Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Depth: Forwards

3 of 4

Feb 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza (19) faces off against Toronto Maple Leafs center Greg McKegg (39) at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Greg McKegg – C/LW
22 years old, 6′, 185 pounds
Drafted: Round 3, 62nd overall, 2010 by Toronto Maple Leafs
Projected Ceiling: Possible Third Line, Likely Fourth

McKegg’s third season in the AHL hasn’t gone how he hoped it will. He’s battled injuries and been less offensively successful than last year. He has 21 points in 36 games for .58 ppg, compared to 47 in 65 last year for .72 ppg. He’s battled inconsistency throughout his career and this season has been no different. He does have a good shot and good offensive instincts but the key to translating to the NHL will be an improved defensive game.

He’s only played three NHL games thus far, but only four people in the third round of 2010 have played more than 24 games, so he’s not that far behind. Like Leivo he may find himself in a diminished role next year with the Marlies, as more prospects graduate from junior or come in through trade. He’s also got a shot of making the Maple Leafs out of camp if trades ravage their roster.

To stick around in the NHL he’ll have to be a high energy character guy that can kill penalties, win faceoffs and block shots. The more offence he can chip in the better, but that will be determined by his first prolonged stay with the Leafs.

Ryan Rupert – C
20 years old, 5’10”, 185 pounds
Drafted: Round 6, 157th overall, 2012 by Toronto Maple Leafs
Projected Ceiling: Possible Third Line, Likely Fourth

The small but feisty Rupert has had a decent first pro season, with 14 points in 17 games in the ECHL and 17 in 31 for the Marlies. He’s been described as a pitbull and buzzsaw who is most effective when playing right on the line. He’s a hard nosed, hard working two-way style player, despite his limitations.

He’s not a great skater, he’s small and he doesn’t have a great shot, but he’s feisty and hard working with underrated playmaking ability. As with other prospects like Leipsic, if he can draw penalties without taking them he’ll be most effective. This year he has 52 PIM in 48 combined ECHL and AHL games, which isn’t bad and way down from his career high of 120 PIMs for the London Knights in 2011-12.

Some scouts compare him to Steve Downie, and that would probably be his ceiling as an NHLer, someone who can draw penalties and chip in 25-30 points a year. As with most of the prospects around this area, developing a strong defensive game and being able to kill penalties will only help in his quest for the NHL.

Byron Froese – C
23 years old, 5’11”, 190 pounds
Drafted: Round 4, 119th overall, 2009 by Chicago Blackhawks
Projected Ceiling: Possible Third Line, Likely Fourth

Froese is by far the strangest Maple Leaf prospect, because he technically isn’t. Froese was drafted by the Blackhawks and spent parts of three season with their AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs. He also spent time in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye and Cincinnati Cyclones. Now the Toledo Walleye are actually part of Detroit’s farm system, and the Cyclones are part of Nashville and Florida’s farm systems. In 2014 he was loaned to the Panthers AHL team the San Antonio Rampage, but returned to the Cyclones. The Cyclones then load him to the Marlies on the 9th of December last year, and he was signed by the Marlies for the rest of the year on January 7th. Confusing right?

So that mean’s he’s not a Maple Leafs prospect, he’s technically a Marlies prospect who is playing on the Marlies for the rest of the year, and then has no contract. So while he’s not a Leafs prospect (he couldn’t be called up to the Leafs) the Leafs are obviously getting a good look at him and so far they have to be happy with what they’ve seen. Froese has 14 points in 19 games for the Marlies, after putting up 24 in 17 games in the ECHL for the Cyclones. He’s ninth on the Marlies in scoring despite limited games.

He’s not overly skilled but more of a grinding defensive forward who helps lock down the other team’s top talent. While he’d have to be signed by the Maple Leafs to be considered a prospect, how he does for the rest of the year will determine if that’s a possibility.

One last odd note on Froese, as if he doesn’t have enough of that already. His hockeydb page has him listed as 6’1″, despite being listed as 5’11” by both hockey’s future and elite prospects.