Annnnd we're back. Let's skip the preamble and get right into it, shall we? For the countdown until now:
10. Stuart Percy
Forever linked to the trade that sent Kris Versteeg to the Flyers for 1st and 3rd round picks, Stuart Percy was drafted 25th overall where Philly's pick ended up falling. Described as an "all-around" defenseman, his supposed ceiling is a second pairing, two-way defender. Sounds good to me.
Percy is the Captain of the Mississauga Majors who suffered a bad concussion during the year that made all of Leafs Nation cringe. They played it safe and didn't rush him back, and it was encouraging that he was able to return to playing form and even get in a game with the Marlies Calder push when they were decimated by injuries.
Now that the Leafs are starting to put together a solid stock of these young, 2-way type defenseman, and considering the logjam on the back-end, this kid will not be rushed. Look for him to follow a Jesse Blacker-esque progression, maybe seeing a shot at the show in 2-3 years. He'll be a Marlie first and he's okay with that:
"I want to get to the NHL as fast as possible," said the smooth, puck-moving rearguard. "But there's nothing negative about being in the AHL."
Percy's from Oakville, and he's one who sees the advantages of playing junior hockey in the GTA and having the Marlies in the same city as the Leafs.
"It inspires you even more," he said. "The CN Tower, the ACC lights flashing on game day, it all makes you dream about being there, about being part of the big show."
Sounds like the kid has a head on his shoulders. Oh and he's a life-long Leafs fan.
2012/2013 Season Status: Returning to Captain the Mississauga
Majors Steelheads of the OHL.
9. Joe Colborne
Originally drafted 16th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins, Joe Colborne arrived to Toronto via the infamous Kaberle trade that also included a 1st round pick (30th overall in 2011). After 61 games with the AHL Providence Bruins, Colborne was further down the depth chart and wasn't getting prime minutes, the Bruins likely felt he was expendable in order to get the puckmoving Dman they needed on their journay to the Stanley Cup.
Colborne had a strong start with the Marlies in the 2011/2012 season, putting up 2 points/game and being named the AHL player of the month in October which was good enough for a callup to the Leafs, but failed to turn heads, returning to the Marlies after 10 NHL games.
Dubbed "The Paperboy" by teammates - because he looks like he's 12 but always delivers - Joe Colborne has continues to grow well into his 20's and now stands at 6'6" and has to be constantly eating just to maintain his current weight. It seems probable that it might impact his on-ice playing and I'm interested in seeing what happens when he finally settles into his grown-up body, whenever that is.
His production slowed to a crawl in the second half of the season, likely due to a wrist injury that required surgery and was kept secret through the Marlies playoff run. But it was a lacerated finger that kept him from playing through the entire Calder Cup Playoffs:
A slash in Game 2 of the opening-round series against Rochester had left Colborne not only with a badly lacerated finger that had to be constantly frozen, but one that has the stitches ripped open every game and has the Leaf doctors concerned enough about the health of the digit that they've had Colborne on a heavy regimen of antibiotics.
"It's not my choice to come out," Colborne said in resigned tones as he climbed aboard a stationary bike while his teammates took to the ice for the morning skate. "I would never ask out."
It was a smart move by Eakins, as even taking faceoffs was starting to become a problem for the Leafs' prize prospect. Even worse, Abbotsford players were well aware of the injury and were hacking at Colborne's hand as often as possible, the kind of vicious mindset that sets in during a hotly competitive playoff series.
Despite a weak end to his 2011/2012 season, Colborne still has a ton of seemingly untapped potential. Here's why Corey Pronman over at Puck Prospectus rates him #2 on the Leafs Top 10 prospects:
The Good: Colborne has very desirable offensive tools for a big man. His speed is pro-average with slight improvement from the previous season in that area. He's a creative player with solid puck skills. I don't see him being a true plus dangler, but he's pretty coordinated with the puck for his size. Colborne has very impression vision; it's easily above average and maybe even high-end and he can really threaten as a playmaker. He's a pass-first player, but when he shoots, he has a plus shot that he can absolutely wire.
The Bad: Colborne had easily one of the weirdest seasons of any drafted prospect this year. In the early months, he was tearing up the AHL like it was nobody's business, and then he fell off dramatically for a large portion of the season. Normally, this production variance can be the cause of statistical randomness, but his play and how he looked to scouts went from an extreme high to an extreme low, which is quite unusual. This may have been because of a wrist injury that he disclosed and had surgery for at the end of the season. His strength level has gotten better but he could still improve on that area. Colborne needs better first-step quickness and could be somewhat better defensively as well.
Projection: He could be an above-average second-line center.
Second-line center? Sounds good to me.
2012/2013 Season Status: Short of wowing the Leafs brass at training camp (if there is one), Colborne will return to the Marlies and get top minutes.
8. Matt Frattin
Matt Frattin was drafted 99th overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft, and committed to a college career in hockey at the University of North Dakota. Based on his stats in his early years at UND, it looked like he would be another 4th round pick that didn't pan out. Then it happened.
While later acquitted of the DUI charges, it was obvious Frattin was on a path of self-destruction that wasn't going to lead to an NHL career. But Frattin did some soul-searching instead:
Hakstol never closed the door on Frattin's return to UND and laid out a process for him to follow if he wanted to rejoin the team. Frattin went back to Edmonton, lived with his parents, got a job, stayed in shape and turned his life around. And he remained in contact with two of his best friends on the team, Trupp and Malone.
"We encouraged him to come back," Trupp said. "We definitely weren't ready for him to leave."
"When he was gone, it was like missing the third leg of the tripod," Malone said. "Obviously, life went on, but we were wishing that he was with us."
Although Frattin had an opportunity to sign a pro contract and leave his troubles in Grand Forks behind, that's not what he wanted to do.
