Toronto Maple Leafs prospects sounds a little like an oxymoron.
For a team that used to save its picks and prospects for playoff run rental-vets (Wendel Clark, Luke Richardson, Doug Gilmour, Glen Wesley, Phil Housley, Ron Francis, and on and on), it’s pretty stunning to see the farm system developing players who actually graduate to the Air Canada Centre and contribute for the Toronto Maple Leafs these days.
But what about the back end?
Here’s a quick look at the best defense and goalie prospects in the Maple Leafs system right now.
Stuart Percy - Defenceman
He moves the puck efficiently out of the defensive zone and is starting to become a threat offensively – although he is unlikely to develop into a premiere offensive defender.
At 6-1, 186 pounds, Percy is an average-sized defender who will need added strength and weight before making the jump to the NHL. He has all around ability, smooth skating and passing, and a calm demeanor. With Hockey’s Future ratings of 7/10 talent and a C-grade for probability of success, Percy shares ranks with defense prospect Eric Gelinas of the New Jersey Devils.
Leafs Comparable: Tomas Kaberle (minus the sublime passing… for now)
Petter Granberg – Defenseman
A defensive defender with very good size, Granberg has both strong defensive acumen and can chip in with some offense from time to time with a strong first-pass… Does a very good job containing opposition forwards in the defensive zone due to his large wing span and body position(ing).
Click the link and check out Granberg’s photo at Hockey’s Future. I’ll wait here.
Yeah, the scars and smirk are all you need to know about this 6-3, 205 pound prospect. He’s likened to Carl Gunnarsson (but with a physical edge) and the Gunnarsson trade likely indicates that Leafs brass feel Granberg is close to NHL ready.
Leafs Comparable: Carl Gunnarsson (but tougher and smirkier)
Garret Sparks - Goaltender
Standing 6-3 Garret Sparks’ frame allows him to be a very good blocking goaltender. He cuts down the angles well and is able to track play through traffic.
Sharing backup duties with Christopher Gibson for the Toronto Marlies last season (Marlies starter Drew MacIntyre is now with Carolina), Sparks only barely ranks ahead of Gibson and Antoine Bibeau at Hockey’s Future. He gets the nod as top Leafs goalie prospect for having played in the most pro games. Sparks has the right frame and keeps the game simple but received a talent score of 6.0 and a success probability grade of D at Hockey’s Future, suggesting that the Leafs likely need to continue searching for high-end prospect talent in goal to fill the yawning cage pictured above.
Leafs Comparable: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (the really, really poor man’s version)
While the defense prospects aren’t sexy, there is a selection of defensively sound youngsters on the cusp of jumping to the NHL. That’s a plus.
There really isn’t a goalie prospect worth knowing in the Leafs system. That’s not necessarily a problem. Jonathan Bernier is young. James Reimer is young, too. Long-term, however, the pipeline will need a star goalie prospect to ensure that 30 year-olds like Drew MacIntyre don’t hog all the starting experience available down on the farm.