The Toronto Maple Leafs have quickly developed into a team to be reckoned with inside of the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
Despite finishing the 2015-16 campaign in last place, the Leafs have drafted and developed a young team with both haste and purpose, and now stand on the brink of significant success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Perhaps the most frightening facet of Leafs, however, is the fact that the franchise continues to boast a bustling farm system. As if their roster was not strong enough already, Toronto features a whack of promising young prospects who could and should vie for playing time at the NHL-level in the immediate future. What’s more is that the Leafs gloat prospect depth at each position of the ice, a reality which will surely ignite white-hot debate as well as internal competition in the seasons ahead.
Who are these young players who could play a significant role with Toronto in the coming years, you ask?
Well, let’s take a moment to highlight and analyze five of the Leafs’ most intriguing yet promising prospects heading into the 2018-19 season.
2018-19 Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Acquired: 2018 NHL Draft (Round 2, 52nd Overall)
Defencemen of immense skill, mobility, and exceptional two-way play have become increasingly valuable of late — a major reason why Toronto has stockpiled all of Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandin, and Sean Durzi within their farm system. In the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft, the Leafs were quick to add another terrific defender to the fold in Durzi — a dynamic defenceman who can dictate play at both ends of the ice.
Standing 6-feet and weighing 200-pounds, Durzi boasts solid size and strength which he loves to utilize in a variety of on-ice situations. In the defensive zone, Durzi can trap and smother opposing players before jostling the puck loose and transitioning possession to his forwards. Further, in the attacking zone, Durzi is incredibly agile and mobile on the blue line — his ability to control the puck with confidence and poise allows him to devise and implement devastating offensive opportunities for his team.
One aspect of Durzi’s growing game which has drawn a great deal of attention is the native of Toronto, Ontario’s shot. Extremely accurate and of ample velocity, Durzi can blast his shot on goal in the form of a wrist-shot or crisp one-timer and features the ability to beat opposing goaltenders clean.
2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Acquired: 2016 NHL Draft (Round 2, 57th Overall)
With four seasons of Swedish Hockey League experience under his belt, it is safe to say that Carl Grundström is ready to compete at the NHL-level. Of great size given his 6-foot, 200-pound frame, Grundström plays a professional-style of game and can contribute to his team’s well-being in all three zones of the ice.
As competitive as they come and endlessly determined, Grundström plays with a gritty edge and is a physical force who cannot be taken lightly. In addition to his impressive physicality, Grundström has proven time and time again to be a lethal and consistent offensive player. In fact, in his 153 SHL games played as a teenager, Grundström netted 40 goals and 65 points and has since become a point-per-game player in his short AHL career to date.
Set to skate in his first full AHL campaign this year, the 2018-19 season and Grundström’s resulting success will speak volumes in regard to his future potential at the NHL-level. If able to dominate his competition as an AHL rookie, Grundström could very well vie for playing time with the Leafs as the season progresses.
2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent (2016)
Mason Marchment had never been considered as a high-end prospect, until now.
A somewhat late entrant into the OHL, Marchment has had to work tirelessly throughout his major-junior and professional career to establish himself as a young player of undeniable value. However, given his 6-foot-4 frame and natural on-ice abilities, Marchment’s ability to impress now comes easy, and especially so of late.
Despite standing as a relative unknown within the Toronto Marlies’ 2017-18 roster, Marchment was incredibly productive in his 44 regular season games played with the team. As an AHL rookie, Marchment potted 11 goals and 26 points alongside an additional nine points in 20 Calder Cup Playoffs games — a rate of production which earned the native of Uxbrigde, Ontario a well-deserved three-year entry-level contract this past offseason.
Poised to skate in his sophomore AHL campaign with the Marlies in 2018-19, Marchment will surely set out to prove that his stellar rookie season was not a fluke. As an impressive and creative puck-handler defined by his smooth strides, the Leafs surely hope their hidden gem will take yet another significant leap forward this season.
2018-19 Team: Jokerit (KHL)
Acquired: 2017 NHL Draft (Round 2, 59th Overall)
The Leafs have come to be known for their under-sized, mobile, and offensive-minded defence-core, however, Eemeli Räsänen stands determined to shatter Toronto’s mind-set. Standing a whopping 6-foot-7 and weighing in at 210-pounds, Räsänen is an intimidating force on the blue line who can also play an impactful offensive game.
Capable of dis-possessing opposing attackers with relative ease owing to his long, active stick and punishing size, Räsänen will then transition the puck to his teammates through forceful outlet passes. Once established in the offensive zone, Räsänen is cool, calm, and collected on the blue line — scanning the ice for passing lanes before consistently executing safe yet productive passes.
Following two years of play in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs, the native of Joensuu, Finland has returned home to compete with Jokerit of the KHL this season. Although he was eligible to play in the AHL, electing to skate in the KHL will afford Räsänen the comforts of home while competing against stern competition. If able to adapt to and succeed at the KHL-level this season, Räsänen could return to North America and battle for a place within the Leafs’ roster in the near future.
2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent (2017)
Despite the disappointment of failing to crack Toronto’s roster as a full-time player last season, Calle Rosén returned to the AHL to conclude his year and impressed in a major way. Although incredibly solid throughout the Marlies’ 2017-18 regular season, Rosén’s game truly exploded just in time for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
In his 16 playoff games played with the Marlies, Rosén recorded five goals and 11 points — a total which led all Toronto defenders by a wide margin. Founded upon his solid skating abilities and a step above his competition owing to his adaptive vision and predictive play, Rosén has quickly progressed from a promising prospect into an NHL hopeful over the course of one season of play.
Currently skating in his second campaign with the Marlies, Rosén will enter the 2018-19 season with the hopes of building off of his impressive play which helped lead Toronto to its first-ever Calder Cup championship. And, having recorded 15 points in his first 16 games played this season, it is safe to say Rosén has started off on the right foot.