offensive zone. 

    He has amazing potential, and in my eyes at least, is the best player in the Toronto Maple Leafs' minor league system.