Maple Leafs Prospect Report: The Right (Wing) Way To Rebuild


Every Tuesday throughout the NHL season we will be updating you on the development, potential and realistic expectations for key Toronto Maple Leafs prospects with up-to-date stats, analysis and scouting reports.

It is looking more and more likely that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to finally tear down this version of the team. With Phil Kessel’s name increasingly popping up as on the move and David Clarkson being a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.

Let’s take a look at the Leafs depth at right wing in their prospect pool, and if anyone looks capable of stepping into a Leafs jersey anytime soon. lists the Leafs top Right Wing prospects as:

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*Honourable mention to William Nylander who will probably end up in the NHL as a Right Winger, but for now is being developed as a center.

Tyler Biggs – RW/C – AHL – Toronto Marlies

Tyler Biggs is probably one of Toronto’s more controversial picks (1st round, 22nd overall in 2011), as the big hulking winger as of yet, has not shown the ability to produce offensively consistently. This can be a pretty common occurrence for power forwards, as they continue to grow into their hulking frames and figure out how to use their bodies effectively.

Used in a  defensive checking role almost exclusively with the Marlies, he’s only managed 2 goals and 4 points in 37 games this season and only had 7 goals and 9 points in 57 games last season. To say he has disappointed so far would be an understatement – even if the Leafs and Marlies have never set him up for success by giving him lots of offensive zone time or the odd power play shift.

His skating has massively improved under Barb Underhill and his defensive game is actually pretty good. The Leafs didn’t draft him to be a defensive specialist however, they drafted him to score.

Upside: 3rd Line Scoring Power Forward / NHL Ready: 2015-2016

J.J. Piccinich – RW – NCAA – Boston University Terriers

In a lot of ways, Piccinich is very similar to one of the Leafs best players right now – Mike Santorelli (notice how I didn’t say Kessel?). Drafted in the 4th round last season, Piccinich plays a fast, responsible two-way game without a lot of flash.

He loves driving to the net and digging for pucks along the boards. He has had a very hard time cracking a very deep BU lineup – competing with the likes of potential No.1 overall pick Jack Eichel for ice time – only playing in 19 games and scoring 2 points.

Piccinich has all the tools to make a versatile two-way forward that can play on your 2nd or 3rd lines, but will need a few more years of seasoning in the NCAA before he’s ready to make any kind of professional impact.

Upside: 2nd Line Two-Way Forward / NHL Ready: 2018-2019

Fabrice Herzog – RW – Swiss A – Zug

Drafted in the 5th round back in 2013, Fabrice Herzog didn’t attend training camp with the Leafs as he still hasn’t been signed to an ELC. The Leafs have until this June to sign him or he becomes a UFA.

Putting that aside, Herzog is an immensely talented – but very raw – prospect who excels at goal scoring but hasn’t really figured out how to use his size to his advantage yet. Standing at 6’1” Herzog is still growing into his frame at only 167 lbs.

His offensive positioning needs improvement and he hasn’t really figured out how to play in tight spaces or in front of the net but the puck just seems to find Fabrice and he just seems to find the back of the net. He has 6 goals and 8 points in 37 games playing in a mostly bottom 6 role for the very deep Zug team.

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Long term, Herzog has all the talent and potential to be a very good 20+ goal scorer in a top 6 role for the Leafs. We’ll have to wait and see if he is signed by the end of the season to really find out.

Upside: 2nd Line 20+ Goal Scorer / NHL Ready: 2017-2018

Andreas Johnson – RW – SHL – Frolunda HC

The reigning SHL rookie of the year is looking to be a Detroit style diamond in the rough pick for the Leafs, which was in the 7th round back in the 2013 draft. What Johnson lacks in size he makes up for in speed and natural goal scoring ability.

He has great vision, makes crisp passes and his stick handling is made all the more dangerous by the high speeds in which he can keep control of the puck. Like Herzog, Johnson also passed up on the Leafs training camp this year to play with his Frolunda HC team in the Champions League cup, scoring a ridiculous 17 points in 5 round robin games and then 4 points in 2 playoff games.

He will also become a UFA if not signed to an ELC by this June’s draft. Johnson’s lack of physical play has prompted speculation that his game will not translate to the North American game style, but his tenacity and penchant for raising his game to the challenge at hand leave little doubt that at worst, he can become a Matts Zuccarello type of player.

Upside: Top 6 20+ Goal 60+ Clutch Scorer / NHL Ready: 2016-2017

Connor Brown – RW – AHL – Toronto Marlies

Another gem for the Leafs scouting staff, Connor Brown was drafted in the 6th round back in 2012 and proceeded to explode last year to lead the OHL with 128 points in only 68 games with the Erie Otters of the OHL. Many of his detractors said he only scored so well because he was riding shot gun with future superstar Connor McDavid.

In fact, he spent more than half the season not playing on McDavid’s line, in order to spread out the Otters offense. He has picked right back up where he left off in his rookie season in the AHL, leading the Marlies in scoring with 34 points in 46 games. breaks down Brown’s game as:

"“Brown is a highly-skilled, small forward who has a grit to his game and plays with heart, determination, and an unmatched work ethic. He has a knack for scoring goals, but also has strong vision that allows him to set-up up teammates for offensive chances.”"

It was thought that the defensive zone was going to be a big weakness for Brown but he has dedicated himself to becoming a better two-way forward and his work ethic has made his defensive play a strength. His skating will need to continue to improve if he is too translate his scoring prowess to the NHL but as he currently stands he will at least be a very good 3rd line forward, with the potential to be more.

Upside: Top 6 Two-Way Forward and Special Teams Ace / NHL Ready: 2016-2017

Next week we’ll continue breaking down some of the lesser known prospects in the pipeline but also hit on some of the “flashier” names.

As always, feel free to comment below as you can never have too many conversations about hockey in a day.

Next: Toronto Marlies Report