One thing that any die-hard hockey fan who is self-aware of their own fandom will tell you that 99 times out of 100 they can't help but overvalue their own teams' prospects. It's not meant to be a slight, but it happens; you have a vested interest in the prospects of your team succeeding, and so you may overlook some of their weaknesses as a player, instead choosing to focus on their strengths as a sign of imminent development. Prospects typically get incredibly overvalued when considered as trade bait; every prospect has immense value that can be used to entice another team to forfeit highly sought after players, when the reality is most teams have about 3 or 4 guys with a similar profile to the one you're trying to ship off to them.
If you watch a prospect develop and mature into a key player, you can't help but feel like a proud parent, having watched him blossom from a young man into a professional. When they fail, you can't help but feel a little twinge of disappointment. The odds dictate that even making it to the NHL should be considered a success, let alone becoming a regular NHL player that is considered a core contributor.
WIth that, allow me to introduce the Leaf prospect that invariably ends up failing to live up to our expectations.
Since he was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2010, Greg Mckegg has rocketed up the depth charts of many Leaf fans. A player who creates offence for himself and for others, McKegg does possess the potential to end up centering (or on the wing; he's capable of playing either position) one of the Leafs top two lines, and strong performances with the Erie Otters (and now the London Knights) have done little to curb this enthusiasm.
But it should be remembered that there was a reason McKegg was available in the 3rd round; he was a player with flaws; there were questions about his consistency (which have subsided a little) and at 6'0" he may be a little undersized for today's NHL.
McKegg possess a very effective offensive game that should hopefully translate well into the pro game. He has plenty of time to grow as a player and develop, so with a heavy emphasis on his potential he is our choice as #13.
McKegg was drafted 62nd, early in the 3rd round of the 2010 NHL Draft. One of the youngest players available in the draft (he had just turned 18 prior to the draft), McKegg came off a strong season for the Erie Otters where he scored 37 goals and 85 points, and improved his +/- from a -13 as a rookie the previous year to +18, a very impressive improvement.
McKegg's improvement took another dramatic step forward the following season. Scoring 49 goals, good enough to tie him with potential 2012 first pick Nail Yakupov, along with 43 assists for 92 points, good enough for 8th in the OHL in scoring. His plus/minus rating again took a massive step forward, jumping once again to +35. Unfortunately Erie was matched with the two-time defending champion Windsor Spitfires in the first round of the playoffs and were eventually defeated in seven games; McKegg contributed 5 points in 7 games in the eventual loss. McKegg also joined the Toronto Marlies for two games at the end of the season, scoring his first professional goal.
The current season started with great promise but has been one of abject disappointment. After being named captain of the Otters and joined by fellow Maple Leaf prospect Sondre Olden, Erie's season has been an unmitigated disaster (Erie has won just five games to date this season). With the team's defence and goaltending imploding, McKegg remained one of the few bright spots, scoring 34 points through 35 games. At the beginning of January, he was traded to the London Knights as London loads up for another Memorial Cup run and Erie set out to begin another rebuild.
In 5 games so far McKegg has 8 points with his new and significantly more talented London club. The Knights are anticipating a long and successful Memorial Cup run, which McKegg will no doubt be a key contributor in.
Using NHL Equivalency to try and project McKegg's future role in the NHL is marred by the complete meltdown suffered by Erie this season. HIs prior year's total would indicate a player capable of scoring in the neighbourhood of 30-40 points (and because McKegg was 18 for the entire season, you could likely project him at the higher end of that range). His Erie statistics project lower, but I doubt McKegg ever plays on a team as a professional where he scores a point per game and still manages to be -39 in 35 games. 5 games in London is too small a sample size, but let's say he can maintain a pace of 1.3 points per game. That roughly works out to 40-50 points over a full NHL season; suddenly we're talking about a second line player in the NHL.
McKegg signed his entry level contract last summer, and since he doesn't turn 20 until this June he should be eligible to return to the OHL next season should the Leafs choose. Frankly I'm not sure what there is left for him at this level; this is his fourth season in the league, he has already submitted 85 and 92 point campaigns, and I don't think it's too much of a stretch to have imagined him cresting 90 points again this season if Erie hadn't been a completely garbage hockey team. I would imagine he joins the Marlies next season, and joins the ever expanding cast of young Leaf prospects on the squad.
McKegg's a good young player who still has plenty of time to get better. Leaf fans should be real excited for what this kid can do over the next few years, but also keep their guard up against future disappointment.
I'm partially responsible for McKegg landing this high on the list; five of the panelists had him between 13 and 16, with PFACNF putting him at #10 and I had him at #9.
The rationale for my choice lies in his youth, but also in what scouts see in his game. From Hockeys Future:
McKegg is an offensive catalyst with a good mind for the game. He’s a natural goal scorer who can find numerous ways to bury the biscuit. Not overly physical, but also doesn’t shy away from contact. He has deceptive hands and the ability to slip through tight areas. Game-to-game consistency and strength are areas of weakness in McKegg’s game currently.
In reading that, my mind immediately goes to Mikhail Grabovski, a player that could definitely described in the same fashion. Looking at his equivalencies, you're looking at a player that probably projects to put up 40-50 points, maybe 60 if everything breaks right. Like Grabovski. Asking Greg McKegg to be the Leafs' replacement for Grabbo is a tall order, but I don't think it's out of the question.
Of course, I'm also preparing to be disappointed by getting my hopes up too high, so who knows?