January 20 2014 07:47AM
(Photo: www.orlandosolarbears.com )
In most cases, being an “honourable mention” is not much to be proud of. Not the case when it comes to our Top 20 Leafs Prospect Midterm Rankings - at least these guys all showed up on someone’s top twenty list! There’s a number of prospects who didn’t, and they brought great shame upon their families. Out of respect, we won’t publish those names.
You have to imagine that the men who oversaw the Leafs’ 2010 draft expected bigger things out of Brad Ross. A key player on a powerhouse Portland Winterhawks team, Ross was thought of as a future chippy, fan-favourite in the mould of Darcy Tucker or Steve Ott or some other guy who put up twice as many PIMS than points. It hasn’t gone that way so far.
Ross has dropped from 14th on our preseason list to right out of the top twenty. While seeing regular action with the Marlies this season, Ross has contributed only five points in 29 games. At 21 years old, Ross is far from a lost cause, but he’d do best to quickly differentiate himself from plenty of other bottom-six-destined prospects in the system.
Since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL entry draft, Nilsson has climbed steadily through the Swedish hockey ranks. That’s to say, we haven’t been able to see Nilsson play all that much besides in six games at last year’s IIHF World Junior Championship. After spending several years working his way up the Mora Ishockeyklubb* system, Nilsson was loaned by the Leafs to Frolunda HC (playing alongside fellow Leafs prospect Andreas Johnson) for the duration of the 2013-2014 season - his first taste of SHL action.
Yes, Nilsson only has two goals and an assist in 35 games with the Indians so far this season, and yes, Nilsson doesn’t rank in our top twenty. That being said, if Nilsson finishes strong in the SHL this year and makes the jump to North America next, that kind of exposure my shoot him back up our rankings.
The Leafs signed goaltender Chris Gibson to a three-year entry level contract this past offseason, placing him in immediate competition with Garret Sparks for the Marlies’ backup job. Gibson lost, and has found himself struggling with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears for most of the year.
In 12 games, Gibson has a 4-5-2 record with a 3.11 GAA and a .883 SV% - not exactly good numbers if you have high hopes of one day being an NHL goaltender. To be fair, Gibson also has two wins, a 1.68 GAA and a .946 SV% in three games with the Marlies this year as well. So far, Gibson’s play hasn’t been good enough to move him past Sparks on the Leafs’ goaltending depth chart in the eyes of our TLN writers.
Like Nilsson, this season is Viktor Loov’s first in the SHL. After spending several years in the Allsvenskan and in the Södertälje Sportklubb* organization, Loov signed a two-year contract with MODO in Sweden’s top league.
His boxscore stats tell the story of a young defender making the most of his limited icetime. Playing just under 16 minutes a game (sixth amongst MODO defenders), Loov has still managed to put up four goals and nine points in 36 games.
Also like Nilsson, Loov’s stock might shoot up when/if he makes the jump to North America in 2015-2016 (at the earliest). He currently has no contract with the Leafs, but his rights will remain with the team for the forseeable future.
*It’s a lot of fun to spell out Swedish hockey team names.