The Toronto Maple Leafs have their core set for next season. Their top-six forwards and top-4 defensemen are all returning, plus with $22 million of cap space to spend on free agents, there leaves little room for prospects to squeeze into the mix. But, with the uncertainty of free agency and the growing demand of effective bottom-six forwards, it is plausible that a prospect could crack the lineup.
The Leafs do not possess a Nathan MacKinnon-type prospect that can play top minutes and put up Calder-like numbers. Even this year’s draft is limited in prospects that can play right away. What the Leafs do possess are guys that have been winners at the junior, collegiate, and professional level.
I have already mentioned in a previous article that Peter Holland should be slotted at the fourth-line center position, but there are still a few other prospects that could see some valuable ice-time in Toronto.
Abbott had a great regular season for the Toronto Marlies, and has put in effective work in the postseason (he had a hat-trick last night against the Texas Stars). He is not known as a goal-scorer, but he always seems to be on the ice when his team scores a goal (+10). That speaks to his playmaking ability and will to win, something the other hockey team in Toronto could use more of. Look to see him get a shot a training camp with a few call-ups throughout the season.
The sixth-round pick in 2012 took great strides in his development this past season and has caught the attention of the Leafs’ brass. Brown dominated the OHL in 2013-14, leading the league in points (128) and assists (83). His production in juniors has more than earned him a spot in training camp. The Leafs need to see how he matches up against NHL defense and if his skating and playmaking ability will translate to the professional level. It is likely that Brown will spend much of the 2014-15 season in the AHL, but do not be surprised if Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle give this kid an opportunity to showcase his skill on the big stage.
Another sixth-round pick that has exceeded his draft spot. D’Amigo’s regular season for the Marlies was pedestrian, but has stepped it up in the postseason. He is tied for the lead in points (14) and has played in less games than his counterparts, due to the fact that the Marlies dominated the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs. D’Amigo saw 22 games with the pro team last year and this will be his second training camp. D’Amigo and Holland have played well together in the AHL and it won’t be a surprise if they spend some time together on the fourth-line next season.
It is unlikely that he will make the roster out of training camp, what with the defense being pretty much set, but it is worth mentioning his name as a possible impactful prospect for next season, especially with the season the blueliner had for the Marlies. He led the team in goals (25) and points (75) and has not missed a beat since postseason play started (6-7-13). The biggest issue with Brennan is that he tends to be too aggressive in joining the offensive rush, which leads to odd-man rushes on the other end. But slotting him with a defensive-responsible Tim Gleason would give him more freedom to jump in and make plays.
It is more than likely that all will see some time up with the Leafs, but extended staying power is something that cannot be seen at this point.