Introducing the MLHS Maple Leafs top 30 prospect rankings, complete with player-by-player scouting reports.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hese rankings are based on a combination of the overall talent package for each player, plus the likelihood of them reaching their peak potential. Of course, it is difficult to quantify these traits into hard numbers, however after spending countless hours scouting each player, the chips start to fall into place as far as which players are rising to the top and which ones are slipping down the Leafs‘ prospect depth chart. This list is intended to be a stamp in time, and no ranking list can be truly considered definitive. We hope to regularly update it throughout the new year and show where players are rising and others are falling.
Overall, the Leafs boast a solid group of skilled offensive forward prospects, not surprisingly led by William Nylander. However, he is not the only one to expect to make some noise and appear on the Leafs‘ NHL roster in the next few years. Andreas Johnson and Connor Brown are highly talented players who are exceeding expectations this year, as they have in years previous as well.
Another area of strength is quality two-way and defensive d-men. Highest on our list is Viktor Loov, who boasts a tantalizing package of all the attributes a team looks for in a blueliner: size, skill fearless physical play. Stuart Percy and Matt Finn are not far behind Loov; both poised, responsible and intelligent players who are calm under pressure. Below them are notables Tom Nilsson, Petter Granberg, Rinat Valiev and Eric Knodel, who all show some solid traits but have areas of their game to work on that will need time.
In our books, the fastest rising prospect within the Leafs system since his draft day is Antoine Bibeau. His accomplishments since that day are nothing short of stellar, and his rise to the #2 position on our rankings is a testament to that, backed by a goaltenter who looks like he could be the complete package.
Toronto’s prospect cupboard is by no means a bare one, and in fact is boasting some great potential in many areas. There are holes to fill such as two way centres with higher end talent (behind Nylander) and depth at goalie is a concern, but there is a lot to work with in this group and it certainly looks like a better crop than the Leafs have had over the last many years.
Thanks to Gus Katsaros for contributing to the player notes.
|1||Willliam||Nylander||C-RW||5-11||174||18||SHL||The complete package of elite level skill, with a head on his shoulders to bring it all together. Possesses simply dazzling puck handling skills with an ability to move through an entire team with ease. Owns a terrific array of shots, most of which is a goalie-freezing backhand not seen in Leafs Nation since Mats Sundin. His skating and lateral movement in particular is what allows him to move to places on the ice with the puck most would assume were not possible. Nylander is relentless in his puck pursuit in the offensive zone, not shy of physical areas. Will need to realize the perfect play isn't always available and shore up his defensive responsibilities as he matures. A legit NHL first line offensive talent, without question.|
|2||Antoine||Bibeau||G||6-2||210||20||AHL||Technically sound and cool as a cucumber, Bibeau has rocketed up the rankings after being chosen 172nd overall in 2013, to 2nd overall in our list of Leafs prospects. Bibeau is big, mobile and has matured in his positioning and technical work at a rapid pace. Somewhat surprisingly made the Marlies out of camp, sending Garret Sparks to the ECHL, Bibeau picked up right where he left off at the 2014 Memorial Cup and as QMJHL Playoff MVP. On the fast track to be the heir apparent to Bernier/Reimer.|
|3||Andreas||Johnson||RW||5-10||183||19||SHL||Raw package of skill with a wide frame and a tireless motor, Johnson earned rookie of the year honours in the SHL in 2014 and has picked up right where he left off this year with dominant offensive production. Johnson produces all sorts of highlight reel offensive production with high-end playmaking ability and finish, including a snipe while down on one knee. Not an overly physical player. His skating requires some refinement and polish but the raw tools are there, including a top gear he uses regularly to blow past defenders. Protects and controls the puck extremely well at top speeds and utilizes a purposeful net drive, allowing him to make room for himself where there isn't room. Possesses a laser-like accurate slap and wrist shot he gets off quickly and uses to find top shelf corners. Johnson is an underrated lethal package of skill and natural goal scoring prowess.|
|4||Viktor||Loov||D||6-3||200||21||AHL||A tantalizing combination of size, skill and fearless physical play make Loov an intriguing package of potential we think is too good to not rank in the Leafs top 5 prospects. Loov is a smooth skating rearguard who throws absolutely devastating open ice hits reminiscent of Scott Stevens (headshots included, at times), which puts the fear of god into opposing forwards when he is on the ice. Those who forget about him appear to pay dearly for their mistake. Loov rarely hesitates to sacrifice his body to block a shot. His skating is relatively smooth, with a solid ability to move laterally, allowing him to find seams on the power play and use a crafty wrist shot he gets through traffic well. Loov at times has shown a lack of discipline both in his physical play and positioning, and has shown growing pains as he adjusts to the smaller North American ice, with less time to make plays. Some patience will be in order as he gets comfortable.|
|5||Connor||Brown||RW||5-11||170||20||AHL||Attacks the game with a low and wide compact skating stance, using strong legs to stabilize in many situations, including one-on-one battles along the boards or around the net. A fearless player who will drive hard to the net, dig for pucks along the wall and in corners vs. much larger opponents, Brown's engine runs full throttle on every shift. He controls the puck while moving at top speed and can blow by unassuming defenders in two steps to the outside. Established himself as a lethal power play threat down low on the left side with a deadly one-timer he typically fires from down on one knee, or will draw defenders in, then set up teammates with laser sharp passes. Has more than his fair share of ability to play the game at both ends, and an unselfish offensive zone mentality used in all situations on the ice including PK and critical defensive zone faceoffs in close games. Possesses soft hands and a shot that he can put over a goalie's shoulder with forehand or back hand. Not overly powerful but quick and accurate. A very intense player who has dropped the gloves on occasion. Will need to add to his 170lb frame to make an impact at the pro level, however the tools are there to accomplish many things when the frame fills out.
