Photo: Forward Josh Leivo is one of several Toronto Maple Leafs prospects who are expected to take the next step in their development. Leivo was a third round pick in 2011. (courtesy of Abelimages/Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have featured a lot of high character, two-way forwards in their prospect pool over the years, but few with pure offensive instinct or elite skill. That is changing with the drafting of high-end talent William Nylander and the progress shown last season from the likes of Josh Leivo, Andreas Johnson, Carter Verhaeghe, and others.
Photo: Center Frederik Gauthier projects as a solid two-way forward with good size. Gauthier was selected 21st overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is a silver lining to missing the 2014 NHL playoffs and finishing 23rd overall in the league standings – the potential of selecting an impact player with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Photo: Frolunda Indians forward and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Alexander Wennberg saw his first extended action in Sweden’s top league during the 2013-14 season (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
For the better part of the last 25 years, Sweden has continued to provide the world with some of the best and most exciting forward talent anywhere. That trend has continued in recent years and is testified to in the fact that no European nation has seen as many players drafted in recent years than has Sweden.
Photo: Forward Teemu Hartikainen was acquired by the Maple Leafs in a trade on January 31st, 2014. Hartikainen spent the 2013-14 season in the KHL with Salavat Yulaev Ufa. (courtesy of ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/AFP/Getty Images)
For the greater part of the last decade, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been reluctant to draft outside of the CHL in the first round. Sure, they selected NCAA-bound Tyler Biggs in 2011, but just a season later he was playing for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
Photo: Defenseman Morgan Rielly has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his first NHL season. Rielly has recorded two goals and 18 assists through 54 games with the Maple Leafs. (courtesy of Abelimages/Getty Images)
Outside of Nazem Kadri and the soon-to-graduate Morgan Rielly, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been void of big-name prospects for a few years. Moreover, they have lacked the prospect depth of most other NHL teams, either as a result of trading picks or players not yet meeting their potential.