Toronto Maple Leafs: 10 Youngsters Who'll Get a Shot at the Big Club in 2012-13
This slideshow is comprised of 10 players aged 24 and under who have a chance of playing at least a few games with the Leafs during the 2012-13 season.
These players will either be given a fair chance to make the main roster during training camp, or might see spot duty over the course of the year if injuries occur.
There are no guarantees, of course, but it will be interesting to see if any of these players will be able to make the jump to the big club next year.
Here they are, in no particular order.
I won't say Keith Aulie is a lock to make the team right out of training camp next year (because we all thought the same thing a couple months ago), but it's pretty much guaranteed that he'll spend at least part of the season with the Leafs next season.
He has the size and the skill to play at the NHL level.
It was a shock at first to see him get cut this past training camp, but I'm sure nobody objects to having so much depth at the defensive position.
Simon Gysbers is a bit of a long shot to play with the Leafs next year, but you never know.
He's 24 years old, he's got good size at 6'4" and 200 lbs. and is a reliable point-getter for the Marlies.
Given the depth at D within the Leafs' organization, I'd say he won't be the first defenseman to get the call should injuries arise.
He could be a candidate to play a game around the end of the season, but that's about it.
As with Gysbers, I don't think Luca Caputi will play more than one or two games with the Leafs next year, but you never know.
Unless he dazzles this year with the Marlies and next year during training camp, he won't be making the big club in 2012-13.
That said, Caputi does have 35 NHL games under his belt and could be called up to fill a bottom-six role if the Leafs lose some key guys due to injury.
He's willing and able to do a lot of the grunt work along the boards and behind the net, so it's possible they'll find a use for him.
Marcel Mueller is known to be inconsistent, but he's still young and relatively new to the North American style of hockey.
He's 23 years old, 6'3" and 220 lbs., so he's physically ready to play in the NHL.
If he has a shot with the Leafs next year though, it will be for a bottom-six role.
They could try him out on the third line where he could use his size to drive the net and win puck battles along the boards.
He played three games for the Leafs during the 2010-11 season, but I don't see him playing too many more for them this year or next.
I'd say most, if not all Leaf fans have already lost patience with Jonas Gustavsson, but when management finally does, Jussi Rynnas will move up to No. 3 on the Leafs' goalie depth chart.
It's possible that the Leafs will seek out veteran goalie help later this season and even for next season, but this veteran will likely not fit into the Leafs' long-term plans, so Rynnas will definitely get his shot with the big club sooner or later.
I don't know how Leaf fans would feel about Ben Scrivens backing up James Reimer next year, but if either of them can't suit up during the course of the season for whatever reason, Rynnas could see some time with the Leafs.
Like a lot of Leaf fans, I'm anxious to see Nazem Kadri realize his great potential at the NHL level.
Everyone has been relatively patient with him thus far, but I think next year will be his last big chance to make the Leafs.
The roster might need a good shake to make room for Kadri, but the player we'll see next fall will likely be much better than the one we saw about six weeks ago.
Same story as a lot of the other Leaf youngsters: untapped potential, good size, possible spot duty next season.
Still needs a season or two to develop, so he'll be lucky to get into more than a handful of games next season.
Similar story to Mikus, except Korbinian Holzer has shown himself to be further along in his development.
He's reliable in his own end and knows how to use his size to his advantage.
Holzer was very reliable for the Marlies last season, posting a solid plus-10 rating.
He'll likely be near the top of the list for defenders to get called up next year.
Jesse Blacker's a good skater, loves rushing with the puck and is sound positionally. Sound familiar?
It's tough to know what management has planned for the Leafs' blue line, so there may not be any room for Blacker on the team even if he does turn heads during training camp.
That said, we don't want any players thinking they're guaranteed a spot on the team, so if Blacker really does pull a Jake Gardiner next year, there will be some tough decisions to make.
Another year with the Marlies won't hurt him, but I'm really looking forward to seeing this kid in action with the Leafs.
After Joe Colborne got traded to Toronto last year, he put up eight goals and eight assists in 20 games for the Marlies.
This year, he's been tearing it up in the AHL, posting 10 goals and nine assists in only 12 games.
He was named the AHL's Player of the Month in October.
He'll be given a big chance next fall to play his way onto the Leafs' roster and is expected by many to make it.
He was in contention for a roster spot this past training camp, and although he ultimately got sent back down to the Marlies, it looks like he's making the most out of it.
I'm not sure if he'll be able to handle a top-six role next year, but I'd be shocked if he doesn't at least make the team out of camp next year.
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