Do not underestimate Connor Brown because of the size stigma or his draft position. The ceiling is very high.
|6||Carter||Verhaeghe||C||6-1||181||19||OHL||Solid two way pivot with excellent puck handling and shooting skills. Average skater who struggles with level of effort at times. Improving all round game as his OHL career progresses.|
|7||Stuart||Percy||D||6-1||187||21||AHL||Solid and impactful stay-at-home defenseman with a spark of offensive upside. Plays a calm and collected game, able to slow things down, get out of dodge without panic and support his teammates by being a rock in his own end. Brings the blood pressure level of his teammates down with his ability to break up oncoming rushes, take control of the puck and make strong outlet passes to clear the zone. Uses his natural tenacity and broad frame to provide just enough nasty to make opponents think twice about heading into a corner or to the crease with him. An extremely intelligent player who displays strong understanding of the game, and hockey sense that allows him to anticipate the play developing in front of him. Regularly goes up against other team's most dangerous forwards, logs heavy minutes nearly every game. Could be some undiscovered offensive ability, providing a point shot on the power play, can get puck through low and hard, which may be an asset he can develop.|
|8||Matt||Finn||D||6-0||197||20||AHL||Offensive minded Matt Finn is not the smoothest skater on the ice but manages to pull it together to get it done. Has a high level of agility, able to move laterally and get back into position, however at times the gut reaction and first step can come late. Uses a quick stick to break up plays and block passes. At the OHL level he is able to make up for these mistakes, but will take work to be ready for the next level. Shows a need to learn positioning and add strength to handle physical play and be willing to use the body instead of his stick. Can be knocked off balance and off the puck too easily in many defensive situations. His offensive instincts come naturally, with a keen ability to lug the puck up ice and is equally adept at making a quick, solid first pass. Needs to build confidence in his own ability in this area and consistently make plays under pressure. Finn shows the potential to run a power play while being the most dangerous weapon on it, with a very effective and hard low shot with a quick release. Guelph Storm coaching staff believed in his raw leadership ability, naming Finn captain for the 2012 season.|
|9||Josh||Leivo||LW||6-2||195||21||AHL||Displaying many power forward tendencies, Levio will throw some big hits and muck about in corners,
but chooses his opponents carefully. Aggressive on the puck and as a forechecker when he chooses to engage, often sitting back , watching the play develop, then in a few steps can burst into scoring areas. Creates a lot of room for himself using this tactic. Shows good decision making instincts, knowing when to dump and chase vs. attempt to stickhandle past three defenders. Works hard along the boards in battles and uses his big frame to protect the puck. Possesses a quick wrist shot capable of getting up high in a hurry and in close. Will follow up on shots at the net looking for rebounds and often capitalizes. Moves relatively well for a long-legged lanky frame, showing good speed and able to cover a lot of ice with minimal effort, however he can often be construed as coasting. Needs to move his feet more and not take wide circles to change directions, applying more stop-starts and abrupt changes in direction. Solid carrying the puck, he will back defenders off and keep them guessing. Likes to hang high in the offensive zone and down low in the defensive zone Ð, indicative of a natural tendency of a centre, however could be due to a coached positional approach. Reasonably sound defensive responsibility, he will drop low in his zone or pursue point men. Anticipates well defensively, gets in passing lanes.
