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 -Hockey’s Future
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.
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.
With the NHL season now officially over, the Leafs’ players and coachingÂ staff spent Monday afternoon cleaning out their lockers and addressed the media for the final time. Below is a recap of important comments made. It’s generally just the usual lines about how they plan to work hard during the offseason in preparation for a bigÂ year but there are a few interesting tidbits as well. The full audio/video can be accessed in the LeafsTV archive on the Maple Leafs’ official website. On to golf season!
With the final bell about to ring season most fans would be happy to forget – although the impending draft all but dictates they most assuredly will not – the Maple Leafs will officially enter the offseason five campaigns removed from the playoffs at the conclusion of Saturday night’s game in Montreal.
Unlike previous years, however, this season has revealed to fans — amidst the rubble of far too many losses — a silver lining of sorts: the promise of youth.
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.
The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the St. Louis Blues tonight, in the Leafs’ final game prior to the NHL’s Olympic break.
The Leafs are coming off a narrow loss to the West-leading San Jose Sharks, a game which left the team with much to feel good about. Â Tonight, the team will look to resolve their road woes and enter the break on a high note, by capitalizing on what has been an inconsistent and underachieving Blues squad.
Two Leafs players have food poisoning, so Nazem Kadri is an emergency call up for tonight’s game. No word as of what line he will be playing on just yet, but one thing is for sure: this will be an interesting sneak peak at what Kadri and Kessel could bring to the club next season.
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.
In the wake of Sunday’s blockbuster trades, one cannot help but wonder what’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Who’s next to go? Who stays?
In any case, I think that it’s pretty safe to say that this season is a write-off. We’re not making any moves to make a run at the playoffs this season. So, let’s look forward and take a look at what the Maple Leafs should look like next season.
- 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.
Friday night saw a host of impressive performances from a few Maple Leaf prospects; among them is QMJHL power forward Joel Champagne of the PEI Rockets who turned in a ridiculous 7 point performance. Nazem Kadri also chipped a pretty shorthanded goal and 2 assists for London. Meanwhile, Phillipe Paradis was held scoreless in his debut performance as a Leaf prospect.
Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri has successfully passed the first hurdle en route to a possible World Juniors roster spot, by earning an invite to the final selection camp earlier today. The roster currently encompasses 36 invitees in total, a number which Team Canada Head Coach Willie Desjardins will have to narrow down to 22 by the end of camp.
- The Toronto Sun explains that Burke came very close to acquiring Brent Sopel in two potential deals that both were believed to have fallen apart on Sunday. Apparently, he is looking to re-acquire 1st and 2nd round picks to compensate for the loss of draft picks from the Kessel trade.
- ESPN’s John Buccigross presents a great human interest story that about Brian Burke’s gay son provides insight into the close father-son relationship.
- Nazem Kadri’s been on an absolute tear of late. Click here for highlights of his 3 point night against Kitchener and here for highlights of his beautiful shorthanded marker against Russia in the Subway Series.
Update: Damien Cox is reporting that Burke is currently working on at least two possible trades.
- The Toronto Sun‘s got a very interesting quote from Ron Wilson. When broached about the possibility of call-ups from the Marlies, the head coach replied: “It would give us a boost, but because we are kind of limited, we canâ€™t send anybody down”. You’re kidding right? What happened to all that preseason talk about burying underperforming veterans in the minors? Where’s the accountability?
- Darren Dreger offers up some speculation as to what could be a very busy offseason next summer with as many as 17 free agents, 11 of whom will be unrestricted. He mentions that Stajan is a very likely candidate to be traded, and Ponikarovsky seems to be the only one who will be offered an extension.
- Prospect Notes: Nazem Kadri had a pair of very impressive games this past week, first in the OHL vs. Russia Subway Series, displaying a ton of poise and skill running the powerplay and then notching 3 assists against Erie last night. Jimmy Hayes, the Leafs’ 2008 2nd round selection, is showing signs of breaking out in the NCAA, with a 4 assist game last week and another goal last night.
- Once again, a pair of purples avaiable at cost for the Monday night’s game against John Tavares and the New York Islanders. First come first serve basis via email please.