OHL well represented in Maple Leafs CHL prospect pool

By John-Eric Iannicello
Photo: Sam Carrick off to another strong season with the Brampton Battalion, where he has nine goals and nine assists in 25 games. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have 12 players playing at the junior level in North America. There are nine players in the OHL, two in the WHL, and one in the USHL.

OHL

David Broll, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 6th round (152nd overall) 2011

Poised for a breakout year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in his third OHL season, Broll has been unable to find the back of the net all that much with only one goal in 19 games. This can partially be attributed to the fact Broll started the season with a wrist injury that he suffered in the Maple Leafs rookie tournament.

While he hasn’t scored much, he’s been able to assist on 11 of his teammates goals throughout the first 19 games of the season. He’s also been a plus-five and has collected 18 penalty minutes.

Broll saw a ton of ice-time recently as the Greyhounds were down to only 13 players due to suspensions handed in a game on November 11th.

Impressing early in the summer at the Maple Leafs early rookie training camps, Broll landed his NHL entry-level deal on July 30th.

Sam Carrick, C, Brampton Battalion
Acquired: 5th round (144th overall) 2010

Entering his fourth OHL season, many were looking for Carrick to take the next step in his offensive development and surpass his career high of 42 points that he set in 2009-10. He currently has nine goals and nine assists through the first 25 games of the season.

Barclay Goodrow has flanked Carrick’s wing all season and has seen a handful of players rotate on his opposite wing. Should Carrick remain healthy, he’s expected to surpass his career highs of 21 goals and 21 assists in 42 games.

Carrick is also playing for an NHL contract, as his rights will expire on June 1st, 2011.

Andrew Crescenzi, C, Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: Free Agent, September 24th, 2010

Possibly the most surprising offensive production from any of the Maple Leafs junior prospects has been the play of Andrew Crescenzi.

While he’s currently sidelined with a hand injury as a result of a slash, he’s been the second-line center for the Kitchener Rangers this year. He started the year with Ben Thomson and Brandon Francisco, but was thrust into a more prominent role with Michael Catenacci out for the first 10 games of the season. The injury allowed Crescenzi to anchor the team’s first unit with Tobias Reider (EDM).

The increased ice-time resulted in a spike in Crescenzi’s offensive production. Even with his current injury, he is fourth on team scoring with 19 points in 18 games (nine goals, 10 assists). His career high is 23 points in 55 and the late bloomer looks like he’s starting to bloom in the OHL.

Jamie Devane, LW, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 3rd round (68th overall) 2009

Failing to secure a spot on the Toronto Marlies, Devane was returned to Plymouth for an overage year to build on his offensive success that he had in the second half of the 2010-11 season.

He made an immediate impact for the Whalers with five goals and three assists in his first nine games. His production has slowed in the month of November with five points in nine games, but should easily top his previous career highs. Last year he had 19 goals and 19 assists to go with 131 penalty minutes in 63 games. This year he has seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 18 games.

With Plymouth among the top contenders in the OHL, Devane will be expected to provide a strong overall game as they hunt for the franchises second OHL title.

Josh Leivo, LW, Sudbury Wolves
Acquired: 3rd round (86th overall) 2011

Drafted as a late-blooming forward last season after a very strong playoff performance, Leivo is continuing where he had left off. On a line that saw him have late season success in the 2010-11 season, Leivo is now the teams first-line LW. Levio is third in team scoring with eight goals and nine assists for 17 points in 19 games.

He has played most recently with Kristoff Kontos and Samuel Schutt, but has also seen time with Michael Sgarbossa (SJ) and Russian forward Andrei Kuchin.

A gamble in the third round, Levio’s production is proving last year’s late season production was not a fluke.

Greg McKegg, C, Erie Otters
Acquired: 3rd round (62nd overall) 2010

It’s been a tough first half of the season for Greg McKegg and the Erie Otters. Not only are they the worst team in the OHL, they have the least amount of points in the entire CHL with six (three wins in 23 games).

It would be hard to expect any player to improve on their numbers when the team has only scored 53 goals collectively. McKegg, however, is doing his best to lead his Otters squad. He’s played most of the year with Luke Cairns and has also seen time with fellow Maple Leafs prospect Sondre Olden. He’s the team leader in points with seven goals and 14 assists in 21 games. His minus-23 is a far cry from the plus-20 he was last season, but it’s more of a product of the team than anything McKegg is or isn’t doing.

A bright spot in a dismal season for McKegg was his play at the Subway Super Series for Team OHL. He looked great on a line with Ryan Spooner (BOS) and was able to come away with one goal and two assists versus Team Russia. His play should keep his name on the radar for Canada’a U-20 Team.

