In Saturday's dominance of the Bruins, I witnessed, first-hand, the future. Luke Schenn flipped on the Bobby Orr switch, Nazem Kadri potted his first of many NHL goals, and even Keith Aulie got in on the action. Oh, and James Reimer showed the depth of his compassion by allowing Boston to score twice. What a human being. The future is now, and it's on display in junior as well, as the CHL playoffs kick off Thursday, but mostly Friday. These kids will begin making the move to the pro ranks, some as early as this year with the possibility of joining the Marlies at season's end. Here's a look at how the Leafs' prospects fared in their junior seasons.
Kenny Ryan, RW, Windsor Spitfires - 2nd round, 50th overall in 2009
Ryan finished with 22 goals and 60 points in 63 games, a marked improvement on his 35 points in 52 games last season. Windsor's decision to hang on to Zack Kassian for a playoff run kept Ryan a bit lower in the depth chart than he may have been otherwise. The Spits will face Erie in the first round of the playoffs. Ryan will likely make the jump to pro next season.
Jesse Blacker, D, Owen Sound Attack - 2nd round, 58th overall in 2009
Blacker's pace cooled slightly in the second half, while still finishing with an impressive ten goals and 54 points in 62 games; good for 5th in defensive scoring. His ten multi-point efforts in the first 32 games of the season earned him an invite to Canada's World Junior camp, but he only managed four games with more than one point in 30 games in the New Year. For a defenseman, though, I'll take it. Owen Sound finished atop the Western Conference and will play London in the first round. Expect Blacker to join the Marlies next year.
Greg McKegg, C, Erie Otters - 3rd round, 62nd overall in 2010
McKegg had maybe the most impressive season of any of the Leafs' CHLers. 49 goals and 92 points in just 66 games. While he looked destined for 100+ points through the first half of the season, his stretch run was far from unimpressive. He didn't score in bunches like earlier in the season (24 multi-point games; only 8 of those since Jan. 1) but he heads into the playoffs riding a 15-game point streak. Not like he's forgotten how to put the team on his back, scoring four goals in a game last month; the second time he's done that this season. 13 of those 24 multi-point games saw McKegg finish with 3 points or more. Not bad for a 3rd rounder who has another year of junior ahead of him. He'll lead the Otters against Windsor in the first round.
Jamie Devane, LW, Plymouth Whalers - 3rd round, 68th overall in 2009
Devane really cranked up the heat offensively in the second half with 31 points in 32 games since the New Year. That's the same point total he managed in his first two OHL seasons combined - a span of 115 games. He finished with 38 points in 63 games this year, but only 10 fights, meaning he had 86 minutes in minor penalties. Only 3 of those fights came in the second half... see below, where he does well against a guy his size at 6'5, and you can check out his full fight card, all courtesy of hockeyfights.com. Plymouth faces Kitchener in the first round.
Jamie Devane vs Cody Sol (via JimKorn20)
Sam Carrick, C, Brampton Battalion - 5th round, 144th overall in 2010
Carrick had a pretty solid season for a pretty terrible Brampton team. He had a slow start combined with an injury but turned it around, scoring 16 goals and 39 points in 59 games, just 3 points less than his draft year, in 7 fewer games. That showing still put him tied for 3rd on the Battalion, whose leading scorer only managed 47 points. They'll square off with Niagra in the first round.
Jerry D'Amigo, LW, Kitchener Rangers - 6th round, 158th overall in 2009
Turbulent times for Jerry D'Amigo. He signed with the Leafs after last season, ending his college career, and speculation was he'd join Kitchener, who owned his OHL rights. He played the first half of the season with the Marlies, though, before being sent to junior to play out the string. Some wondered how he'd adjust to the junior game, but he started off his Rangers career with a 9-game point streak, en route to 12 goals and 28 points in just 21 games. That ranks him 7th among Kitchener forwards in less than a third of a season. They open their postseason against Plymouth, and will make a strong push to win the West.
Barron Smith, D, Peterborough Petes - 7th round, 188th overall in 2009
Finding info on Barron von Smith is no easy task, but it appears shoulder surgery ended his season sometime around the holidays. He hasn't played a game since the last update, ending his season with one assist in 16 games, to go with a minus-10. He only played 36 games last year before being sidelined with surgery. That was a career high for him, as he's only played 86 games in three junior seasons. Tough luck for the kid as it's doubtful Burke will use up an SPC opening on him, so he'll likely be a free agent come the summer and possibly back in Peterborough for his overage season. Here's hoping he can get his career back on track.
Andrew Crescenzi, C, Kitchener Rangers - Signed as free agent, 2010
The big man finished with 12 goals and 23 points in 55 games after a hip injury kept him out of commission for a time earlier in the season. It'll be interesting to see if he can take a step forward offensively in his 19-year old season next year. For now, he'll be a checking/energy forward as the Rangers hope to make a deep playoff run.
Brad Ross, LW, Portland Winterhawks - 2nd round, 43rd overall in 2010
Rad Boss finished a touch over a point per game with 31 goals and 69 points in 67 games for a powerhouse Portland squad. That places him 6th in scoring on a team that features top-5 picks Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, along with Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi who project to go in the 1st round in June. Needless to say, this is a team that could easily be playing for the Memorial Cup come May. They start their journey against Everett in the first round.
Josh Nicholls, C, Saskatoon Blades - 7th round, 182nd overall in 2010
Super impressive season for a 7th rounder, as Nicholls was 2nd in team scoring with 34 goals and 87 points in 71 games. Saskatoon is a strong team so we'll see what kind of jump he takes next season, but you have to be pleased with that type of production coming out of the last round of the draft. Saskatoon and Portland are the forces to be reckoned with in the Dub, so there's a good chance we'll see either Ross or Nicholls in the Mem Cup. Saskatoon takes on Prince Albert in the first round.
Do yourself a favour and check out a junior hockey game before the end of the season, if you can. These are the kids that will don the blue and white before long, and it never hurts to get an early read on them. Not to mention you can see them in a playoff atmosphere, so you'll know what to expect when they lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to the promised land!!!1 I'll be following the CHL playoffs (particularly the QMJHL) and, especially, the draft as it approaches, so you can follow me if you wish.