Toronto Maple Leafs All-Future Team
To make this team I looked at all of the players in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization that are under 27 (the cut off for restricted free agency). James Van Riemsdyk wasn’t included because he turns 27 this May. The rankings below have taken into account each player’s current skill as well as their potential.
If I was to make such a team a year ago, it sure would have looked troubling to say the least. Since the beginning of last season the Leafs have drafted, traded and signed 10 of the players listed above (Leipsic, Marner, Kapanen, Soshnikov, Hyman, Timashov, Bracco, Corrado, Carrick and Dermott).
The truly exciting thing is that these young players are just starting to crack the Leafs roster. After a two month hiatus, I am starting to actually watch Leafs games again, losing be damned. If anything I welcome the losses and the high draft pick that accompanies them. At least this iteration of losing Maple Leafs hockey features young, exciting talent instead of the lukewarm bodies previously occupying the roster spots.
By far the most exciting guys on this list are Marner and Nylander, as they are the Leafs’ biggest shots at a franchise cornerstone center, a spot that has been unoccupied since Sundin. My biggest debate is which jersey I’m going to get. But those two aside, there are some very interesting prospects listed above.
Kapenen is the other high-profile prospect cracking the NHL this year. His “golden goal” at the World Juniors definitely got everyone’s attention. He makes up for his small stature with his silky hands, and his paring with Nylander has made the Marlies one of the highest scoring teams in the AHL. While some were upset that the Leafs couldn’t get Pouliot or Sprong in the Kessel trade, Kapanen is more than a consolation.
The two prospects I’ve been most of hyped about (other than Nylander, Marner or Kapanen) is Soshnikov and Hyman.
In his limited time with the Leafs, Soshnikov has ripped a couple of the prettiest snap shots I have ever seen. Pre-season and mid-season prospect rankings have him a lot further down on the Maple Leaf left wing rankings. But just after watching him over the past couple of games, it isn’t hard to envision him in a top six scoring role.
Hyman has been a very under-the radar prospect so far in his career. The Leafs acquired him and a conditional seventh rounder from the Panthers last summer for the criminally low-cost of Greg McKegg. In an interview with Steve Dangle, assistant GM Kyle Dubas gave a glowing review of Hyman:
“He’s a tenacious worker, excellent on the forecheck, and not just getting there and rattling guys around on the forecheck, but getting there and getting the puck back and letting us play on offence, which to me is the key thing. Possession-wise he’s one of our best players, if not our best player, and now he’s starting to also score.”
A stellar season for the Marlies has catapulted Hyman up the depth chart past last year’s breakout right winger, Connor Brown. It’s early, but it isn’t hard to see Hyman settling in as a effective bottom six guy at the very least.
As all of these new prospects start to flood in, Andreas Johnson seems to once again be the forgotten man. A seventh round pick in 2013, Johnson turned heads last year after tallying 22 goals with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. At the young age of 21 years old, Johnson has built off last season with a 44 point campaign. While it will be interesting to see if his game translates to the North American game, his fast-skating, physical style makes him a good bet to make it in the NHL.
As for goalies, Bibeau and Sparks are both unproven commodities. They have both been stellar in limited AHL play this season. Because the Leafs are committed to a full rebuild, both goalies will get plenty chances to show their staying power in the NHL. Hopefully one sticks.
As for RFA guys who have already established their NHL status, the Leafs have a decent core to ease in the kids into the lineup.
Despite the low scoring totals, Kadri’s play this year on a low scoring Leafs team has shown that he can be a solid number two center. His strong possession game and defensive improvement should make Lou’s decision to extend him this summer an easy one.
Reilly and Gardiner have both showed flashes of the top pairing caliber players that they can potentially be. Both of their defensive games are still a bit spotty, but if there is one coach that I think can iron out the kinks, it’s got to be Babcock. As they develop, the onus is on the Leafs brass to surround them with the complimentary talent on the back end that they currently lack.
Carrick, Percy and Corrado are all mid-level prospects that are sure to crack the NHL, but the ceiling of their potential remains to be seen.
The 2015 draft yielded four players on this Futures team: Marner, Bracco, Dermott and Timashov. Marner has been lighting up the OHL with 109 points in 52 games and was a central player on Team Canada’s World Junior Team. Dermott was also on Team Canada and has run the point on the powerplay of the OHL leading Erie Otters. Bracco has been a strong performer in his first OHL season with the Rangers, tallying 57 points in 45 games. As for Timashov, he has been electric in the QMJHL, racking up 82 points in 54 games. If Hunter can continue to acquire four strong prospects per draft, the future looks bright.
This Future Team gives me great hope for the outlook of the Leafs. With 12 potential picks in this summer’s draft, this team will only look more impressive. The thought of adding Matthews, Puljujarvi, Laine, Chychrun, Thachuk or the other Nylander brother to this core makes me absolutely giddy.