Toronto Maple Leafs: The Top 12 Prospects in Their System
A year ago, a slideshow such as this one would have looked significantly different.
A few of the players on this one weren't even with the organization 12 months ago, while some of the others might not have made a list such as this.
It's amazing how far the entire Leafs organization has come in the past year in terms of organizational depth.
It was decent before and it's much better now.
Here's a list of the top 12 prospects of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the notable exceptions of Keith Aulie and Nazem Kadri, whom I don't think of as prospects anymore.
12) Jerry D'Amigo
Jerry D'Amigo was drafted 158th overall in the 2009 draft, but he could very well turn into a steal.
He is perhaps best known to Leaf fans for his wonderful performance at the 2010 World Junior Championships where he put up six goals and six assists in seven games to help the United States win the gold.
While he may not turn into as huge a steal as many Leaf fans initially thought, he still has tremendous upside.
Personally, I don't think D'Amigo will see an NHL game for at least a couple years, but when he does, I think he can be a smart and reliable bottom-six guy.
11) Marcel Mueller
There wasn't much fanfare when Marcel Mueller was signed out of Germany to a two-year deal back in the summer of 2010.
His stats with the AHL's Toronto Marlies last season were average, though he still has some untapped potential.
He's a big body at 6'3", 220 lbs., but still needs to work on the physical side of his game.
While I don't think anybody has too many expectations for the undrafted Mueller, I would venture to say that he might one day look pretty good as a third-line lunch pail kind of guy who can work the boards and drive hard to the net.
There are plenty of openings on the Leafs' roster for big, physical forwards who also have offensive upside.
10) Stuart Percy
Stuart Percy was a nice story coming out of the 2011 draft. Here was a kid who had been a Leafs fan all his life, having grown up in the Greater Toronto Area.
During the weeks leading up to the draft, there was uncertainty about whether Percy would crack the first round. However, after the OHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup, where his Mississauga St. Michael's Majors were finalists, his stock rose enough for him to be picked 25th overall by the Leafs.
Percy is said to be a very smart player who can move the puck very well.
He won't be NHL-ready for at least a couple more years, but this is going to be an exciting player to watch in the near future.
The Leafs need more intelligent puck movers on the back-end.
9) Tyler Biggs
There is a nice article on NHL.com about the kind of player Tyler Biggs is.
Brian Burke and his scouts must have thought highly of him to have traded up to snag him at 22nd overall in the 2011 draft.
Basically, Biggs is exactly the kind of player that Brian Burke loves: He's big, he's nasty, he competes hard and has leadership qualities.
Leaf fans won't see him for awhile because he is playing college hockey with Miami of Ohio this year.
In the article above, Biggs mentions that he compares his play to that of Jarome Iginla. While nobody expects him to have as big of an impact on this franchise as Iginla has had on the Flames organization, if he can develop to his potential, he will turn into the type of player that the Leafs have been sorely lacking for years.
8) Jussi Rynnas
Like Jonas Gustavsson, Jussi Rynnas was a European goalie who was highly sought after by numerous NHL teams.
While Rynnas wasn't billed as the best goalie not in the NHL like Gustavsson was, his signing was an excellent move because of the depth it brought to the position.
When Rynnas signed, he knew exactly where he would fit in on the depth chart, but came anyway because he thought working with Francois Allaire would be the best thing for his development.
He's about 6'5" and 205 lbs., and once he gets another year or two of North American hockey under his belt, he could turn out more monstrous than the Monster.
7) Brad Ross
Brad Ross' 2010-11 stats with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL tell you a lot about the type of game that he likes to play.
He had 31 goals and 38 assists for a career-high 69 points, was a plus-29 and had 171 penalty minutes—all in 67 games played.
Players like this are rare because you almost never see an energy guy who also regularly puts the puck in the net.
He has future fan favourite written all over him.
6) Greg McKegg
Greg McKegg was picked 62nd overall in 2010 and looks to be a steal right now.
Last season, he was named OHL Player of the Week twice. Just over a couple weeks ago, he was again the OHL Player of the Week, having registered seven assists in two games.
In 66 games with the Erie Otters last season, he registered 49 goals and 43 assists for 92 points, surpassing the 85 points he put up the year before in a breakout season.
