ESPN ranks Leafs prospect pipeline tops in the NHL

Leading up to each season, Corey Pronman of ESPN unveils his rankings of NHL teams’ prospect pipelines, from one all the way to thirty. Going into last year the Leafs’ farm system was second behind only the Oilers, led by the next phenom in McDavid. Edmonton could’ve had zero prospects after him and still owned that title, so that was pretty inarguable.

But this go-around, with their own number one pick in the fold, Toronto has perched itself atop the rest of the league. And as Pronman himself notes, they’re nearly in a league all their own.

Before we get into the Leafs, we should note where a few other teams sit in these rankings. Unsurprisingly, the Coyotes and Jets are second and third on this list, each with their own share of elite talent on the way. And you’ll be glad to know no other team from the Atlantic cracked the top ten besides the Sabres, at tenth. [Head over to ESPN for the whole list and some brief rundowns of each team, if you have an Insider account. If you don’t have one, it’s two cups of coffee a month if you can swing it.]

Back to the Leafs.

When it comes to the drop-off between teams and their prospect outlook, Pronman had these encouraging words to say:

“In terms of tiers, the Maple Leafs are their own tier up top, then after jumping down about five stories we have the Coyotes, Jets, and Blue Jackets in a tier…”

The praise for what Hunter and his crew have put together doesn’t stop there either. Given what Pronman outlines as his criteria for prospects (fewer than 25 games played in a season, or 50 total), “there are zero reasonable arguments for anyone to even be in the same conversation“. He also goes on to say there are at minimum 20 prospects in Toronto’s system who would fit in a lot of teams’ top 10.

None of this is exactly news to most of us, but it’s reassuring any time trusted voices in the hockey world who look at the league more big picture recognize the Leafs as being first in something. We’ve been poring over Toronto’s prospect pool for the past year and heaping praise of our own, then they went and added Auston Matthews to the mix. It’d be tough to argue them being anywhere other than number one currently. 

Now, to turn that top-tier prospect pool into a top-tier team…

  • my oh my how times have changed. we used to be near the bottom every year. only a few short years later, we’re #1. incredible what real management can do. also hilarious no other Atlantic division team cracked the top 10 besides the Sabres at 10. the sens and habs are garbage as we already knew. it’s true. a lot of the leafs b level prospects like kapanen, brown, timashov would be called elite prospects in almost every other organization lol wow! we have elite talent and depth. he only thing we really lack is elite goaltending and defensive prospects. no top pairing d-men. hopefully that changes with lucking out with liljegren this year.

  • Capt.Jay

    In my opinion ESPN’s Pronman’s assessment that the Leafs are 5 tiers above Arizona and Winnipeg is hyperbole. I’m sure Mathews and Marner does a lot to boost the Leafs overall farm system but I would say all three teams are stocked with talent and should be close together when it comes to ranking.

    In fact I would say Arizona has more top tier/elite talented individuals than the Leafs.

    Either way the Leafs future is bright. 1st 2nd or 3rd farm system is great but what is better… the Leafs have direction and a plan. The management and coaching are solid

    • Keep in mind this list is only based on prospects. So although Arizona has an incredibly bright future, some of the main reason behind that is because of guys who have already graduated into the NHL (Domi, OEL, Duclair, etc). When looking at only prospects, I truly believe the Leafs are in a tier of their own but that can and likely will easily change next year when we have guys like Matthews, Marner, and Nylander all make the NHL.

      • Gary Empey

        Toronto and Arizona have great prospects. I was not including graduated players like Domi, OEL and Duclair. I was just looking at the number of of elite players they have drafted or traded for. You have Dillan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, Clayton Keller, Anthony DeAngelo, Lawson Crouse. Then you go to the next tier Laurent Dauphin, Ryan MacInnis, Maxim Letunov, Dean Merkley, Christian Fischer, Conor Garland.

        Compared to the Leafs, you have Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Zaitsev. After that there is a dropoff.

