Since Brian Burke took the reins of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he has placed an emphasis on player development. The salary cap era of the NHL rewards teams that develop from within, and Burke has caught onto this.
The Leafs now have a large number of prospects waiting to get their shots.
For this list, I've decided to ignore injury call-ups and have stuck with non-NHL guys from season's start. That means Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner, the Leafs' two most NHL-ready prospects, are not on the list.
Here's the list of the 9 top prospects currently in the Leafs' system.
An OHL star, Percy played an important role for Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on their run through the playoffs this past season. He was drafted late in the first round by Toronto and should pan out to be a solid NHLer.
Still young and raw, Percy has a long way to go before he's in the bigs.
The German international adapted his game well last season, becoming accustomed to a new style of play. With a large 6'3" frame, Mueller could be the perfect Burke-type player.
There's no indication as to how high his ceiling is, but look for Mueller to fill a bottom-six role right now.
This guy reminds me of Darcy Tucker. Brad Ross puts up good offensive numbers in addition to bringing the energetic game that Burke craves. He is a fan favourite in the WHL and will most certainly bring his energy to the bigs.
Imagine this kid on a line with Mike Brown. That would be a terror.
Scrivens probably has had the most solid output in training camp of all the Maple Leafs goaltenders. The Cornell kid has been stellar for the Marlies thus far and has received a call-up due to the injured Reimer.
Scrivens might be the most physically underwhelming athlete in hockey, but I guess all that matters is his performance on the ice.
Taken in the third round in 2010 by the Leafs, the St. Thomas native has seen his stock skyrocket lately. McKegg has taken great strides as a scorer and is currently honing his craft in the OHL.
He is still a couple years away from NHL duties—but could turn out to be a great player.
Jesse Blacker dominated in his time in the OHL. He is a true offensive defenseman who can control a power play and move the puck. He has had a great transition to AHL play and should get a call up to the big club at some point this campaign.
The kid is dominating the AHL, putting up great numbers while also playing sound defense. At 6'5", he is just getting used to his body and should become more physical as he fills in.
Colborne isn't ready for the NHL, but when he is, he should be a top-six player.
Kadri has never quite been able to do what the Leafs have asked of him. He always manages to impress—then let down. He is a creative playmaker—and a liability—on the ice.
Realistically, his potential is valued highly across the league, so he makes for perfect trade bait. He probably will never get his chance in Toronto, so why not ship him out?
Aulie is an NHL-calibre defenseman who was paired with Toronto's captain last season. He is a prospect that will pan out. It's just a matter of time before he's up with the big club.
He gets the top spot because he has proven talent. He has already played successfully at the highest level—and that makes him the most valued of all the Leafs' prospects.
The Leafs need to make room so that Aulie can play and continue to develop.
After a look at the top prospects in the Leafs' system, it's apparent that there are plenty of potential NHL players on the team. The only question is how valuable they will be.
The team lacks truly high-end prospects, which means they must explore other avenues to find top-line guys—unless someone listed proves doubters wrong.
Do you agree with the rankings? Should someone else have made the list? Let me know!