The votes are in!
It's time to see what the non-management PPP community believes are the Top 25 Maple Leafs prospects in the organization. BCapp, Ben Schnell & myself have compiled some commentary, scouting reports, stats and charts (of course) in an effort to be complementary to the main countdown. Official rules for rankings can be found in BCapp's original post. Without further adieu...
As voted by you, the community...
25. Sam Carrick
**Note: NR votes excluded for the purposes of mean & standard deviation
A 5th round pick (144th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Sam Carrick has flown under the radar of most Leafs fans (including myself), as his offensive stats prior to this season screamed "non-NHLer".
In 2011-2012, as Captain of the Brampton Battalion, Carrick more than doubled his previous season's goal output, from 16G 39P in 69GP, to 37G 67P in 68GP, along with 4G 8P in 8 playoff games. It was enough to earn him a standard 3 year ELC with the Leafs, as well as media praise from the Sun:
Stan Butler calls Sam Carrick "the ultimate leader," which might be as big a compliment as a hockey player will ever get.
On paper, the hard-working, defensively-responsible Battalion shouldn't even be close to the star-studded IceDogs, who boast five members of the Canadian junior team and 12 players drafted by NHL teams. But they are close, tied in fact, and a healthy portion of the credit must go to Carrick.
but it's really his quote in the Star that makes me think he really might "get it":
"Right now, with the Battalion, I know I definitely need to put up points," he says. "But I realize that if I want to go onto the next level I may have to change roles and be more of an energy guy, a penalty kill, shut down guy.
Scouting reports from HockeysFuture, Puck Prospectus agree: He is lauded for his playmaking abilities, his energy & 2-way game. A former pugilist, Carrick previously racked up plenty of penalty minutes dropping the gloves, but took his 19-year old season to adapt his game in a way that would show the Leafs brass that he was serious about taking what skills he has to the next level.
2012/2013 Season Status: Toronto Marlies-bound, with a small chance of returning to Brampton for an overage season or ECHL due to depth on the Marlies.
24. Petter Granberg
A 4th round pick (114th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Petter Granberg is a 6' 3", 205 lbs defensive defenseman who has developed overseas with Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Elite League. If you're like me you probably haven't seen much of Petter, aside from maybe his 2012 WJC Gold medal win over Russia this year.
Granberg has never and probably will never have impressive boxcar stats - described as a "big and strong stay-at-home defenseman who plays a simple and safe game and is rarely caught out of position". The Leafs can simply not have enough of these kind of guys - depth projecting, safe, simple young D who would prevent the club from overpaying for one on the UFA market.
Granberg is an example of what seems to be one of the Leafs mid-range pick drafting strategies over the past few drafts: Get 'em young. Technically still 17 when the Leafs drafted him (birthdate: 8-27-1992), Granberg hopes to be one of the players who was gained as an asset before he was able to really hit his stride with increased opportunity and ice-time. Other examples have included Sondre Olden, Tom Nilsson, Tony Cameranesi, and to a lesser extent, Greg Mckegg. The strategy hasn't had enough time to really show if it's paying dividends, as a longer development period and lower projection come part and parcel with younger players and mid-to-late round draft picks.
MLHS contacted Dave Morrisson, Leafs head of scouting, when he signed his standard 3 year ELC with the Leafs:
He's got the size, the skating ability and he's got the defensive defenceman ability. Petter's also got maturity and he's got the size and character to be that kind of player down the road. He is what he is and we like what he is."
Progression has been very good as primarily a defense first smart puck mover. Had a very good WJC and played most of the [last] season in the SEL.
2012/2013 Season Status: From the same MLHS article, on whether Petter would join the Marlies:
Do not know yet with next year. Alot of it will depend on Petter. Whether it is this year or the year after we want him to be ready and not rush him.
Nicolas "Not-Caputi" Deschamps was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round (35th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry draft. On January 3rd, 2012 the Caputi experiment was finally shut down as Luca was shipped off in a trade with the Ducks (shocking, I know) for Deschamps. Immediate reaction to the trade can be found here.
