TLN’s Top 20 Leafs Prospects: The Final List

We completed our TLN Top 20 Leafs Prospects run on Friday when Mitch Marner was named our #1, but we thought it important to quickly recap the entire list. Click past the jump for a brief overview on each prospect and a link to the original piece!

#20 – Matt Finn

If he’s in good shape and has the mental fortitude to move on from last year’s struggles, there’s no reason he can’t go back to being on an NHL trajectory. His skating, while not elite, is still solid. His puck instincts are good, and he has an effective shot when he gets the opportunity to use it. While he isn’t exactly a special teams wizard, he’s capable of playing powerplay or penalty kill minutes. A scout’s eye would have you believe there is no reason that he can’t bounce back from this. – Jeff Veillette

#19 – Sam Carrick

Carrick is the type of prospect who might not necessarily have elite upside, but he has the potential to play his role very well and he’s a relatively safe bet to get to where he’s expected to be; an NHL bottom-six. There’s a reasonable chance that he will continue to receive call-ups from the team in the event of injury, trade or suspension. Carrick is able to slot in at just about any forward position, and his low cap hit of $600,000 affords the team further versatility. – Jeff Veillette

#18 – Dmytro Timashov

A skilled and speedy winger, Timashov has the ability and the production to merit a ranking in and around this spot on the prospect depth chart.  He’s certainly got some work to do – after all, he fell to the 5th round for a reason – but there’s certainly enough there that leaves hope for the future.  And if he has the big season that many are expecting of him next year, Timashov might just be ranked a lot higher than 18th when we do our next prospect rankings in 2016. – Shawn Reis

#17 – Rinat Valiev

It could be a year of major transition for Valiev, who is now eligible to make the jump to the pro game.  But Valiev could find it a serious challenge to make the AHL given names like Harrington, Brenann, Percy, Granberg, Loov, Nilsson, Finn, and Campbell might already be there. A more likely route may be the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.  It’s typically not a good thing when a player has to go down to the ECHL, especially if you’re a forward or a defenseman, but the Leafs have hinted at making the Solar Bear’s more involved in the Leafs’ development system this season. – Shawn Reis

#16 – Martins Dzierkals

We’ve heard [the same thing] from everyone –  Dzierkals needs to get bigger and stronger, but he has a nice package of offensive skills that will hopefully translate well at the pro level. Toronto is banking on the hockey community’s limited viewings of Dzierkals, hoping they got a steal of a player, even in the third round…

For next season, it’s largely expected that Dzierkals will suit up for Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL. The Huskies drafted Dzierkals in the first round, 22nd overall in the CHL Import Draft after it was announced that he would be crossing the pond to continue his development. – Justin Fisher

#15 – Carter Verhaeghe

Think of Verhaeghe as a solid bridge between mediocre Leafs prospects like Rinat Valiev and the higher-tier Leafs prospects such as Connor Brown.  Basically, he’s more refined and looks closer to having that total package that you look for in a future NHLer, but at the same time, he’s not polished enough that you can really have tons of confidence that he will ultimately reach his potential.  He’s a good player, but you’d like to see a little something more out of him. – Shawn Reis

#14 – Viktor Loov

For now, his job is simple; become the best defenceman on the Marlies. That’s not an easy task with the likes of Stuart Percy, Scott Harrington, and TJ Brennan (if he doesn’t make the Leafs and/or get claimed on waivers) vying for the same role, but the opportunity is definitely there.

Expect Loov to be playing significant minutes, including special teams. A realistic goal for him would be 30+ points while contributing to a mid-tier penalty killing unit. Oh, and more crazy interviews. Everybody Loovs those. – Jeff Veillette

#13 – Nikita Soshnikov

The incredible revamping of the Maple Leafs prospect system is due in large part to the excellent draft they had this year, and the development of William Nylander. But additions like Soshnikov shouldn’t be overlooked. A lot of other teams have had success with signing undrafted free agents, something that hasn’t been a strong spot for the Leafs. While years past have seen them target guys like Christian Hanson and Brayden Irwin, Soshnikov is on the opposite end of the free agent spectrum. These are exactly the types of players the Leafs need to find and take chances on. Eventually, one will pan out. It’s very possible that one will be Nikita. – Bobby Cappuccino

#12 – Frederik Gauthier

Gauthier’s biggest selling point seems to be the intrigue of how he may fit into what the Leafs are hoping to achieve. The long development curve the Leafs want to apply to prospects seems tailored for a guy like Gauthier, and since he’s always been labeled as someone with a high hockey IQ, it will be interesting to see if he excels in the Keefe and Babcock systems. – Jon Steitzer

#11 – Nikita Korostelev

Korostelev poured in 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in 55 appearances for the Sting, which ranked him 51st in the OHL in points-per-game at 0.96 overall. In terms of draft-eligibles, he was 8th – ahead of both Zacha (0.92) and Crouse (0.91) in this regard (via CHLStats). Not bad for a guy taken 170+ picks later than those two. – Ryan Fancey

