Toronto Maple Leafs: Smart Move to Sign College Free Agent Spencer Abbott

Curtis NgContributor IIIMarch 28, 2012

MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 3:  Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks to the media during a press conference to introduce new head coach Randy Carlyle at the Bell Centre on March 3, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

As folks in Toronto know all too well, undrafted college free agents, no matter how touted they are, are never a sure bet.

Three years ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson out of college. The former was a player who was highly sought after by numerous teams in the NHL.

Hanson is no longer with the organization, while Bozak has managed to stick around.

This afternoon, the Leafs signed another college free agent in Spencer Abbott.

The University of Maine Black Bear put up huge numbers this past year, his senior year, with 21 goals and 62 points in only 39 games played. (source: University of Maine)

The 23-year-old was announced as one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists this year and could very well make it into the final three.

Leafs General Manager Brian Burke might catch some flak for signing yet another undrafted college free agent, but the kid is actually from nearby Hamilton, Ontario.

For all those critics accusing Burke of avoiding Ontario-born players, Abbott's signing should silence them for now.

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The young Hamiltonian is expected to report to the Marlies, where he will beef up an already successful team.

The baby Buds are second in the AHL's Western Conference and are gearing up for a playoff run.

As the Ottawa Senators will tell you, an excellent way to accelerate the development of your young players is to have them experience playoff success.

The 2010-11 Binghamton Senators, the AHL affiliate of the big Sens, were Calder Cup Champions.

Members of that championship team such as forwards Bobby Butler and Erik Condra and defenceman Jared Cowen are now valued members of a resurgent Ottawa team.

Hopefully, with the addition of Abbott, the Marlies will see similar success in this year's playoff race.

Many youngsters with the baby Leafs will have opportunities and indeed be expected to compete for jobs with the big club this fall.

Guys like Joe Colborne, Nazem Kadri, Jesse Blacker, Korbinian Holzer and Marcel Mueller should make serious cases for themselves in training camp.

If the Marlies do indeed go all the way, or at least very far, the aforementioned players and the Leafs will be all the better for it.

Next year's Leafs may not replicate the success of this year's Senators, but an influx of young players who are motivated and playoff-hardened will do the team good.

An outflux of unmotivated and underachieving veterans wouldn't hurt either.