|10||Frederik||Gauthier||C||6-5||214||19||QMJHL||An always intriguing package of size, skill and ability to read the game, Freddy has not as yet been able to produce offensive output one would typically expect from a 1st round centre selection. A hard working centre with surprising speed for his size. Takes a few extra strides to get up to top speed, however once it's reached he is difficult to catch and impossible to stop.|
|11||Brandon||Kozun||RW||5-8||187||24||NHL||The little engine that could. A tireless ball of energy and hustle who reads and anticipates plays in both zones at an elite level. A fearless checker who has shown in a small NHL stint he is not afraid to go into corners with gigantic d-men seemingly twice his size. A potent package of puck handling and shooting skill as well, Kozun has the potential to be a depth winger who provides a timely shift that can energize his teammates and turn the tide in a game.|
|12||Greg||McKegg||C||6-0||191||22||AHL||A heady skater plays with a non-stop drive and determination. Work ethic is evident and really grabs your attention as a stand out player in that regard. Capable of firing up his team on one shift, will determinedly go to the corners on the forecheck, knocking defenders much larger than he off balance to retrieve pucks Understands and sees the developing play and has enough anticipation to turn that high level of effort into effective plays in both zones. Skating overall is not overwhelming, but he can surprise defenders and often will blow past them to the outside with a deceptive burst of quickness. His first few steps from a stand still are still not there, but it appears to be gradually improving since his draft year. Can overskate the puck at times. Protects the puck well in corners and on the rush, can angle his body and hold the puck with just the top hand on the stick, and the other hand out to block defenders. Possesses a good quick shot with dangerous accuracy. Playmaking is relatively sound as his on-ice vision, however he needs time to adjust to the speed in which decisions are made at the pro level. Appears to understand his defensive responsibilities and is improving in his execution. Seems most effective as a winger based on aggressive instincts to forecheck and bang the boards.|
|13||Tom||Nilsson||D||6-0||176||21||AHL||Mobile d-man able to use fantastic skating footwork and speed to close out on attacking forwards and gain solid position with relative ease. Confident in moving the puck with solid outlet passes and can lug it when needed as well. Not overly physical but will engage to separate attackers from the puck.|
|14||Petter||Granberg||D||6-2||201||22||AHL||Positionally sound and cerebral d-man who can read and react to plays at a high level. Has difficulty with speedy attackers, will often resort to clutch & grab to slow them down. Makes a solid outlet pass. A good skating stride with length and changes directions quite well, but speed while handling the puck is challenged. Still requires significant polish to his overall game and appeared to show issues with effort level at this year's camp, losing what was assumed to be a job as the 6/7 d-man.|
|15||Sam||Carrick||C||6-0||188||22||AHL||Engine-always-running Sam Carrick is a prototypical depth centre who is fearless on the forecheck and never hesitates to do the dirty work needed to retrieve and protect the puck at both ends of the ice.|
|16||Rinat||Valiev||D||6-2||208||19||WHL||Physical, stay-at-home d-man adjusting to speed of the game in North America.|
|17||Pierre||Engvall||LW||6-3||190||18||Swe-1||Big framed, deft puck handler and shooter, struggles in the mobility department, looking like a boy in a man's frame.|
|18||Andrew||MacWilliam||D||6-2||226||24||AHL||Punishing, physical defender who loves to dish out big hits. Wields a nasty stick in front of his own net. Plays a strong, simple defensive game although can get out of position attempting one of his bone crunching hits. Lacking mobility which could limit him at the pro level, he will have to learn to play within his limitations to reach the NHL as a depth d-man.|
|19||David||Broll||LW||6-1||220||21||AHL||Unfair to categorize as a depth checker only, Broll possesses solid playmaking and puck handling skills with good overall vision of the ice and ability to distribute the puck, finding outlets for passes at a level that surpasses expectations by quite a bit. Could mature into the new mold for a 4th line NHL player - a guy who can intimidate and drop the gloves but can play 10 minutes a night and produce respectable offensive numbers for the job.|
