September 05 2013 08:03AM
When I saw Josh Leivo come in at #7, I was pretty shocked. I had ranked him #2 overall, and #1 among Leafs forward prospects.
I still remember when Leivo was drafted in 2011. The Leafs picked him in the 3rd round, 86th overall, and the kid wasn't even ranked by NHL Central Scouting. He had a modest 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in 64 games in his draft year with Sudbury, but a strong second-half probably caught the Leafs' attention.
How strong was that second half in 2010-11? After scoring just 8 points through his first 34 games that season, Leivo scored 22 of his 30 points in the final 30 games. That’s a pace of 47 points over 64 games if Leivo had been performing at that click all season long. Combining that with Leivo’s explosion in the playoffs that season when he notched 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points in just 8 playoff games that spring, and looking at some of the other OHL forwards picked in the 3rd round in 2011, Leivo was worth a shot.
Yeah, yeah, Steve. That was 2011. What about after that?
Since then, Leivo has gone from an unknown, to a very respectable junior scorer. He scored 61 goals, 85 assists, and 146 points in two seasons split between the Sudbury Wolves and Kitchener Rangers. He's only played 8 AHL games (5 regular season, 3 playoffs) where he registered 3 assists, but I can't wait to see Leivo become a full-time pro.
He's going to be a very big boy soon. He was drafted at 6’1” and just 178 lbs, but the Toronto Marlies website lists him at 6'2" and 195 lbs. In fact, in this National Post write-up by Michael Traikos comparing Leivo to Joffrey Lupul has Leivo weighing 198 lbs. By this time next year, or maybe even before the 2013-14 season begins at this point, it's reasonable to assume he'll be at or over 200 lbs.
With all the fuss about Leivo’s growth spurt, there’s much more to him, which is why the Leafs drafted him in the first place.
“ He is one of the best players I’ve seen at improvising on the ice on the powerplay, in tight, or one-on-one,” explained Leivo’s Kitchener teammate Ben Fanelli. “He is so creative and gifted. In tight times this year I was like ‘What? How does he still have the puck?’”
“He’s one of those guys that you ask any of his past teammates and they’ll say they loved him.”
Something that could greatly benefit Leivo this upcoming season, or at least to start it, is he has a familiar face behind the bench. Former Kitchener Rangers head coach Steve Spott is the new bench boss for the Toronto Marlies. Spott will have an idea of Leivo’s strengths and weaknesses, and more so than many of his teammates, Leivo will have an idea of what Spott expects of him.
I'm not sure who Tyler Biggs will end up being as a pro. Frederik Gauthier has shown promise since getting drafted, but who knows what the Leafs have there either. To me, Josh Leivo is the Leafs' best prospect up front.
Previously on TLN Prospects...