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Hockey Prospectus 2013... (09/12)

September 12, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
Toronto Maple Leafs

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Toronto Maple Leafs Top 10 Prospects

1. Morgan Rielly, Defense
2. Joe Colborne, Center
3. Frederik Gauthier, Center
4. Matt Finn, Defense
5. Stuart Percy, Defense
6. Josh Leivo, Left Wing
7. Tom Nilsson, Defense
8. Tyler Biggs, Right Wing
9. Jesse Blacker, Defense
10. Greg McKegg, Left Wing

Organizational Ranking: 24th

System Overview

The Leafs system is heavily anchored by Morgan Rielly, a true top-tier prospect. Overall, the system is notably deep, with NHL-level prospects like Korbinian Holzer, Brad Ross, Connor Brown, and Andrew MacWilliam not making Toronto's top 15. The Toronto system suffers, however, from having a single top-end prospect, and not being deep in quality prospects.

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1. Morgan Rielly, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 03/09/1994
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 205
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 12 G, 54 P (Moose Jaw, WHL)
Acquired: First round, fifth overall in 2012 by Toronto

Year in Review: Rielly was one of the top defensemen in the WHL, and he was named a top team All Star in his conference. He was also a top-four defenseman for Canada at the WJC.

The Good: Rielly has a lot of high-end skills, and he is the kind of "upside" prospect scouts can dream on. He is a plus to elite skater, with great puck skills and even better offensive hockey sense. His abilities off the rush or slowing the play down as a playmaker are top of the line, and they make him one of the best offensive defenseman prospects outside of the NHL.

The Bad: Rielly's defensive game is not bad, as he will flash moments of good reads and positioning, but that area of his game clearly still needs work, as he can still be the victim of defensive mistakes. He is slightly undersized as well, and his physical game projects as below average.

Projection: He could be an All-Star defenseman, with his value more geared towards the offensive side of the puck.

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2. Joe Colborne, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 01/30/1990
Age: 23
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 213
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 65 GP, 14 G, 48 P (Toronto, AHL)
Acquired: Trade from Boston, first round, 16th overall in 2008 by Boston

Year in Review: Colborne was up and down again last season, although he was good for extended stretches in the second half, and he earned some brief time with the Leafs.

The Good: Colborne is a high-end playmaker who can make very creative and difficult distributions. He excels on the power play when he can slow the game down, see his options, and work the puck around. Colborne has a solid to above-average skill level as well, and with his improving skating, he is solid for a big man, and pro average overall.

The Bad: Colborne is big, but he is not all that great in the physical game aside from protecting the puck. His consistency has been and remains his biggest issue. He is also not the best defensive forward, although his positioning is average.

Projection: He could be a second line forward, but he has above-average uncertainty.

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3. Frederik Gauthier, Center
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 04/26/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 214
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 62 GP, 22 G, 60 P (Rimouski, QMJHL)
Acquired: First round, 21st overall in 2013 by Toronto

Year in Review: In Gauthier's rookie QMJHL season, he took all the hard assignments for Rimouski, and was solid offensively.

The Good: Gauthier is a big, fast center with very good defensive skills. Considering his age and experience, he is uniquely advanced in his own end. Gauthier's positioning, awareness, and commitment to get back are impressive. He is an agile big man with good power in each pushoff, as well as a clean stride. Gauthier's offensive hockey sense is solid to above average, as he can make quality passes and get into the right spots. He protects the puck well and wins battles.

The Bad: Gauthier's puck skills are roughly average. He will not wow anyone with skill, and he will not be a primary offense creator. He also is not the meanest big guy, and he can let up a little bit in his battle effort.

Projection: He could be a second line center who logs tough defensive minutes.

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4. Matt Finn, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 02/24/1994
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 207
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, 11 G, 31 P (Guelph, OHL)
Acquired: Second round, 35th overall in 2012 by Toronto

Year in Review: Finn had a fine 18-year-old season. He suffered from mononucleosis, but performed well considering. His game did not take significant strides forward; he more or less held steady from the season before.

The Good: Finn is a really smart two-way player, with his value more geared towards his puck-moving skills, as he is a great passer. He is a calculating player on the backend, but he can make quick, efficient decisions with the puck, and he knows what to do in different situations. He is a good stick checker who can make defensive stops. He has above-average puck skills to go along with quality on-ice work ethic.

The Bad: Finn is a little small, although he made significant gains in strengths last season, something he should continue to do going forward. His skating earns divided opinions, as scouts like or dislike it, with more leaning towards the latter, hence why it is placed here in the "bad" category.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defenseman.

5. Stuart Percy, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 05/18/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 196
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 68 GP, 13 G, 45 P (Mississauga, OHL)
Acquired: First round, 25th overall in 2011 by Toronto

Year in Review: Percy had a fine last season in the OHL, but he has not taken a big step forward in his development. That still makes him a solid prospect. He was 11th in defensemen scoring in the OHL.

The Good: Percy is a very good two-way thinker. When you combine his hockey sense with a good level of physicality, he makes a lot of stops, and is very valuable in his own end. He makes the simple plays with the puck, although last year, he showed more creativity on the blueline, as well as when quarterbacking the power play.

The Bad: Percy's skating could be better, as while he does not struggle with his movements, his skating would not qualify as NHL average, either. His offensive upside is roughly average as well.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defenseman.

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6. Josh Leivo, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 05/26/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 191
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 65 GP, 29 G, 73 P (Sudbury/Kitchener, OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 86th overall in 2011 by Toronto

Year in Review: Leivo was decent when he was with Sudbury, but he saw his play really pick up following the trade to Kitchener, and into the OHL playoffs. He developed very well last season.

