Ever since Brendan Shanahan took over as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he has put a lot of emphasis on building a strong Toronto Maple Leafs prospects system. Putting time and resources into their pipeline has proved to be invaluable as the Toronto Marlies have had a lot of playoff success over the past few years.
This year, the Marlies have been no different. They are off to a great start, compiling an 8-2-2-1 record after one month of play. A bunch of veteran signings in the off-season has proven valuable, providing experience and leadership for the younger players. With the Leafs cap crunch coming for the next few years, let’s take a look at how their top prospects are doing down on the farm:
Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects Update
Rasmus Sandin is the top prospect for the Maple Leafs. His skillset and maturity are far beyond his age and allow him to think the game at a much higher level than most people his age.
This year with the Marlies, he has been off to a great start. After his short stint with the Leafs, Sandin has put up two goals and seven assists for nine points in eight games. As well as putting up points consistently, Sandin has begun to show that he is almost fully ready to be an NHL defenseman. He has all the skills in his arsenal to continue his hot start and prove he belongs in the NHL once and for all.
Even though Timothy Liljegren has had a rough few years with the Marlies, he looks like he is finally starting to breakthrough. Liljegren has shown from the start of the season that his long AHL seasoning is paying off. While putting up eight points in 13 games is great to see, it’s his play on the defensive side that has people turning their heads.
In years past, he has had his fair share of defensive blunders. This year, Liljegren seems to have more confidence with the puck on his stick. He is calm when he is making his breakout passes and seems more keen on taking chances to make plays. If Liljegren can continue improving his all-around game, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be a serious consideration to make the Leafs team out of training camp come next fall.
Jeremy Bracco‘s continued success in the AHL is proof that the Leafs farm system is doing things right. When Bracco was drafted by the Leafs in the second round in the 2015 NHL draft, many people saw the talent that Bracco possessed. Some teams chose to steer clear of Bracco because they thought he was going to be too much of a project. The Leafs saw through the rubble and have a potential gem in their system.
Bracco’s playmaking abilities have been on full display this season. Along with Sandin and Liljegren, Bracco has had a hot start to his season, putting up 10 points in 13 games. In training camp, Bracco’s defensive game and two-way play were heavily discussed and criticized. Since the start of the season, Bracco has been working hard to put those discussions to rest. He has had much more energy coming back to help his defensemen out and seems to have better defensive awareness compared to last season.
Bracco’s play away from the puck is what has kept him from making the big club so far. If he can become a full 200-foot player, he will be a lock on the big club for many years to come.
Yegor Korshkov‘s start for the Marlies has blown everyone who follows them closely out of the water. Korshkov started the season off on a five-game goal streak while playing big minutes. In total this season, he has put up 9 points in 13 games.
What is so impressive about Korshkov is his ability to bring a skillful but gritty game to the Leafs organization. Over the course of the past year, the Leafs have been ridiculed for never having their players stick up for one another. Other teams have been able to walk all over them physically without anyone doing anything. This is where prospects like Korshkov could make a big jump up the prospects list. Korshkov loves to get under opponents’ skin while still providing that skillful game that Kyle Dubas and the Leafs brass love to build around.
If Korshkov can develop his skating a bit more, he will be in the Leafs lineup faster than some people may think. With the Leafs looking to add more size to their lineup, having a guy like Korshkov available only a cab drive away is a good problem for any team to have.
While some casual hockey fans may not have heard of Pierre Engvall, that is sure to change very soon. Mike Babcock loves guys who aren’t afraid to go and get the puck in the trenches and Engvall fits that criteria to a tee.
Engvall provides a gritty two-way game that works well in many situations. He kills penalties, plays on the power-play and is relied upon when the game is on the line. Engvall can also chip in on offence as well. Early into this season, he has 12 points in 13 games while playing on the second line. Engvall is loved by his teammates because like Korshkov, he is not one to shy away from getting dirty. Combine that with his skill and two-way play and people are beginning to see why he may be worth giving a look.
The pain of having one of the worst prospect systems’ in the league is a thing of the past for the Leafs. Toronto Maple Leafs prospects are as encouraging as ever. Having patience is paying off and they will continue to reap the benefits for years to come.