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August 23, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
Toronto Maple Leafs

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Toronto Maple Leafs Top 10 Prospects

1. Joe Colborne, Center
2. Jake Gardiner, Defense
3. Jesse Blacker, Defense
4. Greg McKegg, Center
5. Stuart Percy, Defense*
6. Marcel Mueller, Left Wing
7. Jerry D'Amigo, Left Wing
8. Matt Frattin, Right Wing
9. Brad Ross, Left Wing
10. Sondre Olden, Left Wing

*Ranking Explanation: Percy is a player I've gotten overwhelmingly positive reports on since I did my draft preview and thus I've rated him much higher than I would have months ago.

Organizational Ranking: 11th

System Overview: Through several key trades, and many quality picks beyond the first round, the Leafs have built an above-average system that should churn out several quality, although not star players over the next few seasons. Joe Colborne is a true top prospect and Jake Gardiner is a well above-average one, but after that, the rest of the system lacks any real names to get excited about, but the depth in this system is excellent.

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1. Joe Colborne, Center
Date of birth: 01/30/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 213
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 77 GP, 20 G, 42 P (Providence/Toronto-AHL)
Acquired: Trade from Boston; drafted first round, 16th overall in 2008 by Boston

The Good: Colborne is a very skilled all-around player. He's a solid to above-average skater who's well above-average for a 6'5" forward. He has a fluid stride that lets him accelerate pretty effortlessly and gets to a desirable top speed. He's very agile for his size and displays good shiftiness from a standstill. Colborne thinks the game at a plus level, with tremendous vision and instincts. Sources call Colborne a very imaginative playmaker who makes plays through the tightest of seams that most players don't try to attempt. He can handle the puck at an above-average level and he's pretty coordinated with the puck for his size. Colborne is a plus shooter who can dial it up well and can score from just about anywhere in the offensive zone, although he has a pass-first mentality and doesn't use that weapon as much as he should. He has a massive frame and can bulldoze through opponents when he chooses to exert himself physically.

The Bad: Colborne's main weakness has always been questions about his physical game. His game has a bit of a quiet, lazy look to it and his physical effort is inconsistent. He's not a non-existent physical player, as he will at times go along the wall and to the front of the net and will look dominant when doing so, and then other times he will simply be a spectator from the sideboards.

Projection: An average to below-average first line center who safely projects as an above-average second line center.

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2. Jake Gardiner, Defense
Date of birth: 07/04/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 184
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, 10 G, 41 P (University of Wisconsin-WCHA)
Acquired: Trade from Anaheim; drafted first round, 17th overall in 2008 by Anaheim

The Good: Gardiner is a plus skater when moving in a straight line as he extends well through his push-offs and can go blueline to blueline seamlessly. In several viewings this year, whenever he got going with a full head of steam, opposing players very rarely got a hand on him before he entered the zone. There are very few prospects who are better are entering the offensive zone or leading a rush from their own end. His puck-handling skills are above-average and he's very good at controlling a power play. He regularly displays impressive vision with the puck and can show solid puck-moving skills.

The Bad: Gardiner needs a little work his decision-making process and overall hockey sense, be it with poor defensive awareness such as his gap control or being too risky on offense. His physical game has long been a point of issue, and while it's not pro-average yet, Jake has clearly been attempting to become a better player along the walls, but that area could still use quite a bit of attention.

Projection: He has above-average second pairing defender upside, and safely projects as an average second pairing defender.

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3. Jesse Blacker, Defense
Date of birth: 04/19/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 62 GP, 10 G, 54 P (Owen Sound-OHL)
Acquired: Second round, 58th overall in 2009 by Toronto

The Good: Blacker is an above-average to plus skater with an excellent top speed. He has the ability to regularly rush the puck out of his zone, enter the offensive zone, and put opponents on their heels. He's a fluid four-way mover with a good first step and he can recover very well and be the first man back after attacking in the offensive zone. He handles the puck at an above-average level, with one NHL scout praising his ability to control a power play with his puck abilities and the great shot he couples with it. Blacker likes to take part in the physical game, regularly throwing his weight around and he gets a ton of praise within the industry for that aspect of his game.

The Bad: Blacker's hockey sense and decision-making have made some notable improvements since his draft year, but those areas could still use some attention as one NHL scout described Blacker as a player who suffers from "brain cramps" in regards to his over-aggressiveness offensively or going too far out of his way to land a big hit. Consistency has also been an issue with Blacker, as one source said there were nights Blacker looked like an elite defensive prospect, and then at other times he looked middling.

