The team is well on its way toward rebuilding itself to the top shelf at the NHL level, and although maybe not quite there yet, management is committed to a youth-oriented built largely through the draft. The Leafs’ prospects are certainly not near the top, but a steady rise has already begun.
1) Nikolai Antropov: C 6-5, 191 Moscow Dynamo: Has slowly, but surely raised his skill-level and has taken some good steps toward the NHL. Montreal writer, Jack Todd , saw Nikolai play 4 games this season and came away impressed with his readiness. He uses his size, strength and hockey instincts to his benefit and has progressed with his skating as well. He scored 4 goals, 3 assists in that 4 game stint. The Moscow Dynamo program is perfect for him at this point as their system teaches and emphasizes skating, passing and skillwork. Todd feels that Antropov is closer to being ready than fellow Moscow Dynamo prospect, Maxim Afinogenov, who has been drafted by the Buffalo Sabres. He is still growing into his body, as many 19 year olds will need to do. He represented Kazakhstan in the World Juniors championship and led his team in scoring with 3 goals, 5 assists for 8 pts. in 6 games. Nikolai has stated that he needs another year in Russia to develop his game. Estimated time of arrival in Toronto: Late in the 2000-2001 season.
2) Adam Mair: C 6-1, 205 Owen Sound: Adam had an injury-plagued, but productive year as a 19-year old in the OHL. He nearly made the Toronto Maple Leafs roster after a great preseason showing in training camp. An injury to Adam late in camp persuaded the Leafs to send him back to Owen Sound for one more year of seasoning at the major junior level. Adam plays his heart out every shift and has the size, physical presence and defensive skills to make an impact at the NHL level. The 98-99 season showed he has developed some nice offensive skills as well as, despite missing several weeks with a broken jaw, he scored 23 goals and 41assists in 43 regular season games. He has scored 7 goals and 8 assists in 10 OHL playoff games as of April 11th. He represented Canada in the WJC tournament and in 7 games, scored 1 goal and 1 assist and won 68% of his faceoffs. He has been compared favorably to former NHL Selke Award winner, center, Doug Jarvis. Look for Adam to push for a spot on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster in the 1999-2000 season as a checking line center.
3) Jeff Farkas: C 6-0, 180 Boston College: Jeff is a silky smooth skater, who is developing a sniper’s mentality. He is developing the instincts and ability to find the openings on the ice to get off his nicely-developing wrist shot. He finished his junior year at Boston College by helping lead his team to the Frozen Four. Jeff’s goal-scoring production has gone up each year at BC and he finished in the top five in NCAA division I in goals scored this season. He finished the 98-99 season with 32 goals, 25 assists for 57 pts. in 43 games. He has excellent speed and skating ability as his game is more north-south as he drives hard to the net, both with and without the puck. He has increased his grittiness and physical play as well. The questionmark about Jeff is his lack of size although his off-season conditioning has seen him bulk up a bit over the past 3 seasons. Although Jeff has not made a final decision, the Toronto Star reports that Jeff will most likely stay at Boston College for his senior season in 1999-2000. ETA in Toronto: Late in the 2000-2001 season.
4) Ladislav Kohn: RW 5-11, 185 St. John’s Maple Leafs/Toronto Maple Leafs: Ladislav came over to the Leafs from the Calgary Flames in an off-season deal involving David Cooper. He had a tremendous playoff run with the Saint John Flames in 97-98, scoring 14 goals. He spent most of the 98-99 season in the AHL, but has appeared in 15 games with Toronto this season. He has not yet fully established himself as a regular NHL player, so we list him here still among the prospects. Ladislav has the tools to become an NHL regular. He is a good and swift skater, but does not have blazing speed. He has a good array of shots as well, but will probably not be a big-time NHL scorer. His most impressive talents to this point are his playmaking ability and physical play, despite not being a huge man. He is defensively aware and battles hard along the boards. He scored 1 goal, 3 assists in his first 15 games with Toronto, spending much of his time on the Leafs’ 4th line. He was St. John’s lone representative to the AHL All-Star game and was arguably their best player all season. He scored 27 goals with 41 assists for 68 pts. in 61 games with St. John’s in 98-99. He is a nice, well-rounded player, who doesn’t do any one thing overly well and he may be at best an NHL fringe player unless his productivity increases. He may be in the NHL to stay right now, but doubtful that he will be a top-line player. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: Now, maybe as a 3rd or 4th line regular in 1999-2000.
