Toronto Maple Leafs boast large contingent of prospects in Europe and the NCAA

By John-Eric Iannicello
Photo: The Leafs organization has to make a decision on signing goal-scoring forward Matt Frattin this off-season. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Maple Leafs have seen positive development out of a number of NCAA and European players over the 2010-11 season. Matt Frattin has turned his career (and life) around and is now one of the top collegiate players in the nation, and also teammate Andrew MacWilliam is proving to be a hard-nosed shut-down defender that can be relied on in key defensive situations.

Across the pond, 18-year-old’s Sondre Olden and Petter Granberg continue to hone their craft as they develop into full-time SEL players. Daniel Brodin and Leo Komarov, two of the team’s older European prospects, may look to take the jump across pond to take their shot at an NHL spot for the 2011-12 season.

Europe

Daniel Brodin, LW, 21
Acquired: 5th round, 146th overall, 2010

The hardnosed, grinder Daniel Brodin has had a successful season in the SEL. The 21-year-old forward has four goals and nine assists in 51 games with Djurgården. He’s also seen time with Team Sweden going pointless, but collecting two penalty minutes in one game played.

Brodin seems like the ideal bottom-six player on a Brian Burke team due to his intense checking game. He has a contract with Djurgården until the end of the 2012-13 season in which he’s likely to fulfill due to the depth on the Marlies. At the conclusion of that season Brodin will be 22-years-old and is likely to make the jump across the pond to compete for an NHL duty. Brodin must continue to gain strength to suite his robust style of play and physical grind of an 82-game schedule.


Jerome Flaake, RW, 21
Acquired: 5th round, 130th overall, 2008

The 21-year-old Flaake has seen an increase in production since joining the Hamburg Freezers of the DEL. Last season he collected only nine points through 42 games, and overall his season was seen as a letdown.

This year, Flaake has rebounded offensively scoring four goals and 11 assists in 47 games. While his numbers aren’t mind-blowing, he has the opportunity next season to build on a solid 2010-2011 season. Like Brodin, Flaake has also played for Germany on the international stage. He suited up for three games with Germany and collected one assist.


Leo Komarov, C, 24
Acquired: 6th round, 180th overall, 2006

A prospect who hasn’t drawn much attention over the years has been Leo Komarov. He’s quietly honed his craft in Europe and at 24-years-old he seems ready to cross the pond.

The Estonia native has begun to evolve offensively. Primarily seen as an agitating forward, Komarov has scored 14 goals and assisted 12 times in 52 games with OHK Dynamo Moskow. He’s also recorded 70 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, Komarov raised his game scoring four goals and two assists in six games.

It’s likely a "now-or-never" situation with Komarov in terms of his NHL potential with the Maple Leafs. His contract in the KHL expires this summer and he’ll have the opportunity to cross the pond. Should he choose to re-sign in Russia, it likely ends any future he’d have in the NHL. There are rumors that he’s drawing NHL interest, and it could be in the Maple Leafs best interest to bring him over for training camp to assess his NHL ability.

Sondre Olden, LW, 18
Acquired: 3rd round, 79th overall, 2010

After a successful North American debut at the Maple Leafs rookie-tournament last summer, Olden returned to Sweden with large expectations. He’s had to deal with injuries early in the season, but he’s put together a solid season overall.

Early in the year he was a candidate to steal a role with MODO in the SEL, but settled for a primary role with MODO’s J20 team. He finishes fourth in team scoring with seven goals and 15 assists in 33 games. On the international stage, Olden was expected to be a primary contributor for Norway at the World Juniors, but he failed to record a point in six games.

The primary focus in Olden’s development will be adding strength. He’s still very lanky and lacks strength in his shot.


