Leading up to each season, Corey Pronman of ESPN unveils his rankings of NHL teams’ prospect pipelines, from one all the way to thirty. Going into last year the Leafs’ farm system was second behind only the Oilers, led by the next phenom in McDavid. Edmonton could’ve had zero prospects after him and still owned that title, so that was pretty inarguable.
But this go-around, with their own number one pick in the fold, Toronto has perched itself atop the rest of the league. And as Pronman himself notes, they’re nearly in a league all their own.
Before we get into the Leafs, we should note where a few other teams sit in these rankings. Unsurprisingly, the Coyotes and Jets are second and third on this list, each with their own share of elite talent on the way. And you’ll be glad to know no other team from the Atlantic cracked the top ten besides the Sabres, at tenth. [Head over to ESPN for the whole list and some brief rundowns of each team, if you have an Insider account. If you don’t have one, it’s two cups of coffee a month if you can swing it.]
Back to the Leafs.
When it comes to the drop-off between teams and their prospect outlook, Pronman had these encouraging words to say:
“In terms of tiers, the Maple Leafs are their own tier up top, then after jumping down about five stories we have the Coyotes, Jets, and Blue Jackets in a tier…”
The praise for what Hunter and his crew have put together doesn’t stop there either. Given what Pronman outlines as his criteria for prospects (fewer than 25 games played in a season, or 50 total), “there are zero reasonable arguments for anyone to even be in the same conversation“. He also goes on to say there are at minimum 20 prospects in Toronto’s system who would fit in a lot of teams’ top 10.
None of this is exactly news to most of us, but it’s reassuring any time trusted voices in the hockey world who look at the league more big picture recognize the Leafs as being first in something. We’ve been poring over Toronto’s prospect pool for the past year and heaping praise of our own, then they went and added Auston Matthews to the mix. It’d be tough to argue them being anywhere other than number one currently.
Now, to turn that top-tier prospect pool into a top-tier team…