The Toronto Maple Leafs struggled mightily from 2014-to-2016 and that enabled them to draft William Nylander (No.8 in 2014), Mitch Marner (No.4 in 2015) and Auston Matthews (No.1 in 2016) and they have immediately become the core of their team.
Since then they have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons but still have not made it out of the first round. Regardless, the Maple Leafs are set up nicely with salary cap flexibility, a young core and some high-end prospects.
Heading into the 2019 season, we probably can’t classify Kasperi Kapanen or Travis Dermott as prospects anymore, so who else is in Toronto’s system?
- – Timothy Liljegren (No.17 in 2017) — Liljegren dropped rapidly in last summer’s draft thanks to mononucleosis during his draft season. Liljegren will end up being a huge steal for the Maple Leafs and will look to build off of a solid rookie campaign with the Marlies (AHL)—he had 17 points (1G / 16A) in 44 games and after four assists in 20 playoff games en route to a Calder Cup.
- – Andreas Johnsson (No.202 in 2013) — Johnsson looks like another steal for Toronto. Dropping into the seventh round back in 2013, the Leafs took a chance on the Swedish left winger. In his second season in North America, Johnsson had 54 points (26G / 28A) in 54 games with the Marlies before being called up by the Maple Leafs. He spent some time with them late in the season and appeared in six playoff games before being returned for the Marlies’ Calder Cup run. Johnsson was named AHL Playoffs MVP after scoring 10 goals and 14 assists (24 points) in 16 playoff games. He looks poised to crack the NHL roster out of training camp this fall.
- – Garret Sparks (No.190 in 2011) — Sparks looks like another hit by the Maple Leafs’ scouring staff. The longtime AHLer turned in an exemplary season with the Marlies, going 31-9-1 with a 1.79 GAA, .936 SV% and six shutouts. He’s drawing interest from other NHL teams because it doesn’t look like he has a spot on the Maple Leafs roster next year—both Frederik Andersen and Curtis McElhinney are under contract.
- – Eemeli Rasanen (No.59 in 2017) — Rasanen is an absolute monster (6-foot-7, 226 lbs.) but remains a few years away from the NHL. Rasanen posted less points in his second OHL season than he did in his rookie season, but looks like a pillar on the right-side of the Maple Leafs’ blueline of the future.
With the No.25 Overall Pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs select…
Ryan McLeod — C — Canada ????????
What the Maple Leafs’ farm system is lacking his a centre with high-end abilities. Ryan McLeod is the brother of the 2016 No.12 overall pick Michael McLeod. Ryan is coming off of his third season with the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), where he was first on the team in assists (44) and third in goals (26) and points (70).
McLeod is lauded for his skating ability and size (6-foot-2, 200 lbs.)—an integral combination for successful NHL centres. Some scouts are still expecting more out of McLeod and 2019 will be a huge season for his development. The Steelheads are expected to lose three of their top players—his brother Michael, Nicolas Hague and Owen Tippett to the AHL, so Ryan will be leaned on heavily to carry them in the OHL.
“He does so many things well – solid skater, good penalty killer, high end skills. The confidence and improvement in his game from September 2017 to January 2018 was like night and day. But in the second half of the season, I didn’t see the continued improvement I was hoping to see. Solid player who does so many things well, but how much better can he get?” — Tony Ambrogio
“He has the tools but I just feel he underwhelmed on a team with a lot of skill on it. There’s no question he can skate and has the frame to play in the NHL. I’d just like to see him more consistently take over games.” — Mark Scheig