"The biggest thing was to face it straight on," he said. "I didn't want to leave here with the reputation that got me suspended.
They say that adversity doesn't build character - it reveals it. Well Frattin faced his own adversity and came back stronger than ever, being named Hobey Baker finalist in his Senior year and leading the league in goals.
After going pro and signing his 3 year ELC with the Leafs, Frattin forced the Leafs to keep him up with the big club when Nazem Kadri went down with an injury and ran with the opportunity, playing 56 games before being demoted to the AHL. Frattin showed strongly in the Calder Cup run scoring 10 goals and 13 points in 13 games before crashing into an empty net to seal the Marlies victory, damaging his knee in the process. He underwent season-ending surgery and was a question mark on whether he'd be healed before training camp (if there is one).
2012/2013 Season Status: While Frattin might have proven all he can in the AHL, he may have to stay there due to roster flexibility issues with the Leafs. Being waiver-exempt, it is likely he ends up suiting up for Ricoh to start the year, but don't be surprised to see him back in the show sooner rather than later.
7. Cody Franson
Cody "Not Lebda" Franson was originally drafted by Nashville in the 3rd round (79th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry draft and was the centerpiece of an awesome and bizarre trade sending Brett Lebda & Robert Slaney to Nashville for Franson and Matthew Lombardi (who at the time looked like his career was in jeopardy). Lombardi's uninsured contract (and cap space) was essentially the price to "buy" Franson from Nashville while simultaneously unloading one of the worst Leafs signings under Burke's tenure. Spectacular 1100 comment reaction thread on the trade here.
It was almost immediately that things started going wrong for Franson. With expectations of a new Top 4 D, Leafs were unhappy with Franson's start in Toronto, where he was benched in favour of Mike Komisarek and new wunderkind Jake Gardiner who earned a spot out of camp unexpectedly. Franson mistakenly opened up to the Toronto media about his displeasure of riding pine and things quickly got ugly between himself and then-coach Ron Wilson. Franson ended up playing 57 games by the end of year, sliding in during an injury or when Komisarek's ugly play was too much, and putting up 21 points. Not bad given limited ice-time, but he clearly took a step back in his NHL production & development.
Franson's status with the club is sort of in limbo - he doesn't want to be put in the same position next year, acting as the 7th dman who only plays when Carlyle eventually gets sick of Komisarek's turnovers. As an RFA, Franson is looking to see how the roster evolves (which hinges on CBA talks) before officially joining the roster:
The Leafs extended a qualifying offer to Franson earlier this month (he made $800,000 last year), but he stressed to TSN.ca that he's in no rush to sign it. With several significant free agent dominoes yet to fall - notably Ryan Suter and Matt Carle - the blueline market has yet to settle, making the needs of other franchises unclear at this early point in the renovation season. Leafs General Manager Brian Burke said Sunday that upgrading the Toronto defence was a "lower priority", meaning internal contenders such as Franson (Korbinian Holzer, Jesse Blacker among them with the Marlies) will be in line to vie for available opportunity. Luke Schenn's departure in the James Van Riemsdyk swap opened up one such spot. Even with Burke's assertions, Franson is likely to wait until the dust settles with salary arbitration his only point of leverage down the line.
Personally I like Franson - I think he got a tough shake in his first year with the Leafs, and I wonder if the relationship with the organization has been irreparably damaged. More of a PP specialist who needs sheltered minutes, I think Franson was poorly utilized and playing Komisarek over him time and again was both psychologically damaging as well as a poor hockey decision. I hope Carlyle doesn't make the same mistake next season.
2012/2013 Season Status: Unknown, but unless something unforeseen happens (like a trade), expect Franson to eventually sign a 1-year deal with the Leafs and try to redeem himself.
Morgan "New Hotness" Rielly was drafted 5th overall by the Leafs in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Immediate reaction was confusion and "Who?" as Leafs fans were salivating over the idea of getting one of the top-ranked Forward prospects (Yakupov, Galchenyuk, Forsberg, Grigorenko).
Burke's press conference after the signing shows how highly he rates the pick:
Burke: Well I think everyone knows my feeling on it, that winning championships begins and ends on the blue line. We had this player rated first overall. Wouldn't say that if it wasn't true just to build up the pick. This is the guy that if we had the first pick in the draft we would have taken him. He has a high hockey IQ, high compete level, smart decisions MUMBLE. The future's really bright for him so we're, we're excited. Our scouts are ecstatic.
PPP had a great write-up on the pick a few days after the draft and anything else I could possibly say has already been said here:
Best Player Available
When the name Tyler Biggs comes up, the debate moves to the actual player which completely misses the point. The main issue should be that the Maple Leafs chose a player with a lower ceiling but a higher probability of success rather than going after some of the highly skilled players that were available that may ultimately have less of a chance of making the NHL but would have a much higher ceiling. Toronto is a franchise that has an abundance of potential bottom half NHLers but lacks the top-end prospects of other systems. They need to roll the dice on skill when they can.
Burke may have been blowing smoke about just how highly they had Morgan Rielly rated but it's certainly not a stretch to think that Rielly would be considered the best player available. Hockey Prospectus focused on Rielly's high end skating and offensive abilities, B.J. MacDonald spoke about how well he reads the game, and The Scouting Report re-iterated his strong offensive game while one of their correspondents noted that he'd be high-end offensively but not very good defensively.
Ultimately, the conclusion is that the Leafs have drafted a good player regardless of who we wanted them to choose. Rielly isn't shit because he's not Grigorenko or Forsberg.
2012/2013 Season Status: Having a shortened season in the WHL makes this an easy decision for Leafs management - Rielly will go back and play another season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. This is great news and will hopefully give Rielly a chance to work out as many kinks in his game as he can before turning pro.