The Good: Leivo is a solid all-around player. He displays good hockey sense at both ends of the rink. On offense, he has above-average vision, decent to solid puck skills, and the instincts to create some offense. Leivo has a good top gear, works hard in battles, and has a fine strength level. He will also back check and bring decent defensive value.

The Bad: Leivo's main weakness may be a lack of clarity of what his role will be. He is not dynamic in any single regard, so it hard to know if he will be a scorer or a checker. His edge work could be a little better, and the same for his off-the-puck positioning.

Projection: He could be a second line winger.

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7. Tom Nilsson, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 08/19/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 42 GP, 1 G, 4 P (Mora, Allsvenskan)
Acquired: Fourth round, 100th overall in 2011 by Toronto

Year in Review: Nilsson's development continues to trend up. He was one of Sweden's top players last year at the U20 level, and he even got time with the senior national team.

The Good: Nilsson is a tough defensive defenseman, who despite average size, is a really good physical player. He lays out some huge hits, but also displays the strength to pin his checks and muscle forwards off the puck. He is a mobile player, with above-average four-way movements and enough speed to join the rush. Nilsson is a defensively-aware player who closes his gaps well and makes a lot of stops. His reads are impressive, especially for his age.

The Bad: Nilsson's offensive upside is fringe. He simply has never really produced offense, and he is not an impressive puck handler. He also has a tendency to try to overhit.

Projection: He could be a fringe second pairing/great third pairing defenseman.

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8. Tyler Biggs, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 10th
Date of birth: 04/30/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 224
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 60 GP, 27 G, 53 P (Oshawa, OHL)
Acquired: First round, 22nd overall in 2011 by Toronto

Year in Review: Biggs was solid after transferring to the OHL last season. He was a quality player for his OHL and WJC team, although he faded in the playoffs.

The Good: Biggs is a strong, aggressive winger with a high-end physical game. He pressures opponents well, he can protect the puck, win battles along the boards, and lay out some big time hits. Biggs's two-way hockey sense showed improvement. He displayed better vision than in past seasons to go along with good defensive awareness, especially on the penalty kill. He is an average skater with a good work ethic. Biggs's shot is above average to plus as well.

The Bad: Biggs's pure offensive upside is his big question mark, as he is not the most skilled or creative player with the puck. His first few steps could use work as well.

Projection: He could be a quality third line winger.

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9. Jesse Blacker, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 04/19/1991
Age: 22
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 61 GP, 4 G, 11 P (Toronto, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 58th overall in 2009 by Toronto

Year in Review: Blacker was quite inconsistent in his second pro season, although his play picked up in the second half.

The Good: Blacker is a high-end, if not better skater with tremendous first few step quickness and the ability to transition the puck through the neutral zone. Despite his low offensive numbers over last two seasons, Blacker has above-average skill, especially as a puck mover. He has a decent physical game, and he plays with good energy.

The Bad: Blacker's decision making has been his biggest issue over the last few years. He is an overly risky player at times, and even when he is not, he can make some poor reads. His overall defensive play ticked up in the last month or two, however.

Projection: He has second pairing tools, but with notable uncertainty on his projection.

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10. Greg McKegg, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 06/17/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 191
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 61 GP, 8 G, 23 P (Toronto, AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 62nd overall in 2010 by Toronto

Year in Review: McKegg went through some bumps in his rookie pro season, where he adjusted to a new and better league.

The Good: McKegg is a skilled offensive player with solid to above-average puck skills and offensive instincts. He has the natural talent to create offensive chances by himself and with his playmaking vision. McKegg's skating has notably improved to a pro level with a fine top gear.

The Bad: McKegg still has numerous areas to work on. He was behind the AHL pace last season, he still needs to gain strength, his defense needs work, and he is a below-average physical player.

Projection: He has fringe second line tools, but he is a ways away from that.

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The Next Five

11. Tony Camaranesi, Center: He is a little guy, but Camaranesi brings good speed, skill, and vision to the table. If he can handle the pro physical game, he has the tools to score.

12. Petter Granberg, Defense: Granberg is a big, physical defenseman who makes plays in his own end. His upside is limited to the third pairing, but with high probability.

13. Dominic Toninato, Center: Toninato skates well, has above-average offensive hockey sense, and grinds for the puck. He needs to work on his game off of the puck.

14. Carter Ashton, Right Wing: Ashton is a physical, big forward with good speed and a plus shot. His scoring and offensive instincts have not progressed as hoped.

15. Jerry D'Amigo, Left Wing: D'Amigo skates pretty well, works hard, and can kill penalties, but his offense is notably below average.

The Sleeper: Ryan Rupert, Center

Rupert has not lit up the score sheet yet, but he has significant skill to his game to go along with a nice, well-rounded tool kit despite his below-average size. He has the potential to fill a variety of roles.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2013 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Nazem Kadri, Center

2. Morgan Rielly, Defense
3. Joe Colborne, Center
4. Frederik Gauthier, Center
5. Matt Finn, Defense
6. Stuart Percy, Defense
7. Josh Leivo, Left Wing
8. Tom Nilsson, Defense
9. Tyler Biggs, Right Wing
10. Jesse Blacker, Defense

Kadri had a breakout season, and even though he rode some high percentages, he still played very well. He is a very talented playmaker who has continued to develop well over the last few seasons. It is quite possible that, with top line ice time, he could be a top-30 player in the NHL this season.

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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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/18)
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