You always want to have those players coming. I think we as an organization have been in trouble in the past because we have not had players coming, whether they've been moved to try to take a run at it or what have you. We want to make sure that that pipeline is continually being filled.
Dave Nonis, September 10, 2011
When Brian Burke took over as President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he made it clear that his strategy for rebuilding the Maple Leafs hinged on two main components. The first was the golden soundbite that Burke's squad would play with proper levels of belligerence, pugnacity, testosterone, and truculence, a line that's been quoted, analyzed and parsed so many times that it's lost all meaning. In the wake of a successful start to the 2011-12 season, it's also been, to an extent, abandoned in favor of a high-speed, high-skill approach.
But the second mandate has been largely forgotten, but remains of great importance to the present and future success of the club; Burke's commitment to rebuild the team's prospect pool and its entire approach to developing hockey players.
At the time of Burke's arrival, the team's prospect depth was best described as "challenged". It had a couple of promising pieces; Luke Schenn had just been selected in that summer's draft, Nikolai Kulemin was arriving from Russia, the Leafs had just acquired Mikhail Grabovski from the Canadiens, and Justin Pogge was being given his first opportunity to be the full-time starter for the Toronto Marlies. Beyond that, it was a wasteland of talented players with fatal flaws and . The work that Burke and his ever-growing management team into cultivating a group of prospects that will provide the Leafs with the homegrown talent that never materialized (and was traded away) during the previous regimes is startling. For the first time in a long time, the Leafs have begun to develop a sizable stable of young talent.
And that's where we come in.
If you have ever been to SBN's Edmonton Oilers site Copper and Blue, you may well be familiar with a recurring feature called the Top 25 Under 25, an exercise where the editors of the blog collaboratively rank the best players in the organization under the age of 25 years old (The exercise has been done in other places, including Lighthouse Hockey and Habs Eyes On The Prize, analyzing Islanders and Canadiens prospects, respectively.).
Over the holidays, seven members of the PPP Blog Community (PPP, Chemmy, SkinnyFish, PleaFromACatNamedFelix, birky, JP Nikota, and myself) compiled our inaugural rankings. 45 players under contracts or whose rights are owned by the Leafs who are under 25 years old as of December 31, 2011 were eligible.
Each of the seven of us ranked our top 30 in order from 1 to 30. (The #1 ranking received 30 points, down to 1 point for the #30 ranking). The rankings were compiled and the player with the highest point total was awarded the title of the Maple Leafs Top Player Under 25.
Over the coming month, we'll reveal our top 25 one player at a time (Keep in mind that the voting was done in early December, so the results of the past few weeks were not factored into the rankings). Then when the list has been completed, we'll ask for your input and see how the PPP Community views our prospects compared to our rankings.