#10 – Stuart Percy

Percy has had a few months to recover from his injuries and clear his mind. Last year proved that, when healthy, he’s not far off from being an NHL talent, but it’s a matter of using him properly and delegating him the right opportunities for success… Percy will undoubtedly be playing first pairing minutes with the Marlies, along with opportunities on the powerplay and the penalty kill. From there, it comes down to continuing to round out his came and staying consistent – if he does that, he’ll undoubtedly get a good, yet sheltered look with the Leafs if they decide to sell at the deadline. – Jeff Veillette

#9 – Brendan Leipsic

There’s still a lot of room for Leipsic to grow, and it’s very exciting. Leipsic will be competing with Josh Leivo for the #1 spot on Left Wing this year, which potentially puts him on a line with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen. Having more time to adjust to his teammates and play with arguably the two best teenagers in the league will lead to big things for him in the immediate; 65+ points are not out of the question for him. – Jeff Veillette

#8 – Connor Brown

Eighth best prospect? I highly disagree, but am willing to admit that Toronto’s second tier of prospects are all very nice pieces that offer different things. For my fellow writers to value similarly talented players over Brown, I can understand that. They’re still wrong, but I understand. Only a handful of votes separated Brown from four players ranked ahead of him, so this very easily could have gone a very different way. I suppose it’s a good problem to have. – Justin Fisher

#7 – Andreas Johnson

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#6 – Travis Dermott

Everything we see about Dermott points to him just being a solid, well-rounded defender at this point. He doesn’t appear to be weak in any area particularly, and he was able to produce at a high rate this past season on a good Erie team. I had a chance to watch him here in Ottawa when the Otters visited, and the main thing I took away was that he seemed to play beyond his age a little and didn’t have as much of that rawness you see in a lot of 17-year-olds’ games. A “heady” player, if you will. – Ryan Fancey

#5 – Jeremy Bracco

The TLN staff rated Bracco as high as 4 and as low as 10 in the prospect rankings. And it’s easy to see why there is a variance in his ranking.  A small kid at 5’10 and 165 pounds, Bracco has a seemingly infinite amount of skill, in addition to a solid two-way game. Bracco represents that “swing for the fences” type of pick that the Leafs were often too afraid to make in the past. Some would call him a “boom or bust” pick, but I don’t think his range of outcome is that large – it’s just whether or not he becomes a top 6 NHL forward or lower. – Bobby Cappuccino

#4 – Scott Harrington

Sure, he projects best as either a second- or third-pairing player, which isn’t an upside as high as say Jeremy Bracco.  But Bracco has other major holes – skating, size, defense, shot rates – that make him all but a wildcard as far as one day reaching the NHL.  No, Harrington’s game and his numbers won’t drop your jaw, but they’re also good enough that they leave you confident that he’s going to become an NHL regular some day.  What capacity that will be in is hard to say, but once you get past the raw undeniable skill of the three Leafs prospects ranked ahead of Harrington, he becomes, if nothing else, the safest bet to stick with the Leafs now and in the future. – Shawn Reis

#3 – Kasperi Kapanen

Kapanen is a flexible all-around forward, so he could be projected to go anywhere in Toronto’s lineup down the line. A second or third line role may be the best fit, with a leadership role in all situations – it will all depend on where the other Leafs prospects are in their development when Kapanen is ready to hit the NHL and how he meshes with the rest of the team. He’s a good option to slot in where best needed, though, something that not every player can have said of them – so where he fits isn’t much of a concern now. It’s not where he needs to be put, it’s where he’ll be most needed (isn’t that refreshing?). – Cat Silverman

#2 – William Nylander

This upcoming season will allow both Nylander and Marner to work on being full-time centres in their respective leagues. The Leafs will be in good hands as long as one is able to become a centre at the NHL level. If both are able to transition, the team could end up having one of the best centre depths in the league with Marner-Nylander-Kadri-Gauthier. Now that would be a real symbol of change in Leafland. – Bobby Cappuccino

#1 – Mitch Marner

Since I began organizing the Top 20 Prospects feature several years ago, this is the first time there was any sort of tough decision to be made at the top of the list. Hell, it’s the first time there’s been a tough decision in the top five or ten. In years past, players like Rielly – and last year, Nylander – would stand alone atop a mountain of long shots and tweeners. I can’t stress enough how dramatically improved this year’s group is, and it’s even better that they all are hovering in and around that 18, 19 and 20 year-old mark. – Justin Fisher

    • That’s not the question at all.

      The question is, do you want any of these players cracking the starting line-up of the 4th worst team in the NHL last year? Or would you rather them continue developing their game in Junior or the AHL?

      • Gary Empey

        No one is saying this about McDavid or Eichel . Some of our prospects have far more experience than either of them.

        My real point though is at training camp, will some of these prospects be better than the expected Leaf line-up? If so why not dress them for the Leafs. If not, are we simply fooling ourselves on how good they really are.

        I understand and agree one should not bring up players before they are ready for PrimeTime.

        The junior eligible players may/likely need more development. Someone in the AHL group should be able to crack this team.

        Perhaps we should just wait to training camp and see how they look.

  • Gary Empey

    After watching Seer’s video of Kasperi Kapanen, I am really wondering if Jim Rutherford made a major mistake in trading him and a first round pick for Kessel.