The Toronto Maple Leafs have been ranked 6th in Hockey's Future organizational rankings. They've moved from being ranked 28th to 18th last year into the top ten during Brian Burke's tenure. These rankings have improve drastically since Brian Burke's arrival. Of course, as Burke is wont to note, in the team's top five prospects there are two selections, Carl Gunnarsson and Viktor Stalberg, made by John Ferguson Jr. in the seventh and sixth rounds respectively. This ranking is a good benchmark for Burke's tenure however it will be more impressive if it remains as high next year.
Hockey's Future largely 'graduates' prospects once they turn 24 or when they play 45 (goalies) or 65 (skates) games. The full details are available here but by their standards the Leafs are going to graduate four of their top five prospects next season and likely Christian Hanson as well if he re-signs. There's also a chance that Luca Caputi would graduate next season leaving six of the team's current top twenty prospects out of next season's rankings. Obviously, it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means that Burke's done a good job of bringing in propects into the fold that look like they will be contributing to the big club. On the other, it will highlight just how volatile these rankings are and why it's necessary to have as many lottery tickets as possible.
Looking at the full prospect cupboard you can see that the Leafs are going to have a large group of players that are 2-3 years away from contributing if, frankly, they even ever come close to helping out the Leafs. The exciting aspect looking at the prospects listed is that there are a number of those that will likely be with the Toronto Marlies next season. In addition to the players that are already on the Marlies' roster - Keith Aulie, James Reimer, Philippe Paradis, Juraj Mikus, Phil Oreskovic, Richard Greenop, and Robert Slaney - the additions could include: Dale Mitchell, Mikhail Stefanovich, Keith Aulie, Chris DiDomenico, and Korbinian Holzer. The quality of the Leafs' crop of prospects after the top six will become more apparent next season. The pool would be deeper if the Leafs still had their first and second round picks this season but for now, let's bask in a little bit of good news and at least a partial feather in Brian Burke's cap.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
Strengths: Prior to the start of this season, the Leafs prospect list was a list full of question marks. But it has become clear that the Leafs at the very least have some talent to work with in the coming seasons. First and foremost would be OHL star Nazem Kadri, who has come on in the second half of the season after a slow start in London. Two other forwards that appear to have a future with the Leafs are former collegians Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg. Jerry D'Amigo, one of the stars for Team USA at the 2010 WJC, is another promising forward currently in the college ranks. The acquisition of Luca Caputi adds another solid forward with some size, a trait valued by Leafs' GM Brian Burke. In goal, Jonas Gustavsson has emerged as a legitimate future starter. Weaknesses: Where the Leafs may lack future support is along the blueline, with trade deadline acquisition Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson representing the only current prospects of real magnitude at defense. But, considering where the Leafs were after last season, the future is looking brighter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Jonas Gustavsson, G, 3. Tyler Bozak, C, 4. Carl Gunnarsson, D, 5. Viktor Stalberg, LW