Projection: He has above-average second pairing upside, but may end up a below-average second to above-average third pairing defender.

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4. Greg McKegg, Center
Date of birth: 06/17/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 66 GP, 49 G, 92 P (Erie-OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 62nd overall in 2010 by Toronto

The Good: McKegg has a solid offensive skill set without a dynamic element but as one NHL scout sees it, "he'll never be the main factor on the ice, but he'll be a heck of a complement." He's an above-average passer who reads the play well and consistently makes the right decisions. McKegg has solid puck-handling abilities and can certainly make things happen in that area, but his main puck asset is his protection abilities. He's a pain in the rear to get the puck from and is very effective when it comes to the cycle game at even strength. McKegg has a good work ethic and will consistently attack the high percentage areas. He has an above-average shot that can score from beyond the blue paint, but makes more of a living from within a few feet of the net. He can play all the forward positions, but NHL sources say he's a winger at the highest level.

The Bad: McKegg's skating is fringe to below-average, as his stride isn't that refined and lacks the acceleration and overall fluidity to really threaten. He still needs to add a fair amount of strength to be able to play his style of game effectively at the pro level.

Projection: He has average second line forward upside and safely projects as a below-average second to above-average third line forward.

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5. Stuart Percy, Defense
Date of birth: 05/18/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 186
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 64 GP, 4 G, 33 P (Mississauga-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 25th overall in 2011 by Toronto

The Good: Percy consistently makes the outlet passes on the mark, and on the power play, he moved the puck around cautiously but effectively and flashes the ability to be an above-average distributor. He has a decent shot, and while he won't be scoring goals at a regular rate, it had enough velocity to bounce hard off a goalie's pads. Percy's physical game projects as pro-level and has a good chance to be above-average. His frame already has a fair amount of muscle mass on it and he's very good in the physical areas, going toe to toe with even the strongest CHL forwards and standing his ground. Percy's best tool is his hockey sense and it grades as above-average. His defensive game is very sound, from his gap control to his in-zone positioning and his play in traffic. When he brings the puck up, his decisions are very sound and he very rarely turns the puck over. He's the prototypical defender of a low-ceiling back-end guy who keeps the possession game going in the right direction.

The Bad: The only aspect of his game that will really hold Percy back is his skating, as he moves at a fringe to below-average level and when he's consistently facing pro-level skaters, he will need to back off his gaps much more. He's not much of a puck-handler either and his hands would grade as fringe.

Projection: Average second pairing defender upside, and safely projects as a below-average second to above-average third pairing defender.

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6. Marcel Mueller, Left Wing
Date of birth: 07/10/1988
Age: 23
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 232
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 58 GP, 14 G, 33 P (Toronto-AHL)
Acquired: Undrafted free agent

The Good: Mueller is an above-average skater for his size who doesn't really have a dangerous top gear, but moves pretty fluidly and considering his size he gets out of the gate very well. He has average puck skills, and while he's not an overly flashy player, he can handle the puck and show some decent moves here or there, while also excelling as a puck protector. Mueller projects as a plus physical player, as he has a big frame that he uses well on the cycle, and he does go to the high percentage areas consistently.

The Bad: Mueller had an adjustment period coming to the smaller ice surfaces and North American pro hockey and had a hard time initially with making decisions at the high speed of the AHL game, but as the year went on, he showed notable improvement in that area. He lacks any sort of true above-average offensive tool and likely will be the kind of player who relies on others to be the starting point on offense.

Projection: A below-average second to above-average third line forward who safely projects onto a top nine.

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7. Jerry D'Amigo, Left Wing
Date of birth: 02/19/1991
Age: 20
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 213
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 43 GP, 5 G, 15 P (Toronto-AHL), 21 GP, 12 G, 28 P (Kitchener-OHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 158th overall in 2009 by Toronto

The Good: D'Amigo is a hard working forward who really gives it his all at both ends of the rink. He's a pain to deal with when it comes to puck battles along the boards and he does everything he can on the backcheck to disturb opposing attacks and regularly breaks up rushes. His strength is above-average for where a player his age usually is, and it's not hard to see him as an average pro physical player at the very least. D'Amigo has solid hands with the ability to create plays in tight and in open ice. His shot is solid-average as well and while there's some projection there, his goal-scoring is going to come more from his work ethic and anticipation in the high percentage areas.

