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After stockpiling up on picks during the past couple drafts as well as cornering the European and college free agent markets, the Maple Leafs’ farm system is beginning to reap the rewards of unprecedented depth and talent. In the first installment of our MLHS “Prospect Season in Review” series, I’ll be taking a look at three of the team’s top prospects: Kenny Ryan, James Reimer, and Joel Champagne.
Strengths: Prior to the start of this season, the Leafs prospect list was a list full of question marks. But it has become clear that the Leafs at the very least have some talent to work with in the coming seasons. First and foremost would be OHL star Nazem Kadri, who has come on in the second half of the season after a slow start in London. Two other forwards that appear to have a future with the Leafs are former collegians Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg. Jerry D’Amigo, one of the stars for Team USA at the 2010 WJC, is another promising forward currently in the college ranks. The acquisition of Luca Caputi adds another solid forward with some size, a trait valued by Leafs’ GM Brian Burke. In goal, Jonas Gustavsson has emerged as a legitimate future starter.Â Weaknesses: Where the Leafs may lack future support is along the blueline, with trade deadline acquisition Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson representing the only current prospects of real magnitude at defense. But, considering where the Leafs were after last season, the future is looking brighter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Jonas Gustavsson, G, 3. Tyler Bozak, C, 4. Carl Gunnarsson, D, 5. Viktor Stalberg, LW
Of no surprise is that signings Jonas Gustavsson and Tyler Bozak played a major role in boosting the Leafs up the rankings. That’s not to say that they don’t count the same as key young assets, but both Gus and Bozak will not qualify for this list next season after turning 24 and/or surpassing the 65 game mark of their NHL careers. To see Stalberg and Gunnarsson listed in the top five of a sixth-ranked prospect group as former sixth and seventh round picks respectively certainly represents some form of silver lining from John Ferguson Jr’s reign.
The author’s omission of the name Jesse Blacker in assessing our blueline depth weakness was curious to me. After standout performances at the rookie tournament in Kitchener in September, Blacker notched 30 points in 48 games following a trade request to the Owen Sound attack from Windsor in search of increased playing time. Granted, past Aulie and Blacker among players yet to feature in a Leaf uniform, depth certainly does thin out, and this is likely a priority for Burke with the remaining picks he has to work with come June 25.
More on the Leafs’ top ten placement here.
While Hockey’s Future has yet to release their top 10 organizational prospect rankings, the highly-respected source for prospect information has released their 11-20 and 21-30 lists. To the pleasant surprise of many, the Leafs aren’t on either of them.
Adding to the joy, division rivals Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa have all already appeared in the 13th, 16th and 21st positions respectively.
#NHLAnagrams have been a big thing on twitter over the past week, and what a riot we’ve had. Some of the creations have been strictly comical (Daniel Alfredsson = An Idle Ass Fondler), some have been ridiculous (Brian Burke = Urban Biker) and others have fit so perfectly, you would think that it was by some magical force that their name and anagram had come to be (Zdeno Chara = A Hazard Cone, Vesa ToskalaÂ = aka Lost).
With the Toronto Marlies seven pointsÂ back with 12 games to go, I’m torn as to my thoughts of the post-season and based on the Marlies’ anagram, Realism Torn Too.
Naz Tracker. Kadri Nation. Kaptain Kadri…
… Kadri, Kadri, Kadri!
Who would have guessed that with all the attention surrounding the Leafs 2009 1st round pick, it would actually be the Toronto kid selected in the 2nd round that would be first to string some games together on a pro club. Though not officially announced, Jesse Blacker has left the OHL and joined the Toronto Marlies for the remainder of the season.
- Tim Brent and Jay Rosehill have been recalled from the Toronto Marlies, while Sjostrom and Mitchell are doubtful for tonight’s game against the Flyers. Brent is a player Burke knows quite well from his years in the Anaheim Ducks organization, whom the Leafs signed this past offseason. Tim has always been a very productive player at the AHL level who has yet to make that successful transition to the NHL. However, he’s only 25 years of age with a strong two-way game and some decent hands, so this may be his chance to surprise.
While the Maple Leafs struggled through a horrific 3-10-2 record to start the new year at the NHL level, many of the organization’s top young prospects enjoyed a very productive month of January on the scoresheet. Jerry D’Amigo (left) continued to build off a strong World Junior tournament, Mikhail Stefanovich seemed to finally turn the corner, while Nazem Kadri took his game up to that dominant level we all know he’s capable of.
- The Toronto Marlies took a thrilling 5-4 shootout decision against the Chicago Wolves, with each of the College Frat Pack making an impact. Tyler Bozak recorded a goal and an assist, Stalberg scored once, while Hanson chipped in an assist. Defenseman Juraj Mikus added an assist and tallied the shootout winner.
