Carter “Not Ashton” Verhaeghe comes in as TLN’s 8th best Leafs prospect in terms of talent, but #1 for difficulty of spelling his last name. Although he plays a different style of game than Gauthier (our #9 prospect), his offensive acumen ultimately scored him ahead of Gauthier on our list. Not surprising, given the need for offensively-talented players in the system. And let’s be real: Gauthier’s year was disappointing.
In January, TLN had him as the 11th best prospect, with Blake Murphy saying the following:
There was originally some concern about Verhaeghe’s stride and, as a result, his offensive upside, but he’s really grown with greater opportunity in Niagara, scoring 59 points in 42 games so far.
Verhaeghe went on to finish the season with 82 points in 65 games, mostly keeping his great pace up for a full season (he went from 1.4 points per game at the midpoint in January to 1.26 by end of year). Nitpicking aside, Verhaeghe has consistently shown a knack for the offensive side of the game, so much so that ESPN’s Corey Pronman has praised his high offensive IQ [for Insiders only].
Verhaeghe needs to continue to develop other facets of his game. That’s not exactly news, as that is a common complaint with offensively-minded players in junior. Once he gets to the Marlies next year, I’d like to see the coaches acclimate him by sheltering him with offensive minutes at first, working on his d-game in the process.
Carter has been of the pleasant surprises of the Leafs’ system in the past year, so much so that the team signed him to an entry-level deal in April. He joined the Marlies for two games (registering an assist) after his playoff run with Niagara ended.
Verhaeghe is the kind of player that the Leafs need to develop carefully. Let him dominate in the OHL for one more year, give him a top 6 role with the Marlies and attempt to groom him into a potential 2-3 line centre. While he doesn’t scream “crazy NHL potential” yet, some solid development could make him a valuable addition to the big club in a few years. It’s never a bad thing to have some centre prospects to take your time with.
Verhaeghe, Verhaeghe, Verhaeghe. Type that five times fast without copying and pasting.