Sondre Olden, LW, Erie Otters
Acquired: 3rd round (79th overall) 2010

Coming over from Europe, most expected Sondre Olden to pile a ton of points playing with McKegg. But no one could have anticipated the type of season Erie has gone through, and in turn it has affected the production and chemistry of the squad as they look for solutions throughout their line-up.

On the year, the 19-year-old forward has five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 17 games. He’s played in the Otters top-six throughout the year, and is arguably the team’s most skilled player. He’s missed a handful of games recently due to an undisclosed minor injury, and is listed as day-to-day.

While McKegg may have an ‘out’ from the Otters come trade deadline, moving Olden may be a bit harder because he takes up an Import Spot on an OHL roster. There’s also the potential for him to join the Marlies next season after being selected out of Europe, but he’ll need to sign an NHL contract first.

Stuart Percy, D, Missisauga St. Michaels Majors
Acquired: 1st round (25th overall) 2011

Like Broll, Percy also suffered an injury in training camp and it wouldn’t be the first injury he sustained in the first-half of the season. On October 23rd, Percy was the victim of a check-from-behind at the hands of Plymouth’s Mitchell Heard. The injury did not keep him out long, as he returned from action on November 6th.

Percy’s been one of the league’s best two-way defensemen with three goals and 14 assists for 17 points (to go along with a plus-nine). His statistical improvement this year would be impressive by forward standards, but when a defenseman scores near a point per-game pace it catches the leagues attention; in Percy’s case – the attention of Maple Leafs management.

On November 22nd, Percy signed his entry-level deal with the club. With his contract signed, his more immediate goal will be to make the Canadian U-20 Team. He’s off to a good start with his play in the regular season and at the Super Series for Team OHL.

Garret Sparks, G, Guelph Storm
Acquired: 7th round (190th overall) 2011

Coming into the year Sparks focus was to see more game action. He looked to battle for the Storm’s starting job with veteran Brandon Foote. He’s been off to a strong start for the Guelph Storm as he’s played in 16 games this season, closing in on his career high of 19 last year.

He’s ranked 13th in goaltending statistics with 3.07 goals against, .909 save percentage and has a record of 7-6-0-2. Sparks recently recorded his first OHL shutout on November 19th against Erie turning aside 25 shots.

A long term project, Sparks focus will be to keep battling for his ice-time in Guelph and establish himself as a top goaltender in the OHL.

WHL

Josh Nicholls, RW, Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 7th round (182nd overall) 2010

After a breakout season last year, Nicholls has picked up where he’s left off leading the Saskatoon Blades in scoring through 25 games. He’s also among the top 15 in WHL scoring. Nicholl’s has notched 16 goals and added 14 helpers to go with a plus-nine in the first half of the season. His linemates have certainly aided in his production as he has returning forwards Matej Stransky (DAL) and Jake Trask helping him lead the offensive charge.

Like Percy and McKegg, Nicholl’s also suited up against Team Russia in the Super Series. He tallied the games tying goal in the first period on November 16th.

Nicholls improvement over since his draft year has him poised to earn an NHL contract at season’s end. His rights will expire on July 1st, 2011 if he is not signed.

Brad Ross, LW, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 2nd round (43rd overall) 2010

A bit of a disappointment for the Maple Leafs during their summer training camps; Ross was expected to make more of an offensive impact. To his credit, he’s answered his critics so far with Portland. While Portland isn’t without its share of offensive firepower, even with Ryan Johansen (CLB), and Nino Niederreiter (NYI) in the NHL, Ross has fit in well and has continued his strong production at the WHL level.

Ross has 15 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 24 games and has played recently with Brendan Leipsic and Dillon Wagner. At this rate he’s on pace for career highs offensively. He also hasn’t shied away from the penalty box either, as it looks like he’ll eclipse the 100 penalty minutes for the fourth year in a row.

Like Nicholls, Ross will look to continue his current pace as he works towards earning his NHL entry-level deal. Ross’s rights will expire on June 1st, 2011 if he is not signed.

USHL

Tony Cameranesi, C, Waterloo Blackhawks
Acquired: 5th round (130th overall) 2011

A bit of an unknown at the moment, Tony Cameranesi has made a good transition to the USHL after playing Minnesota High-School hockey for Wayzata High last season. He’s second on the Blackhawks with three goals and seven assists for 14 points in 14 games. He’s also seen special teams time on the man advantage scoring one goal and adding two assists.

Cameranesi was able to gain some exposure on the international level when he named to the U.S. National Junior Select Team for the World Junior A Challenge. He appeared in five games with the club and tallied one goal and one assist.

He’s scheduled to join the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for the 2012-13 season and is expected to spend all four years there.