Shift in organizational strategy creates deep Toronto Maple Leafs Top 20

By Matthew Stamper
Mitch Marner - Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: After winning the OHL, CHL and Memorial Cup MVP, it’s no surprise London Knights forward Mitch Marner remains the top prospect in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. (courtesy Terry Wilson / CHL Images)



The Toronto Maple Leafs have underwent a tremendous organizational overhaul in the past 18 months, and, as a result, the team’s prospect group is one of the best in the NHL. They’ll add to their already-impressive group in the upcoming draft, where they currently own 12 picks.

Because of the amount of trades and new prospects in the organization there has been a lot of movement in the Maple Leafs Top 20 prospects, though the Top 3 remains the same.

20. (11) Frederik Gauthier, C, 6.0C
Drafted: 1st round, 21st overall, 2013

Even though he was nearly a point-per-game player in the QMJHL with the Rimouski Oceanic, don’t expect too much of that for the AHL‘s Toronto Marlies, or even in the bigs. Gauthier will do the small things very well; he’s smart and sound with the puck in his own end, can win big faceoffs and is excellent on the PK. He’s still a big body down the middle, although it won’t be on the first line like the Leafs may have hoped for when they got them in the first round in 2013 NHL Draft.

19. (14) Josh Leivo, W, 6.0C
Drafted: 3rd round, 86th overall, 2011

The 23 year old is one of the more versatile players in the Leafs’ system, due to his capability to slot in to any of the four forward lines. Leivo has some edge to his game and will get down low to win some battles and score tough goals in front of the net, but that scoring touch can also fill in well at the top of a team’s lineup.

18. (16) Rinat Valiev, D, 6.5C
Drafted: 3rd round, 68th overall, 2014

Valiev is an extremely dependable defenseman who can seemingly do it all. He’s quietly become a strong two-way defenseman with some tenacity in his own end, and strong enough skating ability to jump into the rush.

17. (NR) Tobias Lindberg, RW, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Ottawa Senators, 2016

Lindberg, who was acquired in the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster from Ottawa, is a big winger, something that the Leafs can use in their stable of prospects. His offensive prowess from the OHL has come through a bit in the AHL, but the bigger asset is his ability to play at both ends of the ice.

16. (4) Scott Harrington, D, 5.5B
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh Penguins, 2015

Harrington’s season ended early this year, with an upper-body injury, but he did make his Leafs debut, playing in 15 games.

Harrington is a stay-at-home defenseman who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Some of the offensive ability he flashed in junior probably won’t make an appearance at the NHL level like some had hoped, but he’ll be able to win some battles with his size and get the puck out of trouble areas.

15. (NR) Martins Dzierkals, LW, 7.0D
Drafted: 3rd round, 68th overall, 2015

Dzierkals, a 19 year old Latvian, was relatively unknown when the Leafs took him in the third round of the 2015 draft, but that’s not the case anymore. Dzierkals was drafted out of the MHL, Russia’s junior league, but made the trek to the QMJHL for the 2015-16 season.

Dzierkals was a big part of Rouyn-Nouranda’s run to the QMJHL title and the Memorial Cup. He posted 17 points in 20 playoffs games, leading all rookies in playoff scoring. The quick left winger is only getting better, and also bigger.

14. (NR) Andrew Nielsen, D, 6.5C
Drafted: 3rd round, 65th overall, 2015

Nielsen is one of the bigger bodies on this list, something that the Leafs could definitely use in their stable of prospects. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he gets on top of opposing forwards quickly, eliminating scoring opportunities.

Nielsen can also do it at the other end, with a wickedly-hard shot and a knack for finding his teammates; he posted a career-high 70 points in 71 games with the WHL‘s Lethbridge Hurricanes. While we probably won’t see much of that at the NHL level, or even the AHL level, the 19 year old can still provide some offense.

13. (10) Jeremy Bracco, RW, 7.5D
Drafted: 2nd round, 61st overall, 2015

Bracco left Boston College to play for Kitchener in the OHL, and didn’t disappoint, posting 64 points in 49 games.

The Freeport, NY native has superb playmaking ability and the vision to not only make plays happen, but make them in tight spaces. He’ll play another year in Kitchener, before hopefully spending some time in AHL, playing against bigger competition, as he is slightly undersized.

12. (9) Andreas Johnson, LW, 7.0C
Drafted: 7th round, 202nd overall, 2013

Johnson, a Swedish winger, won a SHL championship with Frolunda this year. He also appeared in two games with the Marlies in their playoff run, before suffering a season-ending injury.

Johnson has amazing vision and has displayed it numerous times with some spectacular passing and highlight-reel goals, but the downside, like many other Leafs prospects, is his size. He has tons of potential though and could easily move up this list with a strong training camp.

11. (15) Travis Dermott, D, 7.0C
Drafted: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2015

Dermott had another great year in the OHL with the Erie Otters, where he posted nearly a point per game in the regular season and 14 points in 13 games in the OHL playoffs. The Newmarket, Ont. native is eligible to play with the Marlies next year, and will benefit from playing against bigger, stronger competition in the AHL.

Dermott has great hockey IQ, and isn’t afraid to jump up in the rush when he sees the chance, but is also smart enough to play a simple game in all three zones. He can get physical for a shorter defenseman, too.

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