        My point was Arizona has more players that are top tier.

  • Trevor5555

    Its very exciting to see the Leafs developing such high quality players. The great thing about drafting well is that you get to indoctrinate the prospects with a philosophy thats in tune with the play style you want and expect at the club from the first day they turn pro. You also get a really good understanding of what each player is capable of at the AHL/Junior levels so you can put them in a role at the NHL level they are suited for.

    Im hoping that the Leafs scouts can sustain success when we start picking later in rounds as the NHL team improves. You need to keep finding guys in the later rounds to have long term success.

    If we can keep finding guys like Brown, Johnson, Soshnikov, Hyman, Zaitsev, Loov and Valiev and they develop like were hoping it shouldnt be a problem when were picking 15th-25th as we will still have good reads on guys in those ranges and late blooming free agent types.

      • Gary Empey

        TLN Roundtable: Are You Concerned? Shawn Reis – August 27 2016 07:00AM

        Will Roman Polak Play For The Marlies This Season? DragLikePull – August 23 2016 12:03PM

        The Leafs have a delicate front office situation – Ryan Fancey – August 23 2016 10:00AM

        On curiosity, trust, making excuses, and the fine lines – Jeff Veillette – August 21 2016 11:32AM

        Why are the Leafs scaring off free agents? – Ryan Fancey – August 20 2016 12:54PM

        July Deep Dive: An imperfect, but acceptable month – Jeff Veillette – August 02 2016 04:15PM

          • Gary Empey

            I am sorry to think anyone thought I was attacking the writers on this site. That was not my intent. I was just sarcastically pointing out there were a lot of articles in August criticizing/questioning Leafs management. I am not even sure what straw man means. Is that from the Wizard of Oz? Should I have come back with Tin man?

            It is true there will be more new faces in the lineup than we have ever seen before. But let’s give them a couple of shifts before we pass judgement on them and whomever bought them in.

            Personally what I see is the Leafs management setting new standards on how to rebuild a failing franchise the correct way.

        • All pieces that take a critical look at this offseason, but far from “Here’s how the Leafs keep screwing up”

          “Everything is perfect” and “Everything is bad” are two extreme ends of the spectrum. I don’t know why you feel anything that questions any move at all means we’re saying the latter.

  • Gary Empey

    Gary Empey–Thought I would drop in to see what’s happening here LOL.Same thing I guess.It’s what caused me to leave when I did.Very tired of negativity that was being displayed

    The team is in the process of what appears to be a great rebuild and I feel it’s a very positive sign that they are trying to improve It’s been a long time coming.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Just a PSA about the article:

    ABC News posted a paywall free version on their website if you want to read it without paying for it. Not that its some great revelation of an article…

  • Kanuunankuula

    Ryan Fancey–Instead of just looking at the title of the articles go back and read the comments in them made by you guys.As much as calling some of the players being brought in complete duds and of no use is foolish until we see the way they will be used.

    Negativity will only breed more of the same through the entire organization.

  • Trevor5555

    This is great. What many of us had known. Why an article based on an ESPN piece though? You guys should be writing it first. Shelve the skeptism a bit here. As hard as it is to believe, things are going well.

  • Kanuunankuula

    They can’t rest on their accomplishments just yet, the 2017 draft looks even more promising than this years;

    3 big goalies ranked high (6’3″ – 6’4″) that are ranked high, from FIN, US & WHL.

    5 big D men , one ranked top 5, including:

    CALLAN FOOTE (son of Adam Foote) 6’3″200 lbs, solid 2 way RH D man, fluid skater.
    NICOLAS HAGUE 6’5″ 208 lbs, good skater, plays on PP
    TIM LILJEGRAN (SWE) 6’0″ 191 RH D – ranked top 5
    LUKE MARTIN (US) 6’2″ 207 RH D

    I am projecting the Leafs to be around 15 pos better next season, & finish in the bottom 5-10 range.