March 09 2014 11:43AM
The “Future Watch” edition of The Hockey News has been released, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect pool ranks 29th out of 30 NHL teams - ahead of only the New York Rangers.
It seems a little harsh, but more understandable when the publication defines prospects as those who haven’t yet played 50 NHL games. That means some of the Leafs’ top youngsters, including Morgan Rielly (56) and Peter Holland (63), are disqualified. Having even one of those two eligible could have improved the Leafs’ stock significantly - especially Rielly.
By THN’s standards, the Leafs have only a single player ranked amongst the league’s top 75 prospects. Rimouski Oceanic’s Frederik Gauthier ranked 61st, and headlines the Leafs’ prospect pool. He is labeled by the publication as a future third-liner, and a “safe” pick.
It’s not an easy ranking to argue - after all, it is hard to criticize the wisdom of the 17 NHL head scouts and general managers that made up THN’s panel of voters. That being said, their ranking of Leafs prospects in particular look nothing like TLN’s Midterm Prospect Rankings, which was released a little over month ago.
Save Rielly and Holland, who finished 1-2 respectively, The Leafs Nation had Matt Finn, Stuart Percy, Josh Leivo, Carter Ashton, and Jerry D’Amigo all ahead of Gauthier. That’s a pretty lengthy group of two-way type players with marginal offensive upside, making it easy to see why the Leafs rank so low.
It’s not all bad news though, as THN did make note of a couple ‘feel good’ prospects in the Leafs system.
Frolunda’s Andreas Johnson ranks 3rd amongst Toronto prospects, and is putting up lofty numbers in the Sweden’s top league despite his age. With 15 goals and 24 points in 44 games, Johnson is currently in the running for SHL Rookie of the Year honours.
Right behind him, Erie Otters star Connor Brown slots 4th. A lot has already been written around these parts of Brown’s rise through the Leafs system. All you need to know is that he’s got 43 goals and 123 points in just 65 games, and leads the OHL scoring race with a 22 point cushion.
Do the Leafs really have the 29th ranked prospect pool in the entire league? It’s debatable. Despite a lack of blue chip prospects, the Leafs still have a number of useful pieces that project to be NHLers. That being said, it’s hard to imagine things greatly improving with Toronto most likely to enter the 2014 Draft with a mid-to-late first round pick, and no veteran star power to sell off for futures. It’s a good thing the Leafs’ NHL roster is amongst the youngest in the league.
Other Prospect Notes
Matt Finn broke a four game pointless streak with an assist on Friday night. Despite having only a goal and three assists in his past 10 games, Finn still sits second in OHL scoring amongst defencemen with 56 points in 62 games. That line will change soon - Guelph takes on Sarnia this afternoon.
Fabrice Herzog was dominant in a 7-2 Quebec victor over Shawinigan on Friday night, scoring twice and adding three helpers. He’s got four goals and five assists in his last three games, and 54 points in 57 games on the season. The Remparts take on Sherbrooke this afternoon.
Tony Cameranesi hasn’t scored as often as he’d like this season, but two goals and an assist in a two-game weekend series against Nebraska Omaha probably helps. Minnesota Duluth teammate Dominic Toninato also scored a goal, as the fellow Leafs prospects prepare for their opening round playoff series against Western Michigan next weekend.