Several Maple Leafs prospects have graduated this season by the site’s criterion, and do not appear on the list. These players include Mikael Tellqvist, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Pierre Hedin, Karel Pilar, and Nathan Perrott. Below is the fall 2003 Maple Leafs prospect reranking, compiled with the help of Hockey’s Future new Maple Leafs writer, Brock Otten.
1. Carlo Colaiacovo – D (20, 6’1″/185 lbs)
Acquired: 1st Round, 17th Overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft
Brocks’s Take: Colaiacovo is the Leafs top prospect, no question. He had a pretty good training camp and just missed making the team. If he plays well at St. John’s, he’ll definitely be back up with the big club.
Doug’s Take: Carlo was disappointed that he didn’t make the big club out of training camp, but went to St. John’s with a good attitude. Unfortunately, he hurt his knee in the team’s season opener against Manitoba, and has yet to return. Snake-bitten with injuries early in his career, Colaiacovo is attempting to come back from off-season shoulder surgery.
Projection: Top 2 power play point man
2. Alexander Steen – C (19, 5’11″/183 lbs)
Acquired: 1st Round, 24th Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Brock’s Take: Leafs first rounder from 2002 has done nothing but impress since being drafted. He’s started off very well in the SEL so far and could be over in North America as early as next year.
Doug’s Take: The multi-purpose forward was strongly considered as the team’s number one prospect for this ranking. An excellent skater, Steen plays a strong two-way game. The leader of Sweden’s National junior team, look for Steen to explode at this year’s World Junior Tournament.
Projection: Second line center
3. Matthew Stajan – C (19, 6’1″/178 lbs)
Acquired: 2nd Round, 57th Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Brock’s Take: An extremely impressive training camp moves him up one spot. He’s made the Leafs roster for now and should see time on one of the top lines. Once the forward crop recovers from injuries, he could be sent down to St. John’s.
Doug’s Take: The former Belleville Bulls’ star surprised everyone by making the big club out of training camp. Known as a strong two-way player, Stajan is extremely creative with the puck and is an excellent passer. Has worked hard to add muscle to his lanky frame and has improved his foot speed. The sky is the limit for the young Mississauga native.
Projection: Two-way forward
4. Maxim Kondratiev – D (20, 6’1″/190 lbs)
Acquired: 6th Round, 168th Overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft
Brock’s Take: The Russian defenseman launches up the charts after making the opening line-up. Kondratiev was extremely impressive in training camp; he shows a lot of offensive promise. Whether he stays up the whole year remains to be seen, but he certainly has improved his prospect status within the organization.
Doug’s Take: The Russian junior star beat out top prospects Carlo Colaiacovo and Brendan Bell for a spot on the big team’s blueline. A mature defensive player, Kondratiev also has excellent offensive potential.
Projection: Top-four defenseman
5. Brendan Bell – D (20, 6’1″/198 lbs)
Acquired: 3rd Round, 65th Overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft
Brock’s Take: Bell didn’t have the best of training camps, but he is still the reigning CHL defenseman of the year. His future with the team is still sound. However, he could struggle in St. John’s this year while adjusting to the pro game.
Doug’s Take: Bell is a fluid skater who brings a strong offensive game to the table. He makes great first passes to initiate rushes up ice, and has an underrated shot from the point. A converted fitness junky, Bell has improved his conditioning immensely over the last few years. He still needs to adjust to the pace of the pro game and improve his defensive positioning. Bell has a good attitude, and should make the most of his time on the Rock.
Projection: Two-way defenseman
6. Jay Harrison – D (20, 6’3″/200 lbs)
Acquired: 3rd Round, 82nd Overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft
|2002/03||St. John’s (AHL)||72||2||8||10||72|
Brock’s Take: Harrison still needs time in the AHL where he can continue to improve his consistency. Harrison is exactly the type of defenseman the Leafs need in the future; a mean and physical rearguard. He must play well this season in order to keep his spot in the depth chart.
Doug’s Take: Harrison had a strong first year at the pro level, improving consistently over the duration of the season. He is a responsible defensive player who can provide a physical presence. His skating has improved since his junior days, and he has concentrated on improving his conditioning as well. A natural leader, Harrison is known for sticking up for his teammates with timely hitting and his fists when need be. Harrison is headed in the right direction; he just needs time to develop properly.
Projection: Defensive defenseman
7. Kyle Wellwood – C (20, 5’9″/190 lbs)
Acquired: 5th Round, 134th Overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft
Brock’s Take: Small in stature, large in skill. Wellwood will need time and a half at St. John’s while adjusting to professional hockey. His size will be tough to overcome, but he’s got the skill.
Doug’s Take: Wellwood has quickly become an offensive presence for the Baby Leafs, centering an effective unit with Nathan Barrett and Josh Holden. An absolute dynamo with the puck, Wellwood has been plagued by questions about his size and skating abilities his whole career. A creative playmaker who also owns a deadly shot, Wellwood will have to show he’s proficient enough offensively to earn a spot on an NHL team’s top two lines to make it to the big leagues.
Projection: Offensive center
8. Ian White – D (19, 5’10”, 177 lbs)
Acquired: 6th Round, 191st Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
|2002/03||Swift Current (WHL)||64||24||44||68||44|
Brock’s Take: Like Wellwood, White has serious size issues. White also happens to be a defenseman, where size issues are much harder to overcome. He has a ton of skill and is an exceptional powerplay quarterback, however. It will be interesting to see how he handles the AHL with St. John’s next season.
Doug’s Take: Renowned for his shot from the point, White made a name for himself at last year’s World Junior tournament for Canada. The Leafs thought enough of the young rearguard to get his name on a contract a year before they were required to do so. White is an excellent skater who moves the puck up ice extremely well. A competitive player, White must continue to build his strength to compete in the pro ranks.
Projection: Power play specialist
9. Jarkko Immonen – C (21, 6’0″, 200 lbs)
Acquired: 8th Round, 254th Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Brock’s Take: Immonen really opened some eyes at training camp this year where he was sensational during the Leafs preseason tour of Europe. He enjoyed a breakout season in Finland last year, and is on pace for another solid year. He could move up dramatically.
Doug’s Take: A waterbug out on the ice, Immonen is a speedy skater, who is extremely creative with the puck. It was thought that his sudden improvement last season was due to playing alongside New Jersey prospect Tuomas Pihlman, but Immonen is playing even better this season without him. Immonen could be a candidate to make the move across the sea for next season.
Projection: Offensive winger
10. Todd Ford – G (19, 6’4″, 180 lbs)
Acquired: 3rd Round, 74th Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
|2002/03||Swift Current/Prince George (WHL)||45||16-18||2||3.35||0.893|
Brock’s Take: Has had his ups and downs so far in the WHL, but he is a third rounder from the 2002 draft and remains the Leafs second best goaltending prospect.
Doug’s Take: Don’t let Ford’s junior numbers fool you; he is an excellent goaltending prospect. After winning the WHL Eastern Conference Player of the Month award with Swift Current last October, Ford was banished to Prince George in a trade deadline deal, where they’ve yet to discover the merits of defensive play in hockey. Blessed with great size, Ford has excellent lateral quickness, and has an equally quick glove hand. He handles the puck very well for a young goaltender. Ford needs to work on controlling his rebounds, and will have to avoid losing confidence playing behind the Cougars porous defense this season. Ford has had two excellent training camps with the Leafs, and should make his pro debut next season.
Projection: Potential starting goalie
Part 2 of the Maple Leafs prospect ranking will be posted next week. Please feel free to comment on this list on Hockey’s Future’s message boards.