This is part two of a two-part series written by Maple Leafs Central’s Karl Faber that takes a look at where prospects of the Toronto Maple Leafs will play this season. Be sure to read part one on goalies and defencemen if you haven’t already.
The Leafs have a plethora of professional prospects up front at the moment, which means competition not only for playing time but to avoid ECHL relegation will be fierce at the Marlies camp. The overarching effect of the lockout for these players is simple; they will benefit from the higher calibre in the AHL, but many will suffer reduced roles or ECHL relegation. This is a result of the fact that two or three of these prospects will not be playing NHL hockey.
Nazem Kadri: AHL Marlies – Lockout has likely resulted in keeping him out of the NHL.
Kadri would have made the Leafs out of training camp. He needs to take a significant step forward in his development this year. That said, the lockout may not be as detrimental as it could seem.
Kadri will play top minutes and in a slightly higher calibre league. He will also continue to have a greater opportunity to experiment with his position and potential future NHL linemates. If the lockout lasts for only half a season, I would expect Kadri to explode out of the gates in a shortened NHL season.
Joe Colborne: AHL Marlies – Unchanged by lockout.
The painful wrist injury Colborne suffered last season greatly decreased his production. For him, being fully healthy is critical and the NHL lockout should provide him with a solid opportunity to test his surgically repaired wrist without the pressure of trying to crack the NHL lineup. Therefore, the lockout will benefit him for the time it offers and the improved AHL.
Matt Frattin: AHL Marlies – NHL Player.
Frattin is an NHL player and only a disastrous training camp could have changed that. The lockout will give him a chance to play significant minutes in the AHL, but much like the case of Korbinian Holzer or Jake Gardiner he would be better served playing less in the NHL. His presence in the AHL will also result in some lost minutes to other valuable prospects.
Carter Ashton: AHL Marlies – Unchanged by lockout.
Ashton would likely have pushed for a spot in training camp but would likely have fallen short. Thus, the lockout and the improved AHL will help speed his development.
Jerry D’Amigo/Nicolas Deschamps/Greg Scott: AHL Marlies – Unchanged by lockout.
D’Amigo and Deschamps are perfectly matched because they are both coming off strong playoff performances that garnered them dark horse consideration to make the Leafs this season.
Scott was not quite as dominant in the playoffs but he has been a glue player with the Marlies for three seasons and is a strong organizational depth player. Scott has also been considered an outside candidate for the Leafs’ fourth line this season.
The lockout will devoid them of their chances but will benefit them in the long run. These three will all be part of the top-nine in the AHL; their versatility may result in them playing a valuable third line checking role. Thus, they will be unlikely to lose any ice time and will benefit from the higher competition and possibly checking the likes of Jordan Eberle.
Greg McKegg/Brad Ross/Sam Carrick/Andrew Crescenzi/Jamie Devane: AHL Marlies – Likely Unchanged by lockout.
These five individuals have all left junior hockey this season to enter the professional ranks. The presence of Frattin and Kadri has added significant pressure to their situations. It is likely that one or two of the five will begin the season in the ECHL as a result. The players that do remain on the team will likely see significantly reduced roles due to the lockout unless they steal the ice time through deserving play. I am all for meritocracy, but it is unfortunate that five prospect with legitimate NHL potential will lose ice time due to the lockout.
Spencer Abbot/Tyler Brenner/Kenny Ryan: AHL/ECHL – Lockout will likely result in demotion.
These three prospects are quite different but fall into similar circumstances.
Abbot has the most upside of the three and has the highest chance to not only stick with the Marlies but claim a substantial role as well. The lockout has greatly hurt his chances, though, as he projects more to be a top-six player and the top-six is basically full.
The ECHL is calling for Brenner and Ryan. This may have been the case without a lockout, but the increased competition reduces their chances. However, I feel there is a strong possibility that Ryan will be kept around in place of another prospect to play a fourth line/press box role. This would seem to be a more logical choice as one of the new junior graduates could play a top line role in the ECHL.
Tyler Biggs/Connor Brown/ Josh Leivo/David Broll/Ryan Rupert: OHL – Unchanged by lockout.
These five prospects make up the OHL forward contingent for the upcoming season. The lockout will benefit them due to the increased level of the OHL. The only negative is the resulting loss of a training camp experience. However, given the early production of these players it may be beneficial that they start the season fully engaged in the OHL season.
I think David Broll will benefit the most as he can focus on developing his offensive game rather than attempting to grind or fight his way onto the Maple Leafs.
Dominic Toninato: Fargo, USHL – Unchanged by lockout.
Toninato will suit up with the Fargo Force in the USHL. The lockout is definitely a non-factor for this five-year development project.
Tony Cameranesi: NCAA, Minnesota-Duluth
Cameranesi will make the jump to the NCAA this year from the USHL. The lockout will have no effect on this huge year of development.