5) Petr Svoboda: D 6-3, 194 Petr was drafted by the Leafs in the 2nd round of the 1998 NHL draft and he has the passing and skating skills to make many scouts feel that he has powerplay potential and possibly the potential to be a top-3 defenseman at the NHL level in the next few years. Petr played for his Czech. team in the World Juniors Championship and in 6 games, he had 9 shots on goal, but did not score a point. Many scouts feel he may turn out to be even better than his NHL namesake currently playing for Tampa Bay in the NHL. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: 2001-2002
6) D.J. Smith: D 6-2, 210 D.J. has made some strides this season, playing for St. John’s in the AHL, but his conversion to a two-way, well-rounded defenseman has also hit a few bumps in the road. “D.J. has at times been our best defenseman, without question”, says Chris Schwartz, director of media relations for the St. John’s Maple Leafs, “but he also struggled trying to find his role on the team. He has attempted to add some offense to his game as he was our powerplay quarterback much of the season. At times his physical play and defensive zone coverage suffered a bit.” At the age of 21, D.J. still has plenty of time to develop. He scored 7 goals with 26 assists in his first 75 games with 2 powerplay goals. Some scouts still question his skating agility and speed. His physical play, as evidenced by 212 penalty minutes at St. John’s in 98-99, is top notch. Just before the AHL playoffs started, D.J. was named the top St. John’s defenseman for the 98-99 season. The Toronto Maple Leafs may view his potential as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, who can chip in with the odd goal. His skating ability might limit him, but he has made decent progress in his two years in the AHL. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: Late in the 1999-2000 season.
7) Frantisek Mrazek: LW 6-4, 220 Frantisek has the size that the Leafs have precious little of throughout their system amongst their forward prospects. Combine this with the package of skills he has and you’d think that the Leafs found themselves a gem in drafting him in the 5th round of the 1997 NHL draft. Unfortunately, Frank is far from a finished product as of yet. He followed up his rookie season in 97-98 with Red Deer in the WHL, a year in which he scored 30 goals and added 24 assists in 65 games, with a 34 goal, 42 assist regular season effort in 98-99. He added 6 goals, 4 assists in 9 playoff games with the Rebels in the 98-99 WHL playoffs which extended to the second round. The Rebels were swept by Calgary in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Frank has the offensive skills and physical capabilities to be an NHL player, but too often he does not play to his size. He represented his Czech. team in the World Juniors and in 6 games managed just 2 assists despite 14 shots on goal. “His skating needs some work, but the biggest need for Frantisek is to work on his consistency”, states Red Deer assistant coach, Peter Anholt. If he reaches his potential, Frank could be an NHL power forward. If not, he just might fade into oblivion. It will be up to Frantisek Mrazek. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: 2000-2001
8) Marek Posmyk: D 6-5, 220 Marek suffered through another injury-plagued season, this one with St. John’s in 98-99. He had a good training camp with Toronto, not looking out of place on an NHL blueline, but started the year at St. John’s. He has played in just 41 games this season in the AHL with 1 goal and 0 assists. “Marek has made some progress, but obviously his injuries have limited his development”, says Chris Schwartz, director of media relations for St. John’s. “He has a big-shot from the point and has the temperment to become a physical blueliner, but he struggled with his positioning and puckhandling this year. That’s not unusual for a young, AHL rookie, though”, Schwartz adds. “He’s still kind of a gangly kid, who is growing into that big body at the age of 20″, says Schwartz. Marek still brings a 100 mph slapshot to his point play and still draws some comparisons to a young Uwe Krupp, but his injury problems each of the last 3 seasons have to be a source of concern. Look for him to spend another year at the AHL level before getting a shot in the NHL. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: 2000-2001
9) Mark Deyell: C 6-0, 180 Mark was one of the Leafs’ bright spots early in the preseason training camp and made some noise as to making the parent club coming out of camp. He faded late in camp and was returned to St. John’s. He got off to a great start in the AHL, but suffered the injury bug which limited his season to 42 games going into the season’s final weekend. He has scored 20 goals, 27 assists in those 42 games. “Mark has all the skills in the world you’d want to see in a playmaking center and he also has a scorer’s mentality as well”, says Chris Schwartz, director of media relations for St. John’s. The knock on Mark is that he has not added the strength and physical play which are needed at the pivot spot at the NHL level. “He has so much skill”, says Schwartz “but he maybe needs to add some bulk, strength and some presence off the puck to round out his game.” Injuries and a lack of size and physical play have prevented this talented youngster from making that final jump. With improved depth down the middle in the Leafs’ organization, time might be running out for Deyell, a former WHL scoring champion, in his attempt to make the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: 1999-2000, ? with Toronto
10) Dimitri Yakushin: D 6-2, 205 Dimitri was a rookie in the AHL in 1998-99 and although he did not have a spectacular season, he exhibits a lot of potential. He has the size and physical tenaciousness to become a good defensive zone player. His most impressive attribute was his presence with the puck. “Many rookies panic with the puck, even at the AHL level”, says Chris Schwartz, St. John’s director of media relations. “Dimitri demonstrated from day one a coolness with the puck, a desire to make the right play.” He has above average speed and skating ability and a nice, low, accurate shot from the point. He finished the regular season with 2 goals and 5 assists in 64 games as he saw his icetime increase a bit down the stretch. A native of the Ukraine, Dimitri played two years in the WHL before making the jump to the AHL this season. “The Leafs feel that Dimitri is about a 4 as a prospect (on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest level) after showing what he can do on the ice this season. Look for him to step up his game next season as he gains in confidence,” says Schwartz. Yakushin is labeled as a Curtis Leschyshyn-type defenseman. Estimated time of arrival in the NHL: 2000-2001 season