Saturday, May 30, 2015
Authors Posts by Curt Snoddon

Curt Snoddon

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Curt writes prospect stuff here, writes Leafs-related content at Blue Chip Prospects, and writes whatever he wants (with a 140 character limit) on Twitter. He also prefers being called 'Curt' to 'BCP' as he is not a robot, but he'll answer to either.

Photo: Graig Abel/Abelimages

The CHL’s regular season is over, the Marlies have nine games left with their playoff lives uncertain, and the putrid cesspool of a Leafs season that we’ve been forced to endure is four games from its conclusion.

By June, we’ll have added at least one more blue chipper and if we trade Kessel, maybe more.  For the time being, all we can do is wait and take stock.

Let’s start our tour with a look at Connor Brown.  At less than 6-feet tall and with no real skills that jump off the ice at you, it was unclear whether or not his OHL scoring totals from last season would translate to the men’s game.  After his rookie season in the AHL, there’s little doubt.  Brown leads all AHL rookies in scoring with 55 points in 67 games.  It may not happen next year since the Leafs may look to shelter Brown from the post-apocalyptic tire fire that most are expecting the Leafs to be in 2015-16, but Brown is one prospect who will almost certainly be an NHL regular in some capacity and may even find himself filling a top-6 role.

At 20 years old, Brandon Leipsic is even younger than Brown and currently finds himself sixth in AHL rookie scoring.  Often referred to as one of the most annoying players in hockey, Leipsic is the kind of guy you could ideally see filling an Alex Burrows, or Brad Marchand type role (not inconceivable based on his numbers to date).  Other teams will hate him and we would hate him if he weren’t a Leaf, but he is a Leaf and for that reason, he’ll probably be a fan favourite when he cracks the big club.

The crown jewel of our prospect group, William Nylander, has done everything Leafs fans could realistically have hoped he would.  In January, ESPN’s Corey Pronman ranked Nylander as the top drafted prospect outside of the NHL.  Nylander put up 0.7 points per game as an 18 year old in the AHL and managed 20 points in 21 games in the SHL.  He’s a one man zone entry machine and has shown that his hands and his shot will both play at the pro level and on North American ice.  He could still stand to get stronger on his skates but the progress has been promising and the potential is there for Nylander to be a future All-Star.

Outside of the AHL, Andreas Johnson had another monster season in the SHL.  The 21 year old finished the season 3rd in scoring among players 24-years old and younger, and was 5th in goals scored in the entire league.  He’s another small forward with plenty of skill and, as with Nylander, the question will be how much stronger he can get on the puck and whether his game will translate to North American ice.  I haven’t seen anything that indicates he’ll be coming over but I would hope that for next season, we’ll see Johnson plying his trade with the Marlies.

After a slow start to his season, Carter Verhaeghe salvaged his stats late in the year and matched last year’s totals.  By season’s end, he finished 14th in OHL scoring (up slightly from 21st).  You hope for a smooth upward trend with prospects but things don’t always pan out that way.  Next year is going to be a big one for Verhaeghe and improved skating is undoubtedly his surest path to success.  If he can take some of the slushiness out of his stride, he could be a useful pro.  If I had to guess, I would say that the improvements he makes this summer will dictate the kind of career he has.

With the Leafs now in the business of acquiring picks and prospects instead of trading 2nd rounders for Dave Bolland, next year promises to be a bit more exciting for the prospect lovers among us.  Adding a top-5 pick in this year’s draft to a 21-and-under group that already contains William Nylander and Morgan Rielly is an exciting proposition for a fan base as starved for success as ours has been.  Here’s hoping for an exciting and productive June.

Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Statistics 2014-15

Last Updated April 2, 2015
Name
DraftRoundHeightWeightAgeTeamLeagueGPGAPts+/-SOG
FORWARDS
JAMIE DEVANE200936' 5"21723MarliesAHL39022-419
BRAD ROSS201026' 0"17522Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
31
7
4
3
4
3
8
6
0
4
45
17
GREG MCKEGG201036' 0"19122MarliesAHL541914338114
SAM CARRICK201056' 0"18822Marlies
Leafs
AHL
NHL
51
16
7
1
18
1
25
2
-4
1
105
16
TYLER BIGGS201116' 2"20521Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
47
8
2
4
3
2
5
6
-6
1
63
21
JOSH LEIVO201136'2"19521MarliesAHL441016269113
TONY CAMERANESI201155' 9"16221U of Min-DuluthNCAA40921305118
DOMINIC TONINATO201256' 1"16520U of Min-DuluthNCAA341610261287
CONNOR BROWN201265' 11"16020MarliesAHL6718375520120
RYAN RUPERT201265' 8"18620Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
49
17
14
5
11
9
25
14
20
7
77
32
FREDERIK GAUTHIER201316' 5"21419RimouskiQMJHL
QMJHL Playoffs
37
4
16
0
16
7
32
7
26
4
92
12
CARTER VERHAEGHE201336' 1"18119NiagaraOHL
OHL Playoffs
67
3
33
1
48
1
81
2
22
-4
FABRICE HERZOG201356' 2"17619ZugSwiss NLA436395
ANDREAS JOHNSON201375' 10"18319FrolundaSHL552213355
WILLIAM NYLANDER201415'1117418Modo
Marlies
SHL
AHL
21
28
8
8
12
11
20
19
3
5
53
J.J. PICCINICH201446'0"19018Boston UNCAA H-East25134-6
DAKOTA JOSHUA201456'2"18218Sioux FallsUSHL491823414
NOLAN VESEY201466'1"19519U of MaineNCAA H East36101323-6
NIKITA SOSHNIKOVSigning5'11"18321Atlant MytishchiKHL571418325139
CASEY BAILEYSigning6'3"19423Penn State Univ.NCAA3722184011211
DEFENCEMEN
NAMEDraftRoundHEIGHTWEIGHTAGETeamLeagueGPGAPts+/-SOG
ANDREW MACWILLIAM200876'2"22625MarliesAHL563472142
ERIC KNODEL200956' 6"21624Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
19
32
0
5
8
10
8
15
0
14
24
74
PETTER GRANBERG201046' 3"20022Marlies
Leafs
AHL
NHL
44
7
1
0
13
0
14
0
11
1
26
1
TOM NILSSON201146'0"18021MarliesAHL42156229
MATTHEW FINN201226' 0"19920MarliesAHL25112-225
VIKTOR LOOV201276'3"20022MarliesAHL65614201382
RINAT VALIEV201436'2"20819KootenayWHL
WHL Playoffs
52
1
9
0
37
0
46
0
22
1
GOALIES
NAMEDraftRoundHEIGHTWEIGHTAGETeamLeagueGPIRecordGAASV%SO
CHRISTOPHER GIBSONFASigning6' 1"18822MarliesAHL4021 - 16 - 02.340.9232
GARRET SPARKS201176' 2"20021Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
2
33
2-0-0
19-7-2
1.00
2.42
.966
.934
1
2
ANTOINE BIBEAU201366' 3"20720MarliesAHL2610 - 10 - 02.810.914

Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

While he may not have entered Toronto in a fire-dress whilst riding a mechanical tiger, William Nylander is, nonetheless, turning a lot of heads.

Nylander has a pair of points in his first four AHL games and has been getting a lot of good press.  The concern with Nylander was how he would adjust to the North American game, playing on small ice as a smaller, skilled forward.  His first goal, surprisingly, was scored with Nylander going hard to the net to chase down a rebound, lifting the defenseman’s stick as he blew past him for the backhanded goal.

Nylander has been a one man breakout at the AHL level and it’s clear that his speed and puck skills outclass the rest of the league.  Kyle Dubas has already stated that Nylander will spend the remainder of the year with the Marlies and with the Leafs looking like a trainwreck yet again, there’s no reason to stray from that plan.  This year will be about adjusting to how quickly space closes down on small ice and learning the intricacies on the defensive side of the puck.  How Nylander adapts in these two areas will largely dictate where he starts the 2015-16 season.

Outside of Nylander and Connor Brown, the Leafs forward prospects have been lacklustre this season.  Andreas Johnson hasn’t really taken a step forward from his SHL Rookie of the Year campaign, Frederik Gauthier, while hot lately, is hovering around a point per game in his draft+2 season in the QMJHL, and Carter Verhaeghe has seen his point production dip significantly from last year.  With the Leafs plummeting down the standings in what’s starting to feel like an annual tradition this time of year, adding some forward prospects with upside should be a priority for the trade deadline.