- Nazem Kadri continued his chippy play so far this season, receiving an abuse of the official misconduct in addition to a pair of assists in a 5-4 victory over his former club, the Kitchener Rangers. Elsewhere around the OHL, Jesse Blacker recorded a powerplay assist. Over in the QMJHL, Philliipe Paradis and Joel Champagne were both held off the scoresheet, while Mikhail Stefanovich managed an assist. There were rumors of a possible trade involving Stefanovich going to another junior team earlier today, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case.
- Lastly, I’ve got a pair of Greens to Saturday night’s game (tomorrow) against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if interested.
The big club’s off until a Friday night date with the struggling Hurricanes, so let’s take this opportunity to review the progress of several Maple Leafs’ prospects across various levels and highlight upon the season’s surprises and disappointments thus far. The verdict: fairly encouraging results early on across the board.
Big thank you to Mark Seidel, Chief Scout of North American Central Scouting and contributor to The Hockey News, for taking the time to chat about the upcoming 2010 NHL Entry Draft. His agency’s latest rankings can be seen here on THN. This time around, Leaf fans won’t be having the opportunity of watching one of the draft’s elite youngsters, such as projected top pick Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, fall into their lap. But nonetheless, the draft is always a hot topic in the hockey world.
It appears that the players on the on the Maple Leafs’ NHL roster aren’t the only ones in the organization stirring up news. Both of the Leafs’ 2nd round selections from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft this past June, winger Kenny Ryan and defenseman Jesse Blacker are reportedly on the move, ironically in different directions out of the revolving door that is the Windsor Spitfires.
Time to shake off the lingering effects of a rough Saturday night, by taking a peek at some of the stories headlining today’s Leaf news. A peek at Wilson’s coaching cheatsheet, a case for the Monster to start on Tuesday night, random notes from the games, and some quick prospect updates for Kadri, Blacker and Stefanovich.
An interesting question was brought up by Dave Hodge yesterday morning on TSN’s The Reporters amid the Phil Kessel whirlwind that erupted over the weekend: if Peter Chiarelli wasn’t interested in matching an offer sheet at the dollar figure to which Burke eventually signed the 21-year-old, described by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber as “a one in 500 chance,” why didn’t Burke submit the offer sheet and pay but a third rounder instead of an additional first round draft selection? Farber seemed convinced not only that Chiarelli wouldn’t match but that Burke’s decision to go the trade route instead of offer sheet avenue was to save face, anticipating the charges of hypocrisy he would encounter linking back to his response to Kevin Lowe’s offer sheet submission for Dustin Penner that ultimately went unmatched while in Anaheim.
After watching the first four pre-season games, I’ve noticed a few players stand out while others have sunk into a state of mediocre play. This is my brief evaluation of the players we no longer need, including my own opening night roster preview. I look forward to reviewing all of your own opening night rosters compared to the way I view the brand new Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
Iâ€™ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.
The following are a series of notes from Day 1 â€¦
Wednesday night’s tilt between the Maple Leafs and Penguins was by far the sloppiest game the Leafs have played thus far, with a 4-1 Pittsburgh victory the end result.
Simply put, the players looked as though they lacked energy from the outset. Â Was it fatigue from the toll of three games in four days? Â Or was it simply a poor outing, as is prone to happen to all teams, from time to time? Â The answer to that may lie in Thursday evening’s game against the Senators.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the game itself, as Alec covered that quite well.
The news, for the most part, was good.Â Â Many of the Leafs’ prospects were impressive in their bids to earn a spot on the big club and/or the Marlies.Â Â The following is a quick summation of some of the things that stood out to me from my vantage point at the game.
Jonas Gustavsson’s unofficial debut performance is bound to generate some buzz after the Monster stopped 35 of 36 shots in backing the Maple Leafs’ prospects to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins’ youngsters in the opening game of the rookie tournament inside the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium this evening.
Notable Leaf participants in the tournament running from September 6th-7th at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium will include Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg, Mikhail Stefanovich, Nazem Kadri, Dale Mitchell, Jonas Gustavsson and Jesse Blacker. Of the Leafs 2009 draft class, Jamie Devane and Barron Smith are also a part of the squad to be overseen by new Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff. Having attended the last three rookie tourneys, this Leafs’ roster is by far their most exciting entry yet. Check out the roster list after the jump courtesy of MapleLeafs.com:
To date, it has been a rather busy offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a number of free agent signings, roster re-signings, a few trades and even some coaching changes.
The following is a chronological listing of Maple Leafs’ transactions during the 2009 offseason.
Note: this list will continue to be updated with any further transactions made prior to the start of the 2009-10 regular season.
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