Every year when pulling together this list, we have to choose an arbitrary cut-off point at which to basically freeze the Leafs roster and use that as the official list for our purposes. We wait until after the draft and the bulk of free agency activity has cooled off, giving us a better chance of not having some last-second transaction leave an omission off our list. Of course it never happens that way.
At the very beginning of our voting process, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a minor deal with the Nashville Predators. The Leafs sent minor league forward Jamie Devane to the Predators in exchange for Taylor Beck.
The move effectively swapped a player that the Leafs had no future plans for out and received back an NHL player. The trade appears to have been financially motivated from Nashville's side, and the Leafs added another player to the list of them that are anticipated to be competing for jobs at the bottom of the NHL roster next season.
Beck was shoehorned into the voting, and makes the system that much stronger for the purposes of our countdown, as he claims the #17 spot.
At 24 years old, Beck is one of the older prospects that we've reviewed thus far in our countdown, and the first with any real sort of experience at the NHL level (Scott Harrington has 10 games of NHL experience with Pittsburgh last season to Beck's 85).
A former 3rd round pick from the 2009 Entry Draft, Beck had a successful four-year OHL career with the Guelph Storm, tallying 267 points in 246 games. Beck turned pro at the end of the 2010-11 season, and has spent much of the time since refining his game at the AHL level with the Milwaukee Admirals, with a few tastes of NHL action.
Last season, he broke into the NHL full-time with the Predators, playing 62 games and notching 8 goals and 8 assists, roughly half of which came against the Leafs in the 9-2 drubbing.
Looking at War-on-Ice, Beck's performance on a good Predators team isn't exactly impressive. Beck struggled to control possession and didn't produce significant offence , but also appeared to be used much more frequently in the defensive zone. He looks like what you would expect most fourth-line players to look, and given the Leafs tremendous defensive issues the past few seasons, his numbers relative to that group would look much more favourable.
The rankings on Beck saw a pretty big split, with about half of the rankings landed at the tail end of the list (or not ranked at all), while the other half were comfortably around the top 15 mark, giving Beck enough support to split the difference and land at #17.
Beck is a worthwhile gamble at a contract that can be stuffed in the AHL without any cap penalty if necessary. The Leafs have a large number of forwards that will be competing for fourth line duties. Beck figures prominently in that conversation, alongside Mark Arcobello, Shawn Matthias, Nick Spaling, Casey Bailey, Zach Hyman and Sam Carrick, among others.
Beck's experience playing in an NHL lineup may give him a leg up on the competition for that role to begin the season, but he will need to prove his worth in Mike Babcock's system to ensure an extended stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs this year.