Ever since the major shakeup in the organization in January 2013, the Managements commitment to drafting and proper development has been very evident. Not many picks since that off season have made the full jump to the NHL, but this year the world changes as they start with a radical fulltime youth movement with several prospects expected to be unleashed fulltime. Last year we seen 13 prospects spend significant on the late season, to give an impression of what young talent the Leafs’ have been stockpiling. The organization easily has a Top-3 collection of prospects that is revered league wide. Now it’s one thing to have built a core of NHL capable players, but from a fantasy perspective, almost all of these players have attractive upsides to be ‘productive’ assets.
We are expecting seven young men to engrain themselves in NHL roles this fall with several more being called upon as needed. You and I both know Auston Matthews and William Nylander will play prominent roles in the future of the organization, but behind them there are several openings to fill. Alongside established players Joffrey Lupul and Milan Michalek, at least a pair of core right wing possibilities are currently present along with reserve forward roles to be won. It is expected Nikita Soshnikov will be a full timer with Mitch Marner likely making the jump from the junior ranks. On the outsides looking in will be Kerby Rychel, Brendan Leipsic, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Josh Leivo and Kasperi Kapanen. In judging Mike Babcock’s talk and mindset, Hyman and Leivo are the most likely candidates to win reserve roles as they are available. On the blueline Nikita Zaitsev has been brought in with the intent of him playing in the NHL as soon as possible, but one cannot rule out the possibility that he get a quick ‘climatization’ in the AHL, an option that will be decided in the upcoming camp. Connor Carrick is also poised to be featured in an opportunity, currently the numbers do not work for him to break camp with the team, it is felt that he will be a featured as an organizational constant sooner than later.
It is surely an exciting time to not only be a fan of Toronto, but a fantasy GM that owns a couple of the pieces of this puzzle.
Prospect Depth Charts – based on fantasy upside potential
The high speed skilled Latvian lit up Quebeck Major Junior last year in his first attempt in North America posting over point per game. He should build upon last year’s production and build on his below average body to handle pro. Once he finds himself outside of junior, his translation of skills will decide how long it takes for him to see NHL action.
An organizational change and new opportunity was all that was needed for Carrick to thrust himself back into notoriety. Had a massive AHL playoff and showed stability in the NHL in his sampling. Well on the way to becoming a good mid-tier option on the blueline. Still needs to work on overall game but is fine enough that he is not a major liability.
It’s hard not to recognize a 45+ point production jump as a blueliner finding himself, so we won’t pass that chance up. His role in junior was obviously expanded to being a minute eating defender, but whats also noticeable is that he posted the 70 points along with 122 minutes in penalties meaning he spent significant time watching from the box. His small sampling of pro play has been solid sided by his large frame and reach. Has all the makings to be a very good pro defenseman.
How does a guy go from ECHL to NHL in a short period and be considered a faller? It’s easy, understand that he was thrust into a role he didn’t really deserve and was only the better of poor options. He survives as a decent lower tier stopper that is either really on or struggles, lucky for him he is usually good but that doesn’t equate to an NHL role. His highlight of 17 NHL appearances was his first, a rough looking shutout vs the lowly Edmonton Oilers. At no point did he look solid or like someone who could survive fulltime in the NHL.
He actually had a rather quality season in the AHL and made noise in the NHL during his small stint, but his inclusion here is based on the higher skill talent being acquired and developed in front of him pushing him down the depth chart. There is potential for him to be a lower line NHLer, but it is not likely in Toronto although he is in an attractive comfortable atmosphere for himself. His size is still unfortunately a downfall yet exciting to watch him play.
The hockey season of 2015-16 was not one for he memory bank for Vesey. His production in the NCAA was cut in half while his shots on net almost doubled. Vesey did not have a solid outlook to start with, but was given a chip and a chair in 2014 when drafted. It doesn’t help when you look like a bargaining chip alongside your father in an attempt to coax your high profile brother to sign with the organization, ven worse when it fails. Not expecting him to earn a contract offer when he tries to turn pro.
Top 10 Prospects – based on expectations and readiness