|20||Tyler||Biggs||RW||6-3||224||21||AHL||A hulking body structure, Biggs possesses most of the prototypical assets of a power forward who plays a simple up and down game. Long skating stride, appears to not be moving well at all but manages to keep up with his opponents and can blow by defenders who don't respect it enough. This was exemplified at the 2012-13 World Juniors vs. strong peer competition. Understands his offensive role by gravitating to the net and providing an outlet to puck carrying linemates. Doesn't like to carry the puck into the zone, preferring to dish to linemates and head for the net instead. Will dump and chase if given no other option. Manages to quietly move himself into dangerous scoring areas, going somewhat unnoticed -- tough to do when you are as big as he is. NHL caliber talent won't likely fall for this and he will have to learn to move his feet more aggressively and fight for that same space. Hard, clean forechecker, digs in corners and is near impossible to push off the puck once he establishes position. An intelligent player who plays relatively well within his limitations, doesn't get too deep into the zone on low percentage plays. Demonstrats both a maturity and responsiveness to coaching, both traits being somewhat uncommon to young power forwards with a big physical edge. Possesses a quick hard wrist shot he can pick corners with and will fool goaltenders at times, but the majority of his scoring will happen in close, collecting rebounds or deflections. Recognizes transition early and covers his man on the back check without getting caught up ice. Defensively responsible, kills penalties and covers a lot of ground with reach & size and will sacrifice to make the right play. Again, will use a simple outlet vs. attempting anything overly fancy.|
|21||Eric||Knodel||D||6-6||216||24||ECHL||Tall, rangy blueliner with a big shot and ability to generate offense from the back end. Handles the puck well, with smooth stickhandling motions and heady passes. Excels at positional defense, showing high anticipation and overall hockey sense, boxing out attackers and containing them. Not overly physical but knows where to be to do his job effectively. Developed into a legitimate prospect while spending 4 seasons at UNH.|
|22||Chris||Gibson||G||6-1||187||21||AHL||Goaltender of moderate size who relies heavily on his quick reflexes and a high level of athleticism to get the job done. Tends to play deep in net, not looking to overly challenge shooters. Moves extremely well laterally from post to post, able to make up for over-commitments to one side. This helps him compensate for some issues with his positioning. Guards the bottom half of the net extremely well, which does expose a lot of opportunities to score on him up high. Polishing his positioning and reducing the amount he gets baited into going down will determine whether he can reach NHL backup status or better.|
|23||Fabrice||Herzog||RW||6-2||176||19||Swiss-A||Had a solid rookie North American season in the Q last year with 32 goals in 61 games, but was unable to take the next step this season at training camp and is now back in the Swiss league. A tall, lanky package of offensive talent, Herzog will need some time to develop. Returning to North America next season is probably a longshot, but at some point he will need to move to smaller ice and develop in the AHL.|
|24||Tony||Cameranesi||C||5-9||162||21||NCHC (US College)||High energy package of raw skills in all areas. Will take time to develop, however determination and desire are maxed out here. A possible Kozun clone in the making.|
|25||Garret||Sparks||G||6-2||200||21||ECHL||A large, more modern era frame for a goaltender who leans heavily on his long limbs to get the job done. Sits deep in the net, effectively closing off the lower half of the net. Has excellent balance, able to keep his momentum under control, resetting for the next shot extremely fast. Possesses a very quick glove hand which is further enhanced by those same long limbs, allowing him to scoop up pucks on some very difficult shots to handle. Can move up and down quickly. Looks a bit like Tim Thomas at times with an unorthodox style, but manages to get it done in spite of it.|
|26||Ryan||Rupert||C||5-8||186||20||AHL||Feisty package of tenacity and relentless forechecking puts him at the top of the pile as far as agitating forwards go. Has a lot of Leo Komarov in him, with the keen ability to cause, but stay out of trouble.|
|27||Brad||Ross||LW||6-0||175||22||ECHL||A pest who has run into a wall being able to produce respectable offensive numbers at the Pro level. His aggression levels are off the charts, however hockey sense appears to be nowhere near what is needed to move up the pro ranks. Time will tell if his average skill set is enough to move him up the pro ranks.|
|28||Dominic||Toninato||C||6-1||165||20||NCHC (US College)||Hard working, tenacious centre who attacks in all zones. A fierce competitor that coaches rave about and lean on in key game situations. Smooth hands and good finish, willing to go to the net and pay the price for scoring chances. Skating is an area of weakness, does not possess a fluid, natural stride. Will have to add significant weight to play his game at the pro level, but there is plenty of time. Long term prospect with good upside.|
|29||Dakota||Joshua||C||6-2||182||18||USHL||Good mix of size and talent who uses his size well on the forecheck. A work in progress but could climb the ranks quickly.|
|30||Jamie||Devane||RW||6-5||217||23||AHL||A legit menacing enforcer, if the need for one ever enters the NHL game again. Unfortunately for Devane, those days appear to be long gone.|
|JJ||Piccinich||RW||6-0||200||18||H-East (US College)|
|Nolan||Vesey||LW||6-1||195||19||H-East (US College)|
|Max||Everson||D||6-1||210||21||ECAC (US College)|