At the time of the trade, both players were considered somewhat disappointments relative to their early projections, but both seemed to find their game on their new clubs throughout the rest of the season. Going from 7 points in 31 games with Syracuse to 30 points in 40 games (as well as 12P in 17 playoff games), Deschamps found chemistry (and a language buddy) with AHL superstar Philippe Dupuis and never looked back.
Deschamps was always considered a top prospect in Anaheim (check out #1 on this list), and is still considered "a player in terms of hockey sense and skill, but the production has not come at a pro level." (Puck Prospectus - July 2012).
I have trouble making out what role Deschamps could carve out for himself with the big club - he doesn't seem to have the same offensive flair against men as he did against boys in junior, and that all but excludes him from earning a Top 6 role in the future. He's not the kind of energy / physical / defensive forward that could find a niche in the bottom 6 / PK role. I personally think his ceiling might be "injury callup" who sees a few games dabbling in a 3rd line role while some more seasoned NHLers recover on the IR.
2012/2013 Season Status: Unless he decides Europe is the better paycheque, look for him in a Marlies uniform once more.
22. Garret Sparks
A 7th round draft pick (190 overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry draft, Garret Sparks is the starting goalie for the Guelph Storm of the OHL and currently the youngest goalie prospect in the Leafs' system.
Drafted while he was the backup, Sparks was the heir apparent for the starting job in Guelph and secured the role throughout the year with a strong performance. 27-25-4 in 59GP and .907 sv% might not seem like dominating numbers, but numbers don't always tell the story when it comes to young goaltenders being able to transition their game to the next level.
So as you can see, over the course of only 19 games, Sparks earned just enough pins of meaningful merit as an OHL rookie to catch the collective eye of Toronto's scouting staff. And considering he's a self-proclaimed "blocking style" goalie that likes to make explosive but calculated and controlled movements, you might even say Sparks and Allaire could quickly become a perfect match.
TGG: How would you describe your style of play, and are there any NHL goalies out there that you try to emulate or model your game after?
GS: "My style of play is very positional combined with athletic movements. I rely on my body, chest and such to stop shots, but I feel I move well with the play and in an athletic manner. I am a blocking goalie with the ability to make an explosive save cross-crease or a desperation rebound save. I like Ryan Miller as a goalie, as I see him as another good combination of a blocking goalie with extreme athleticism, as well as an ability to focus that is second to none."
Sparks has the luxury of being young enough and deep enough down the Leafs goalie depth chart that he doesn't have to worry about the pressure of the Toronto media - yet. He won't be a member of the Blue & White anytime in the near future but is an important piece of the franchise going forward as other youngin's like Owuya & Rynnas will be pushed for playing time from below.
2012/2013 Season Status: Having secured the starting goaltender job last season, Sparks will in all likelihood return to lead the Guelph Storm goalies in GP and hopefully show well enough to earn an ELC with the Leafs.
21. Spencer Abbott
Signed as an undrafted College free agent at the age of 23, Spencer Abbott doesn't fit the stereotyped mold when it comes to "big" and "truculent", but instead plays a skill game and relies on his quickness. Smallish for an NHL pro at 5'10" and 175 lbs, Abbott will have to make sure he can withstand the physicality of the pro game and take what Dave Nonis describes as "high-end skill" to the NHL level before his age catches up with him.
His College stats start out slow in his early years but end quite dominant, Abbott was a Hobey Baker finalist ending his Senior season with 62 points in 39 games. This should be kept in context - by age 23 he was among the oldest and most experienced on the ice, was most definitely getting prime minutes and it shouldn't be expected that he can immediately jump into the NHL. This is a year old than Tyler Bozak was when he made the jump to pros, and is the same age as Matt Frattin - he'll only have a couple years to prove he can hack it in the pros before he becomes irrelevant.
2012/2013 Season Status: Based on the main countdown's poll, it appears most of the community agree that Abbott will start the season with the Toronto Marlies and have to earn his way over his peers to get a spot with the big club down the line.