With the American Hockey League season passing the midway point, a great deal of young prospects have already made some noise with their respective NHL clubs while others continue to adjust to the pro-style game.
Years of building the Toronto Maple Leafs from the ground up started to pay off for the club in the 2012-13 season. The Maple Leafs returned to the playoffs after a nine-year absence to play the Boston Bruins in round one. Toronto took Boston all the way to game seven and looked poised to head into the second round before a third period collapse changed everything. While it was a heartbreaking collapse which led to an overtime loss (and subsequent elimination) it provided a learning experience for a club which lacked playoff experience.
The shortened 2012-13 NHL campaign has seen the Toronto Maple Leafs use a number of developed players throughout the season. Eight players who are 26 years old or younger, have suited up for the Maple Leafs this season – all of them playing vital roles for the Toronto Marlies earlier this season . This is a testament to the process the Maple Leafs have implemented in recent years to develop and promote more prospects.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' cupboard is no longer bare, though it is certainly lacking high caliber offensive forwards. In previous years, the Leafs have been known to make rash signings and trades, paying little to no attention to the quality and continuity of their pipeline. They renewed their focus on drafting and development several ago and are only now slowly beginning to reap the benefits.