McKegg isn't a big player at 6 feet and 190 lbs., but he is dominant on the ice. This kid has got some nifty mittens, to borrow a phrase from Pierre McGuire. He's also got a wicked shot.
Speaking of nifty mittens, imagine this guy on a line with Nazem Kadri. That just wouldn't be fair.
5) Jesse Blacker
Could Jesse Blacker pull a Jake Gardiner for the 2012-13 season?
All I can say is that I don't think anyone thought Gardiner was going to make the big club right out of camp.
Like Gardiner, Blacker likes to rush with the puck. Also like Gardiner, he skates very well and makes good plays in the defensive zone.
Blacker will spend this season with the Marlies and, given the Leafs' organizational depth on defense, will likely stay there for the entire season.
If you count Jeff Finger, the Leafs have about 10 NHL-ready defensemen in the organization.
I have a feeling there will be a big trade sometime this year involving a D-man, but in any case, a full year of professional hockey will do Blacker a lot of good.
By the time a spot opens up on the Leafs' blue line, Blacker will be ready to make the jump.
Along with McKegg and Ross, Blacker is one of the Leaf prospects I'm most excited about.
4) Ben Scrivens
Could the Leafs have another James Reimer in Ben Scrivens?
This guy is calm, positionally sound, has a great attitude and fully subscribes to Francois Allaire's teachings.
He started last season with the Reading Royals of the ECHL after having graduated from Cornell, but moved up to the Marlies when Reimer was called up to the Leafs.
He is currently No. 3 on the Leafs' goalie depth chart, but I wouldn't be surprised if he were to move up to No. 2 in 12 months' time.
He's actually about a year and a half older than Reimer and is pretty experienced because of his four years at Cornell, so when the back-up spot behind Reimer opens up, Scrivens will be more than ready to fill it.
3) Joe Colborne
During the 2011 preseason, Joe Colborne was given every chance to earn the third line winger position with the Leafs.
He was in a three-way battle along with Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri for the spot, but was a late cut.
He wasn't impressive during camp and hasn't been too willing to use his 6'5", 210-pound frame to his advantage.
However, he has put up 12 points in six games for the Marlies this year and is looking pretty good.
The Leafs have high hopes for this kid, who is projected to be a solid top-six forward one day.
It is possible that he will see a few games with the Leafs this season if injuries start depleting the roster.
The general feeling in Toronto is that next fall, Colborne will be a serious contender for a roster spot. And when he makes it, he could be the size the Leafs have been missing in their top-six for a long time.
2) Matt Frattin
When you watch Matt Frattin play with the Leafs, it's hard to believe he actually has less than 10 games of NHL experience.
He hits hard, he skates hard and he shoots well. Although he doesn't have any goals with the Leafs so far, he's had a few glorious chances.
He did, however, get a nice shootout goal against the Winnipeg Jets. Too bad it doesn't count toward his stats because it was pretty sweet. Not flashy, just sweet.
In general, Frattin is not a flashy player, but he gets the job done.
He's good along the boards, dangerous off the rush and sees the ice pretty well.
During the past few weeks, he's been up and down the line-up because of injuries and a suspension to Clarke MacArthur. To his credit, he hasn't looked out of place for a moment.
At worst, I think Frattin will turn out to be a reliable checking forward who will chip in with secondary scoring.
Based on his performance so far, however, I would not be surprised at all to see him grow into a top-six guy.
1) Jake Gardiner
This was an easy choice.
A nice story coming out of training camp, Jake Gardiner has impressed mightily with the Leafs. It is even more impressive because he defied expectations and predictions to make the Leafs out of camp.
It's been said so many times about him, but Gardiner is an amazing and fast skater, he is incredibly poised, he is very confident and mature for his age and makes a lot of smart defensive plays in his own zone.
He loves roaming with the puck, but somehow manages not to be caught out of position too often.
The season is young, but so far, he has shown himself to be smarter and better overall than most of the Leafs' other defensemen.
There's not much else to say about Gardiner except that he's an absolute pleasure to watch on the ice.
In my eyes, he's clearly the Leafs' top prospect right now.