30 Grades After 30 Games: Checking Forwards + Prospects


Moving on from the “top-six” forwards on the Leafs, today we’ll look at the so-called checking lines and prospects that have chipped in for the Buds this season.

Colby Armstrong – Another fresh returnee from the injured reserve, Armstrong is one of those players that brings all sorts of intangibles to the lineup, aside from his obvious contributions on the ice. He’s only played 7 games so far, so it’s not really fair to grade his performance. Grade: Incomplete

Matthew Lombardi – Another forward whose performance has been difficult to assess so far, Lombardi’s contributions were completely unexpected. Before an injury that has kept him out indefinitely, he had utilized his speed to perform well in both penalty killing and checking line roles. Can’t really say I ever had many complaints about his play, but was never blown away by it either.Grade: C+

Dave Steckel – For someone who wasn’t even on the team during the offseason, Steckel has had a sizable impact on the Leafs’ fortunes this year. He’s been the best Leaf in the faceoff dot, and ranks 6th in the league with a 57.1% success rate. He’s contributed on the PK, where he’s got a 55.1% success rate on faceoffs, and even chipped in a bit of offense here and there. Not bad for a last minute addition. Grade: B+

Philippe Dupuis – Maybe one of the most criticized Leafs this year, Dupuis has even drawn some ghastly comparisons to the fondly-remembered Rickard Wallin. However, what people don’t see when they refuse to look past his zero points, is the fact that he’s been probably the Leafs’ best penalty killer, when you actually break down the advanced statistics. Look, I swear. He wasn’t brought in to contribute offense, and while the PK hasn’t been much better with him, the blame for that may indeed lie on other shoulders. Grade: C

Colton Orr – 4 games, 1 goal, 1 fight. That’s Orr’s stat line so far. He’s been made almost irrelevant this season and I don’t see him being part of the future plans. Grade: Incomplete

Jay Rosehill – The man who’s made Orr irrelevant is bigger, faster, and seems like he can actually do more than just fight. Unfortunately for his opponents, he does fight, extremely well, when he can find someone willing to tangle with. He’s only got 14 games played so far, but when he’s on the ice, he’s more than wasted space. Grade: C+

Mike Brown – The man, the mustache, the legend. Brown has 31 penalty minutes in just 18 games, but an unfortunate injury has hampered him so far this season. He’s a serious shot of energy any time he’s on the ice, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Leaf fan that doesn’t want to see him healthy and back causing a ruckus on the ice. He hits, he’s got surprising speed, and he has the ability to create a little offense every now and then. Grade: B- (due to injury)

Joey Crabb – His dumb penalties the other night against New Jersey aside, Crabb has been a great fill-in whenever anyone’s been hurt since as far back as last year, and that didn’t change this season. He was tearing it up in the AHL before getting the call-up, and he came on to the big club with plenty of confidence. He’s got 5 goals and 8 points in 19 games, and he’s not being forced to play a top-six role as he inexplicably was last season. He does all the little things, a product of having a player who’s always playing for his professional life. If he keeps it up, he might not have to live life on the edge much longer, since he’s doing a damn good job of making it hard for management to send him back down. Grade: A-

Matt Frattin – A beneficiary of the rash of injuries that the Leafs have suffered this season, Frattin took awhile to start truly producing offensively, but has started to look more and more at home with each passing game. He has clearly benefited from the extra time spent at the NCAA level, as he stacks up much better physically against the grown men at the NHL level than most other rookies. While I’d project him eventually as a capable top-six forward, he’ll be able to carve himself out a 3rd line role if he keeps sticking to the basics.Grade: B-

Joe Colborne – Pressed into duty earlier than Burke would have liked, Colborne showed flashes of brilliance during the 9 games he’s played with the Leafs. He’s definitely got legitimate talent, and will be a star with this club one day. For now, though, he looks a bit out of place with a not-so-filled-out frame, although he’s been absolutely ripping things up in the AHL. Grade: B- (with the Leafs), A (with the Marlies)

Nazem Kadri – While an injury limited him early in the season, Kadri has been turning heads of late with his play on the Marlies, leading the club with 14 assists and 22 points in just 19 games. He still hasn’t been able to turn that success into NHL results, with just 1 assist through 3 games this season. I’d expect him to get another shot with the Leafs shortly, and he’ll be expected to make the most of it. Grade: Incomplete (with the Leafs), A (with the Marlies)