The Toronto Maple Leafs have a pretty decent prospects system, all things considered.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team built through success at the top of the draft. Starting with Morgan Rielly at 5th overall in 2012 and then continuing with William Nylander at 8th, Marner at 4th and Matthews first overall, the Leafs have an impressive homegrown core.
Given that the Leafs not only picked high for years, and are now regularly making the playoffs and drafting lower, its impressive how good their system is. Especially if you consider that Mark Hunter more or less completely punted two drafts in a row in 2016 and 2017.
That isn’t to say their system is great, but all things considered, they are doing alright. In researching the Leafs system for the upcoming update to our bi-annual Top 10 Prospects List, I was struck by the high-end talent at the top of the pool.
They may not sure things, but three of the Leafs top four prospects project as possible star players, while the fourth, Timothy Liljegren, has a pretty high ceiling himself, even if there seems to be a lower chance of him actually hitting it.
Toronto Maple Leafs Top Four Prospects
To me what struck me when coming up with the new top 10, was how good the Leafs will be if the all, or even some, of their current top four prospects become stars.
Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson, Rodion Amirov and Timothy Liljegren are all likely to become NHL regulars. Nick Robertson probably has the highest ceiling because he’s a goal scoring maniac who already has a lethal NHL quality shot and will for sure thrive on an NHL powerplay if nothing else. He doesn’t have to become a 50 goal superstar for the Leafs to thrive, but if he someone turns the Big Three into the Big Four then look out.
The same goes with Rasmus Sandin. If the Leafs were still rebuilding, they’d probably sink or swim with him as a top pairing option right now. He already burned a year of his ELC and he’s too good for the AHL, so all that’s left for him is to force the Leafs to play him.
He’ll be in tough this year vs several good options, but the question with Sandin shouldn’t be “will he be in the lineup” but rather “will this be the year he makes Jake Muzzin into the best third pairing defenseman in the NHL?”
Sandin isn’t a lock for the Leafs on opening night, but between him and Lehtonen I can’t see Bogosian or Dermott getting much ice time.
We now we won’t see Amirov this year, and maybe not for a few years. We don’t know anything about Liljegren’s chances, really, except that he’s one of the best players in the AHL, and that that bodes extremely well for his future as an NHL defenseman.
If one of the these guys breaks out this year, even the Leafs biggest critics (i.e their own fans) will have to admit the team is actually, like, kinda sorta, you know, good.
Whether its this year or not, if two, three or even four of these guys hits and ends up being an NHL star, then considering the Leafs already have three 24 or younger superstars ,they will be all but unstoppable.