Maple Leafs Prospect Statistics - 2014-15

Last Update: Thursday, April 2.
Name
DraftRoundHeightWeightAgeTeamLeagueGPGAPts+/-SOG
FORWARDS
JAMIE DEVANE200936' 5"21723MarliesAHL39022-419
BRAD ROSS2010 26' 0"17522Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
31
7
4
3
4
3
8
6
0
4
45
17
GREG MCKEGG2010 36' 0"19122MarliesAHL3181018-175
SAM CARRICK201056' 0"18822MarliesAHL3531417-1269
TYLER BIGGS2011 56' 2"20521Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
35
8
2
4
2
2
4
6
-1
1
50
21
JOSH LEIVO2011 36'2"19521MarliesAHL214913356
TONY CAMERANESI2011 55' 9"16221U of Min-DuluthNCAA23613196
DAVID BROLL2011 66' 2"21621Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
21
14
0
1
0
7
0
8
-8
-2
33
30
DOMINIC TONINATO2012 56' 1"16520U of Min-DuluthNCAA241482216
CONNOR BROWN2012 65' 11"16020MarliesAHL431221331084
RYAN RUPERT2012 65' 8"18620Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
25
17
5
5
7
9
12
14
11
7
39
32
FREDERIK GAUTHIER2013 16' 5"21419RimouskiQMJHL2313121522
CARTER VERHAEGHE2013 36' 1"18119NiagaraOHL482033538
FABRICE HERZOG2013 56' 2"17619ZugSwiss NLA376284
ANDREAS JOHNSON2013 75' 10"18319FrolundaSHL431810289
WILLIAM NYLANDER2014 15'1117418Modo
Marlies
SHL
AHL
21
4
8
1
12
1
20
2
3
0
J.J. PICCINICH2014 46'0"19018Boston UNCAA H-East18112-3
DAKOTA JOSHUA2014 56'2"18218Sioux FallsUSHL32111627-6
NOLAN VESEY2014 66'1"19519U of MaineNCAA H East2569151
PIERRE ENGVALL2014 76'3"19018Frolunda J20SuperElit2291423-8
PATRICK WATLINGAHLSigning6'0"17321Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
27
8
2
4
1
4
3
8
2
4
18
11
BRETT FINDLAYAHLSigning6'0"18921Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
13
20
1
9
2
9
3
18
-6
4
14
60
STEFAN DELLA ROVEREAHLSigning5'11"20024Solar BearsECHL259514447
DEFENCEMEN
NAMEDraftRoundHEIGHTWEIGHTAGETeamLeagueGPGAPts+/-SOG
ANDREW MACWILLIAM2008 76'2"22625MarliesAHL391231128
ERIC KNODEL2009 56' 6"21624Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
11
18
0
2
5
2
5
4
0
7
15
20
PETTER GRANBERG2010 46' 3"20022Marlies
Leafs
AHL
NHL
28
3
1
0
6
0
7
0
0
0
15
1
TOM NILSSON2011 46'0"18021MarliesAHL36156227
MATTHEW FINN2012 26' 0"19920MarliesAHL21112-128
VIKTOR LOOV2012 76'3"20022MarliesAHL423912149
RINAT VALIEV2014 36'2"20819KootenayWHL286232915
BLAKE KESSELAHLSigning6'2"21025Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
3
32
0
4
1
11
1
15
1
-8
3
67
GOALIES
NAMEDraftRoundHEIGHTWEIGHTAGETeamLeagueGPIRecordGAASV%SO
CHRISTOPHER GIBSONFASigning6' 1"18822MarliesAHL229-10-02.56.9181
GARRET SPARKS2011 76' 2"20021Marlies
Solar Bears
AHL
ECHL
2
17
1-0-0
9-3-1
1.00
2.71
.966
.929
1
2
ANTOINE BIBEAU2013 66' 3"20720MarliesAHL198-7-02.64.9184

Rinat Valiev (Chris Pullen/Cranbrook Photo)

The thing about prospect talk is that it’s generally most interesting when your team is playing its worst hockey.

We don’t talk about prospects because we love the Moose Jaw Warriors, or the Sudbury Wolves, or the Erie Otters — we talk about prospects because we love the Leafs but the Leafs are a bad hockey team.  Well, the Maple Leafs have won two games in two nights so if we’re going to talk prospects, it had better be something groundbreaking, right?

Hockey’s back!

Technically, it was back in my mind with the rookie tournament, but since I basically took the pre-season off because the pre-season is brutal, hockey is back again!

The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a lacklustre start and, to be honest, probably have a better record than they deserve through the first week and a half.  A dominating performance against the Avalanche notwithstanding, this team looks out of sorts.  If the reader wants me to say something positive at this point, here it is: Stuart Percy.

