The Toronto Maple Leafs future looks a lot brighter than it did a few years ago. The cupboards have been restocked. The top prospects could actually be difference-makers in the NHL.
During the John Ferguson Jr. era, prospects were chips to be traded. They were simply thrown away seemingly at random. As a result, the Leafs suffered even after he was fired because of the lack of quality prospects.
Brian Burke went out of his way to change that. Aside from the Phil Kessel trade, Burke was not afraid to make trades where the Leafs were getting the younger, unproven player in the deal. He also added draft picks whenever he could. Dave Nonis has continued that tradition.
Thanks to the Leafs’ amateur scouting staff, led by Dave Morrison, the Leafs have more than a few prospects that should be big parts of the Leafs in the next few years.
Here’s a look at the Leafs’ top prospects at every position:
Garret Sparks, Toronto Marlies
While still more than few years from challenging for a job with the Leafs, Sparks is the top goaltending prospect in the Leafs’ organization. Currently the backup to Drew MacIntyre with the Marlies of the AHL, he is still adjusting to the pro game.
As the backup to John Gibson at last year’s World Juniors, he does have the potential to play for the Leafs one day. Whether that’s as a starter or backup remains to be seen.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Alright, technically Rielly isn’t a prospect since he’s already with the Leafs, but he is Toronto’s best young defenseman. In the games he’s played this season, Rielly’s shown why the Leafs took him fifth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Sure, he’s made his mistakes, but that’s to be expected out of a defenseman in his first NHL season.
Stuart Percy, Toronto Marlies
After being drafted 25th overall in 2011, Percy has slowly worked his way up the proverbial ladder to become a full-time member of the Marlies. As the former captain of the Missassauga Steelheads, Percy has obvious leadership potential and could be a defensive stalwart.
Matt Finn, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Finn is still a long ways away from wearing a Leaf uniform in the regular season as his development was stunted last year because of a leg injury and a bout of mono. However, Finn is a first-round talent that somehow fell into the second round for the Leafs to take him in the 2012 Draft. Another captain, Finn will bring even more leadership to the Leafs if he can get over his injury problems.
Peter Holland, Toronto Maple Leafs
Currently with the Leafs after being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, I have a strong feeling that Holland will be sent down when Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak returns. Holland has very good offensive instincts and could be a very big part of the Leafs’ lineup for years to come.
Josh Leivo, Toronto Marlies
Leivo was a surprise pick in the third round of the 2011 Draft. Since then, he has become one of the best offensive prospects in the Leafs’ system. Drawing comparisons from some to Joffrey Lupul, Leivo gained some valuable NHL experience to start the season when the Leafs suffered some injuries.
Tyler Biggs, Toronto Marlies
The Leafs traded up to draft Tyler Biggs at 22nd overall in 2011. A power forward in the Milan Lucic-mold, if Biggs can be for Toronto what Lucic is for Boston, the Leafs could have a winner. If there is a spot open next season, Biggs will challenge for it.
Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
The Leafs first-round pick (21st overall) in this year’s draft, Gauthier is the big centreman the Leafs have been waiting for. While he might not be the most offensive player, he has the defensive side of the game down and is pretty good on faceoffs.