Petter Granberg, D, 18
Acquired: 4th round, 116th overall, 2010

One of the youngest players in the 2010 draft, Granberg has continued his development in Sweden with Skellefteå J20. Offensively, he’s scored at a similar pace with eight points in 34 games, but has also played 22 games in the SEL with Skellefteå – an impressive feat for an 18-year-old defender. The only other 18-year-old on the team is 2011 top prospect Adam Larsson.

With the likely departure of Adam Larsson (2011), David Rundblad (OTT), and potentially Tim Erixon (CAL) it may open the door for Granberg to see a more consistent role with Skellefteå in the 2011-2012 season. Granberg’s contract expires at the end of next season, although he’s likely to spend the next few seasons in Sweden.


NCAA

Matt Frattin, RW, 23
Acquired: 4th round, 99th overall, 2007

Arguably the most followed Maple Leafs prospect this season has been the successful comeback of 23-year-old Matt Frattin. The sniper has scored at an astonishing pace this season. He’s the top scorer in the NCAA with 33 goals in 39 games and has an impressive 54 points. His successful season has made him a strong candidate for the Hobey Baker award which is awarded to the top collegiate player.

In the mean time, Frattin has collected a number of WCHA awards. He’s been named WCHA Play of the Year, Scoring Champion, First Team All-Star and has been named to the All-Academic Team.

His accomplishments this season after a tough 2009-10 campaign has put Matt Frattin’s name on the map. While his success has to be taken into consideration due to his age, Frattin’s ability cannot be ignored. He’s a solid scoring forward with power-forward ability.

The Maple Leafs will have until this summer to sign Frattin before he’s eligible for free-agent status.


Jake Gardiner, D, 20
Acquired: Trade with Anaheim, February 2011

A focal point in the deal that saw the Maple Leafs send Francois Beauchemin back to Anaheim, Gardiner brings a unique dynamic to the Maple Leafs defensive system. He’s one of the better offensive defenders in the Maple Leafs system and has great skating ability.

The 20-year-old was one of the top offensive-defenders in the NCAA this year, second only to teammate Justin Schultz (ANA) with 41 points in 41 games.

With Wisconsin eliminated early in the playoffs, Gardiner has since signed an entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs. He’s expected to join the Marlies for their late-season playoff push. He should make an immediate impact on the Marlies power-play.


Andrew MacWilliam, D, 20
Acquired: 7th round, 188th overall, 2008

MacWilliam is another prospect who is quietly going about his business in his respective development league. As a teammate of Frattin at North Dakota, MacWilliam is counted on as the rock on their defensive unit.

The 6’2, 215lb defender is a primary fixture on the top penalty killing unit, and has also doubled his point totals from last season. While he hasn’t recorded a goal yet in his NCAA tenure, he has assisted six times in 32 games this season. He’s also cut down on his penalty minutes from 87 to 43, but it hasn’t hindered his penchant for big physical plays.

MacWilliam has made positive strides in his game over the last two seasons and should continue to do so as he continues his collegiate career.


Grant Rollheiser, G, 21
Acquired: 6th round, 158th Overall, 2008

Rolheiser’s inability to win a starting job is a concern to his overall development as a goaltender. He’s only played in 24 games over the last three seasons, and Kieran Millan‘s solid play should keep him locked in a number two position. This year he’s played in five games for Boston University and has a 3.98 goals against average and also a .885 save percentage.

Ben Winnett, LW, 21
Acquired: 4th round, 104th Overall, 2007

Winnett was a player drafted for his strong two-way prowess, but has failed to develop the offensive side of his game at the NCAA level. He’s only scored a career high of 14 points in his four year NCAA career, and this past year was his lowest production to date scoring three goals and notching seven assists.

The 21-year-old Winnett’s rights will expire this summer, and at this point it’s unlikely he’s earned a contract.


Eric Knodel, D, 20
Acquired: 5th round, 128th overall, 2009

Knodel has failed to crack the New Hampshire lineup this season as a rookie. While it may be a trend of the coaching staff to slowly acclimate their young players, the season has to be seen as a setback for Knodel’s development.