The improved prospect depth in the Toronto Maple Leafs system should start to bear fruit through the 2012-13 season, as many prospects make their pro debuts with the Toronto Marlies (AHL). Focus, however, will continue on prospects at the pro level such as Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne. There is also great interest in 2012 draft pick Morgan Rielly, and what he can do over a full season.
Winger Chris Kreider, already coming off a NCAA National Championship with Boston College, put on a show in 18 playoff games for the New York Rangers. The lockout will keep him from making an immediate impact for the Rangers in 2012-13, but like defensemen Brendan Smith and Brandon Gormley behind him, Kreider should benefit from significant ice time in the AHL rather than the pressure of making an immediate impact in the NHL.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' system includes extensive depth at all positions, which should soon pay major dividends. Pending an extended lockout, there is expectation for strong competition from within, as a number of players are expected to graduate to the professional level. Recent draftees Morgan Rielly and Matt Finn find themselves ranked in the top-five for the Fall Top 20 rankings. Other new faces to the list include NCAA forward standout Spencer Abbot and Swedish defenseman Petter Granberg.
Like Alex Galchenyuk, who was drafted ahead of him in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, Morgan Rielly missed a good portion of his first draft-eligible season as the result of an injury. But just as the Montreal Canadiens convinced themselves that Galchenyuk was fully healed, so too did the Toronto Maple Leafs with regard to Rielly's injury, grabbing the offensive defenseman with the fifth pick overall in this draft.
The Tampa Bay Lightning finished the 2011-12 season with a 38-36-8 record and eight points out of the eighth playoff spot. The biggest issue for the Lightning during the regular season was keeping the puck out of their net and winning on the road, as the Lightning finished with the league's worst goals against average and a 13-22-6 record on the road.