Here’s the second part of my report on Leafs prospects. This time I’ll be looking at the players drafted in the 2012 draft. I won’t be writing about Morgan Rielly, as he is an NHL player, at least for now. But I will be looking at all the guys still toiling in the minor leagues: Matt Finn, Dominic Toninato, Connor Brown, Ryan Rupert and Viktor Loov.
Matt Finn was a projected first-round pick in 2012, but fell to the second round with the Leafs snatching up the defender at 35th overall. Finn is an Etobicoke native and a lifelong Leafs fan, with family ties to the organization. He is the cousin of former Leafs first-round pick and injury reservist Carlo Colaiacavo. Finn is known for his leadership qualities, as he is in his second season as captain, and was an alternate captain in his draft year. Finn has started the season well, posting 10 points in 10 games on Guelph’s top pairing. He also leads defensemen on his team in plus/minus with a rating of plus-10. Finn’s strengths are his hockey IQ and two-way ability, which are said to be very high-end. Many people have brought up that Finn has injury “troubles”, but I disagree. It’s not uncommon for young men still growing into their bodies to miss a few games to the various bumps and bruises of a hockey season, and Finn’s only long-term stay on injured reserve was from a bout with mononucleosis, rather than an injury which is likely to reoccur. All in all, I think he’s a very good prospect for the Leafs to have, could be a top-four guy within the next few years.
Toninato is one of the many NCAA players in the Toronto Maple Leafs system. He was drafted out of the Minnesota high school league, and moved up to the USHL where he played for the Fargo Force. He helped the Force win a championship, leading the team in scoring with 70 points In 67 games, good for eighth in the league. For reference, the USHL is comparable in calibre of play to the BCHL, but with a more defensive and physical style. Now, Toninato plays for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is just four games into the season, and has registered one assist and no goals, with 17 minutes in penalties. Toninato is a three-zone centre who plays on both the power play and penalty kill. He has some bulking up to do to be a good two-way centre in the NHL, as he’s only listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds.
One of the most intriguing prospects in the organization, Brown is a Toronto native who plays for the Erie Otters of the OHL. He gained some recognition in his draft year for posting a minus-72 rating over the course of the season. Erie was 10-52-0-6 on the season, so Brown’s dreadful plus/minus is somewhat understandable. Brown is a smaller, skilled forward who has great offensive instincts but is said to be a work in progress as far as skating and defense go. Brown has been something of a mentor for projected first-overall pick Connor McDavid, the two have played together since McDavid began his rookie season. Further showing his leadership role, he has been Erie’s captain for the past two seasons. Right now, Brown is in the midst of a fantastic season with Erie. Playing alongside Connor McDavid and Washington Capitals first-round pick Andre Burakovsky, Brown has put up 29 points in just 12 game, good for the league lead. Is this a sign of great things for Brown or simply an older player dominating younger opposition? Only time will tell, when he (like with most underage prospects) gets a look with the Marlies after the junior season we should get our first real look at what Brown will be able to do as a pro.
Rupert plays centre for the London Knights, alongside brother Matt, who has been invited to two Leafs training camps as well. Ryan is a feisty, shift-disturbing player. Just 5-foot-9, Rupert is known for playing an agitator’s style, drawing comparisons to Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher. Honestly, I’m not as enthused with Rupert as many are, as I don’t think he’s skilled enough to overcome his size. Hopefully he proves me wrong, but the road to the NHL for an undersized bottom-six player is a hard one.
Loov is one of a handful of late-round Swedish defense prospects in the Leafs’ system, alongside Petter Granberg and Tom Nilsson. Loov is often compared to Carl Gunnarsson; whether this is because they actually play similar styles or because Gunnarsson is the only Swedish defenseman the Leafs have to compare Loov to is yet to be seen. Loov is said to be a strong two-way defenseman with good size, attitude and a mean streak. He’s a big hitter, and has received a few match penalties for charging and hits to the head. Loov is under contract with Modo of the Swedish league for the next couple seasons, so it should be a while before we see Loov in the blue and white.