Corey Pronman is a polarizing name in the NHL, but one thing is certain – if anyone knows prospect systems inside and out, it’s the long-tenured ESPN Insider.
Which means that when he says that the Toronto Maple Leafs have the second best prospect system in the NHL, it’s absolutely true.
No, really. He’s totally right.
Pronman released his Insider’s List of Prospect Systems on Tuesday, and put the Leafs second behind only the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s his reasoning:
“The Leafs’ system has skyrocketed the past 12 months, following a great 2015 draft, key trades and progression from some prospects. Mitch Marner and William Nylander are true top-flight names, and they have a lot of depth in quality prospects, many of whom are in my top 100 overall NHL prospects column.”
This is a jump from 17th, where he had them ranked last year – showing exactly how much the current administration has done to overhaul the crap system that Nonis and his predecessors had managed to put in place. Between the two lost first rounders that [briefly] brought the Boston Bruins Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin and the issues that Tyler Biggs, Brad Ross, and Carter Ashton have had actually succeeding as legitmate NHL prospects, the Leafs looked pretty S.O.L. there for a bit.
Now, of course, they look fantastic.
As Pronman mentions, the Leafs could have cornerstone franchise players in both Mitch Marner and William Nylander, who look dynamic and exciting as offensive playmakers with both talent and surface flash appeal. Then they’ve got Kasperi Kapanen – who was a bit of a steal of Pittsburgh late in the first round last summer – and even if Morgan Rielly is no longer considered a prospect, the thought of him and Travis Dermott anchoring the blue line moving forward isn’t a bad thought at all. Add in Brendan Leipsic as your hopeful dynamic pest and Connor Brown as one of the biggest jumps from his draft year to now, and the Leafs have a ton to offer.
Of course, it would have taken a minor miracle for the Leafs to jump ahead of the Oilers in the prospect rankings this year – Connor McDavid is described as the Oilers’ golden ticket to the chocolate factory – but the fact that they managed to jump ahead of both the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes (who selected second and third overall, and each boast a heavy arsenal of dynamic offensive talent to go with young, high-end blue lines) says a lot about who Toronto has in their system. The only thing that’s conspicuously absent from their prospect list – and it’s absent from Buffalo’s and Arizona’s, as well, with only Edmonton offering anything in this category – is goaltending; although Pronman doesn’t mention it, this is an area the Leafs still badly need to address.
Whatever, though. For the time being, let’s celebrate going from one of the most godawful prospect pools (for perspective, we ranked Matt Finn second in the prospect depth chart last year) to #2 – in less than a full year.
Shanahan, please. Keep doing you.