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Photo: Toronto Star

With the first round of the OHL Playoffs over, Carter Verhaeghe’s Niagara Ice Dogs have been eliminated.  The draft+1 prospect finds himself with a shiny new pro contract and spending time in the AHL — pretty nice consolation prize.

Photo: Toronto Star

The CHL Rankings are out, and Matt Finn’s Guelph Storm are ranked 2nd in the country with Connor Brown’s Erie Otters one behind in 3rd.  While character does not necessarily equate to hockey-playing ability, it’s nice to see a couple of Leafs draft picks captaining some of the most successful teams in the world’s best developmental league.

And that’s a wrap on the 2014 World Junior Championships.  I’m sure most of you reading this were hoping for a better result for the Canadian Juniors but, alas, it was not to be.  A lack of scoring, some lacklustre goaltending at times, and not enough speed to breakdown trap teams like the Finns were the downfall for Canada, who once again  find themselves off the podium.  Here’s hoping for a better result on NHL-sized ice next year.

Terry Wilson/OHL Images

This past Thursday, I had the chance to take in the Colts – Ice Dogs game and got to see Carter Verhaeghe live for the first time since the rookie tournament.  Of the players taken in the 2013 draft by the Leafs, Verhaeghe has probably turned the most heads in the early stages of this season. Here are a few of my thoughts on his game.

Welcome to the Battle of Ontario edition of our Rookie Tournament coverage.

As we all know, Ottawa sucks and while I have no idea who will dress for the Baby Leafs tonight at this point, I can’t imagine that we’ll have any problem walking all over them; their parents probably won’t even watch out of shame and embarrassment.

The Leafs have won both of their games in the tourney so far and the players who you’d expect to standout have done just that.  Brad Ross, Morgan Rielly, Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg, and Josh Leivo (before his injury) have all been great and Zach Yuen turned a few heads in last night’s game.

It will be interesting to see who gets into the lineup today — you’d have to think that management is hoping to get a long look at some of these prospects against like-aged players before NHL camps start.

So with Rielly, Leivo, MacWilliam, McKegg, and Sparks all sitting this game out and Finn leaving mysteriously after a period of play, you might have guessed that this would be a tough one for the Leafs rookies but you’d be wrong.

Stuart Percy was the best player on the ice, and Brad Ross was the best forward for either team pacing the Leafs to a 4-3 shootout win over a Penguins team with no competent forwards.

Zachary Yuen was probably the game’s biggest surprise.  He had a solid game in every respect and almost certainly opened some eyes with his performance tonight; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dressed again tomorrow for the team to get a better look.

The game itself was a back and forth affair, starting with a bang in the first (Pitt goal, 2 fights, Tor goal) and ending with a fizzle (shootouts are kinda lame).

Toronto’s first goal was scored by Matt Rupert on the PP.  With Biggs providing the traffic in front, a rebound from a point shot found its way to Rupert’s stick and he punched it in.

The second goal was scored by Fabrice Herzog after some nice retrieval work by Ross and Verhaeghe and a pretty sweet behind the back pass from Ross.  Herzog was given too much time in front and he took advantage of it.

Toronto’s third goal was a nice little passing play between Andrew Crescenzi and Jamie Devane in transition with Crescenzi potting the goal on a first touch shot, over the goalie’s shoulder.

Shootout goals were scored by Ross and Percy — the Leafs’ two best players tonight.

With that, the Leafs move to 2-0 on the tournament and will play against Ottawa’s rookies tomorrow night.  Hopefully we’ll get to see some more of Leivo and Rielly, and with any luck whatever took Finn out of tonight’s game isn’t anything serious.

See you all tomorrow.

Here’s the shootout. Check out the liveblog for more game details and goal videos.

Here we go again.

With Brian Burke back in the news, it’s fitting that his greatest contribution to the Maple Leafs — a rebuilt farm system — take center stage in the days leading up to actual meaningful hockey.  The Baby Leafs have a gold-plated defense group and a forward contingent that breaks down fairly nicely into scoring lines and checking lines; the lines should pretty much roll themselves.

With players like Morgan Rielly trying to make an impact prior to the start of Leafs camp, and guys like Leivo, Biggs, and Percy looking to solidify key roles with the Marlies, the stakes are a lot higher for these kids than they may seem to fans on the surface.  These aren’t your typical pre-season games and they’ll provide a great glimpse at what the future has in store for the big club.