Top 25 Under 25 - #9 Josh Leivo

Expectations have risen for Leivo, along with his ranking. Now that he turns professional, is he up for the challenge?

The Maple Leafs farm system is not particularly deep in the scoring forward department.

At the NHL level, the Leafs have a strong complement of young, talented scorers, led by Phil Kessel, and bolstered this past season with the addition of James van Riemsdyk via trade, and the emergence of Nazem Kadri.

But beyond them, in the AHL and lower levels, the system lacks what you would call 'high-ceiling' players, guys that we could reasonably expect to blossom into Top six forwards.

Part of this is circumstance; the Leafs traded their first-round pick in 2007, 2009 and 2010. In 2008 and 2012 they drafted defenceman with fifth overall picks (Luke Schenn, one of those players, was of course dealt in exchange for JVR). In 2011 the team held two first-round picks but took another defenceman and Tyler Biggs, who we don't beleive has that upside. The 2013 first round pick, Frederik Gauthier, projects as more of a two-way forward. Only Nazem Kadri has been developed from inside the organization.

The forwards that do populate the minor league system for the Leafs are either not likely to rise to the NHL as a top-six forward, or still have enough flaws in their game that doubt can creep in.

Josh Leivo, is potentially moving from one group to the other. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft (along with Stuart Percy, the two represent the picks the Leafs received in the Kris Versteeg trade), Leivo had come off a strong second half to his rookie OHL season, after initially struggling to make an impact with the Sudbury Wolves. Since that time, the winger has taken off.

Leivo possess a good mix of size, speed and skill, and has the Leaf organization firmly behind him. Leivo's stock is on the rise, and he takes a nine-spot jump up our rankings, from 18 last summer to 9 this time around.

Leivo's offensive totals from the OHL aren't staggering. 73 points in 66 games and 63 games in his Draft +1 and +2 seasons, respectively are adequate but not typically indicative of a future career as a top six forward in the NHL. (Greg McKegg has roughly the same future projection, but had 92 points in his final season in the OHL).

Working in Leivo's favour is his relative youth; Leivo just turned 20 at the end of May. So while most prospects turn 20 at some point during their second post-draft season in the OHL, Levio was 19 throughout, and so the size and experience advantage normally gained by 20 year olds didn't have as much of the impact it can have for others. Leivo could return to junior for one final season as an overager. However, he's not. He's moving on to begin his professional career with the Marlies.

Part of the Leafs' 2011 draft class that was marked with skating ability, responsible two-way play, and strong character (Leivo was captain of the Wolves before a mid-season trade to the Kitchener Rangers), Leivo possess a lot of tools (and should carry over enough offence) to be an effective third-line forward in the NHL.

However, given his relative youth and the belief the Toronto organization has in his ability, as well as the brief glimpse of talent he has shown in his AHL tryouts, we can't rule out the possibility of Leivo developing into a second-line forward. At 6'1" Leivo isn't small, but like van Riemsdyk they use their size more to protect the puck than deliver punishing checks.

clrkaitken birky SteveBurtch Chemmy SkinnyFish BowerPower JP Nikota PPP 67Sound Rank
9 6 9 11 11 9 12 9 11 9

EDITION 2 - 18/41
EDITION 1 - 21/45

Of everybody after the Top 5, Leivo is the prospect we reached the greatest 'consensus' on, without the broad range of votes we've seen with others. Leivo made a big move up everybody nearly everybody's rankings from last time, and all three new voters had him around the Top 10.

Better than a PPG in the OHL, Leivo might turn out to be a second or third line winger.
Bower Power
Leivo's career trajectory so far looks almost exactly like Greg McKegg's. He's probably not a 2nd line player in the NHL, but there is some potential there.
JP Nikota
Leivo's tally of 192 points was nine greter than Jesse Blacker's and three behind the next name on our list. At 9th in the countdown, Leivo has probably maxed out his potential until he shows he can adapt to the pro game. With a young roster lacking in top-end forward prospects, and his former junior coach now running the Marlies, Leivo has a golden chance to break through.
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