Entering the season, Ron Wilson would even admit his team didn't have much of a chance. He was given a young, inexperienced team that in some cases had never played in a hockey-crazed environment like Toronto.
Since the beginning of the season, the young team has showed that they can handle the pressure, and in some cases, different players have stood out on top and are making cases to remain with the team through the rebuilding process.
Mikhail Grabovski has showed that he can play at the level of the NHL. Last year with Montreal, Grabovski never had a chance to show what he was capable to doing.
This year in Toronto, Grabovski has been given a chance. He is currently tied for second in rookie goal scoring (12) and is fifth in points for rookies (22).
He has an unbeatable chemistry with Niklas Hagman, and if his play keeps up, he will have a very good chance of sticking around in Toronto for years to come.
John Mitchell has not been scoring like Grabovski has been, but seems to be fitting well with the team he grew up idolizing. He broke through on November 1st vs. the New York Rangers when Mitchell had two goals (including his first career goal), collected an assist and had a plus-four rating.
Mitchell seems like the kind of guy he could play for Ron Wilson on his third or fourth line, but since the recent injury to Matt Stajan, Mitchell will be sure to get more playing time.
Mitchell has been one of the surprises throughout the season so far for the Maple Leafs. He is not the kind of player who will pot a couple each night, but if your team needs a spark, Mitchell is right there.
You can't say enough about the play of Jeremy Williams...every time he touches the puck, he seems to score! Williams has been stellar since being called up from the Marlie's, with seven points in nine games (five goals, two assists). He has also collected a plus-three rating.
If he continues to score like he has been (23.8 shot percentage), you can count on Williams to be with the Leafs through the long run of rebuilding.
Williams has shown chemistry with Dominic Moore and has proved his case for remaining with the club. Williams is fast on his skates and has an even better shot, with a lightning-quick release.
Williams and Mitchell were drafted by Toronto and Grabovski was drafted by the Canadians but sent to the Maple Leafs for nearly nothing, and all these players were drafted in the fourth round or higher.
These three players have been pleasant surprises for the Leafs this year. From the beginning of the year they weren't expected to make such an impact...and in some cases not even make the team. The Maple Leafs got lucky: Grabovski, Mitchell and Williams have gave them something to praise about rather then the nothing that was expected.