January 14 2016 08:45AM
#10 - Scott Harrington
Harrington is an intriguing prospect. Developing a defenceman is often hit or miss, and the Leafs had the opportunity to cut the line when they acquired Harrington from Pittsburgh in July. While not exactly a blue-chipper poised to win a Norris race, the 22-year-old former second rounder came with 150 games of professional experience on successful teams and an extensive Major Junior career with Mark Hunter's former London Knights. It's been over half a decade of sink-or-swim on top teams for him, which has forced him to develop a little faster than most mid-tier talents.
This year, Harrington impressed in just about every training camp appearance he made, leading to him making the Leafs roster to start the season. While he wasn't dressed every single night, he did manage to get himself in fifteen games. In that stretch, he spent most of his time playing a draw-back shutdown game with Roman Polak which saw the two start most of their shifts in the offensive zone; not so much to try and score but to help the more adept forwards keep the puck from too far across the ice. Harrington's positive relative possession numbers represent success in this regard.
January 13 2016 08:12AM
#15 - Rinat Valiev
Nobody was quite sure what to expect out of Rinat Valiev in his first professional season. The 20-year-old Russian had made a huge leap in his final year of junior, nearly doubling his point production to 46 points in 52 games while playing on a relatively weak Kootenay Ice roster. At the same time, it was his first crack at playing against men, and such situations are often a crapshoot, especially with defencemen.
However, he hasn't looked out of place on a dominant Marlies roster. Typically paired with team Captain and grizzled veteran Andrew Campbell, Valiev has played in most of Toronto's games this year, usually only being rotated out when there are 3-in-3 weekends or similarly tough stretches of the schedule.
In 32 games this year, Valiev has ten points, good for fourth among Marlies defencemen behind Stuart Percy, the aforementioned Campbell, and AHL superstar TJ Brennan.
January 12 2016 09:06AM
#20 - Nikita Korostelev
When the Toronto Maple Leafs nabbed Sarnia Sting forward Nikita Korostelev in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the term 'late-round steal' was bandied about almost immediately. In some eyes, Korostelev was a second-round talent, having scored 53 points in 55 games for the Sting in his draft year. To get someone like Korostelev so late was a huge win for Toronto, and made his immediate debut in TLN's preseason prospect rankings at #11.
To say the first half to Korostelev's 2015-16 season has been disappointing is an understatement. Despite returning to a fairly strong Sarnia team that features New Jersey Devils top prospect Pavel Zacha and 2016 top prospect Jakob Chychrun, Korostelev has been unable to even keep pace with his previous season's numbers - he has just 26 points in 36 games.
January 11 2016 09:04AM
As we approach the half-way point of the Toronto Maple Leafs' season this Wednesday, there's no better time to take stock of the organization's best young talent. In our preseason rankings, we saw a huge number of 2015 draftees debut on the list and displace a lot of incumbents. Now we see, after a half-season, we see who's made big impressions and who's disappointed.
In past years, we've had more complicated criteria for defining a prospect. At the start of this season, we decided to simplify things and go by Calder Trophy eligibility. Essentially, if you're eligible to win Rookie of the Year honours, you're eligible for our list. As such, one name you might expect to see but won't is 22-year old Joshua Leivo. Two brief stints in the NHL makes him ineligible.
As for who actually took part in these rankings, nine of our writers submitted lists - Jeff Veillette, Jon Steitzer, Ryan Fancey, Cat Silverman, Bobby Cappuccino, Shawn Reis, Adam Laskaris, Tom Hunter and myself.
So, can Mitch Marner hold on to the top spot? How does the trading away of Carter Verhaeghe and Matt Finn affect the results? Have any goalies impressed enough to crack the list?
It'll be very interesting to see how things play out, but before we really get into it, let's take a look at the prospects who just missed out on the Top 20 list. Here are our honourable mentions... players that received votes from our staff, but didn't accumulate enough points to stick.
January 11 2016 06:50AM
It's Monday, and that means it's mailbag day. I'll be taking over for Jeff this week, and look for other members of the TLN writing staff to take the wheel in future weeks as well. They're all (relatively) smart people and they all have (relatively) good opinions (sometimes).
Let's get to it.