#5 – Josh Leivo – LW (Toronto, AHL)
Leivo has used a solid showing in his first season as a pro with the Marlies to climb two spots and into the top five of our prospect rankings. He’s also had a few looks with the Leafs this season, so the fanbase is starting to find out what this guy’s about – size and skill.
Recently I took in a pair of games between the IceCaps and Marlies here in Newfoundland, and while anyone can look good in a game or two, I was surprised by Leivo. The only forward on the ice that was more noticeable offensively, for either team, was Peter Holland.
I did notice at times that Leivo would take a safe shot rather than trying to beat a defender, but that’s likely common for a kid adapting to the pros. His skill will be on display more as he continues to get used to his surroundings. – Ryan Fancey
#4 – Stuart Percy – D (Toronto, AHL)
Stuart Percy may not be lighting things up in the scoring department, but he has been arguably the most impressive rookie of any Marlies forward (EDITOR’S NOTE: I could fix this and simply type "defenceman" but throwing Jeff under the bus is way funnier. Shut up, Jeffler. – Steve). Eleven assists in thirty five games is nothing to scoff at, and he’s just one of seven regular skaters with a positive plus/minus (I know.. but the AHL’s stats are limited).
Percy has shown excellent positional awareness and a boatload of confidence, allowing defensive partner TJ Brennan to take more risks and be the league’s most dominant offensive defenceman. He’s also receiving time on the secondary penalty kill and powerplay units. – Jeffler
#3 – Matt Finn – D (Guelph, OHL)
Up two spots from our preseason ranking, Matt Finn is currently enjoying a solid offensive year while captaining the OHL-leading Guelph Storm. In 44 games so far, Finn has scored 10 goals and 27 assists – his 38 points ranks third amongst OHL defencemen, and his +37 rating leads the entire league. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not being hampered by an injured knee or mononucleosis
Having signed a three-year entry level contract with the Leafs back in November, Finn will almost certainly make the jump to the AHL next season. And then the NHL shortly after. And then maybe, I don’t know, the Hall of Fame? Probably. I’m never wrong about these things. – Justin Fisher
#2 – Peter Holland – C (Toronto, NHL)
Last time around, we had Joe Colborne as our runner-up prospect. This was really concerning. No disrespectful to Colborne, but what is his NHL ceiling? With Peter Holland, I feel a lot more confident. Now the issue is using him properly.
Peter Holland is pointless in games where he plays less than ten minutes, most of which are spent playing with the likes of Colton Orr. When put in an actual offensive situation, Holland is a legitimate NHL scoring threat. The biggest factors for Holland now are big issues for other prospects his age: Consistency and the numbers game. Is Holland a consistent enough contributor yet? I have liked his play so far, but I would say no. With Trevor Smith becoming an option again soon and Dave Bolland on the mend, Holland may still see some AHL time this season before making the full-time NHL jump. – Steve Dangle
#1 – Morgan Rielly – D (Toronto, NHL)
Still a prospect by our standards, and the crown jewel of the Leafs’ system. No longer just a toolsy blue chip with a lot of junior success to speak of, Morgan Rielly has legitimately been one of Toronto’s better defenders this season.
He has a +2.0 Relative Corsi For, per Extra Skater, and has the highest shots on goal rate among Toronto defencemen, with 5.0 per 60 minutes. A few months ago I think the worry was that he’d have difficulty translating his game to the NHL as a regular, especially as a 19-year-old, but nothing Rielly has done has showed me he doesn’t belong. He skates wonderfully with the puck and you have to imagine that once he’s allowed to roam a little in the offensive zone he’ll get a few more goals. With just a 3.9% shooting percentage, things are going to get better for him in the second half of the season. – Cam Charron