The Bad: There are questions about D'Amigo's ultimate upside, as one NHL scout called him a support player at best, with another scout saying he has another level, but he's a little too conservative at times in how he attacks the defense with his skills. His skating is sub-par, as it looks below-average on a good day and it might touch fringe-average in a straight line. His conditioning needs work as well.

Projection: A below-average second to above-average third line forward who safely projects onto a top nine.

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8. Matt Frattin, Right Wing
Date of birth: 01/03/1988
Age: 23
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 207
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 44 GP, 36 G, 60 P (University of North Dakota-WCHA)
Acquired: Fourth round, 99th overall in 2007 by Toronto

The Good: Frattin had a tremendous breakout campaign in his senior season that ended up with him obtaining WCHA Player of the Year honors. He has deceivingly solid hands in that he won't dangle with the puck left and right, but Frattin does have the skills to make people miss on occasion and he's certainly not a liability with the puck. He has to the ability to be a decent distributor, and when manning the point on the power play, he displays the ability to move the puck around just fine. However, on the power play, his main weapon is certainly his shot, as his wrist and slap shots are both above-average to plus weapons that can score from way out. He protects the puck well and is a pain to deal with in the corners or along the wall when his team is controlling the puck on the cycle. Frattin works pretty hard and will dig for the puck in the corners and go to the front of the net. He's also a pretty decent defensive forward, who can be a fine contributor on the penalty kill with good stick-work and defensive awareness.

The Bad: Frattin just plain can't skate. He's a fringe mover with a heavy first step and can get to below-average when he gets going in full stride, but overall, his movement ability is underwhelming.

Projection: An average third line forward who can spot on a second line power play due to his scoring ability and likely can find some role on a bottom six.

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9. Brad Ross, Left Wing
Date of birth: 05/28/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 175
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 67 GP, 31 G, 69 P (Portland-WHL)
Acquired: Second round, 43rd overall in 2010 by Toronto

The Good: Ross is a top-end agitating forward with some offensive skills. His bread and butter is his physical game, which projects as above-average to plus; he is a very physical player who throws his weight around every shift, is extremely annoying for opponents to deal with on the forecheck, and likes to get under the opposition's skin. In several viewings this year, he showed skills that I had not seen the previous season; Ross showed the ability to be a surprisingly solid passer, even at times displaying a bit of flash. He's a very hard-working player in the defensive end who will put someone through the wall on the forecheck and then will motor to try and be the first forward back in his zone.

The Bad: Ross lacks offensive instincts, as he will regularly force plays that aren't there and likely doesn't project to be anything beyond an average offensive creator, if that. His skating is fair, but a lot of his skating output comes from his work ethic more than a natural top speed or acceleration factor that truly stands out. Ross has a fair amount of bulking up to do to maintain his physical effectiveness at the next level.

Projection: An above-average third line forward at best, who at least safely projects onto a bottom six.

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10. Sondre Olden, Left Wing
Date of birth: 08/29/1992
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 33 GP, 7 G, 22 P (MODO- J20 SuperElit)
Acquired: Third round, 79th overall in 2010 by Toronto

The Good: Olden is a decent skater with solid speed considering his size. He has above-average abilities with the puck for a big man, as he can handle it fine in open ice, using his frame and long reach to keep the puck away from attacking defenders and can be somewhat of a pain to check when he turns his back. He has an above-average shot that snaps off his stick quickly and can show impressive accuracy. Olden attacks the physical areas of the ice consistently and has plus projection in that aspect of his game once he fills out.

The Bad: Olden is raw as heck and has a long ways to go in his development. His game-processing is not up to the speed it has to be and his overall understanding of the pace and flow of a high-end level hockey game is going to be the major weakness he'll need to overcome. He has a ton of physical development left as he's quite gangly in his tall frame. Olden can also look a little awkward with his movements and could use some attention to his first few steps.

Projection: He has below-average second line forward upside, and there's also a decent chance he never becomes a league regular.

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The Sleeper: The Leafs seventh round pick from the 2011 draft, Max Everson, has huge sleeper potential. In limited viewings this season, I was very impressed by his puck-moving skills, sense and overall possession game, and he could be a big breakout candidate next year at Harvard University.

Extra Notes: Defenseman Korbinian Holzer was right off the top ten. His hockey sense is solid and he plays a fine, safe game in his own end, but there's not a lot of offensive-half possession tools to his game as his puck-moving and overall offensive skill set is quite underwhelming.

My report on Tyler Biggs can be found here.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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