This week, Hogtown Hockey features four Leafs prospects who are overcoming early season adversity and putting up solid numbers: Tyler Biggs, Greg McKegg, Sondre Olden, and Nazem Kadri.
Tyler Biggs (Miami University Redhawks, CCHA)
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, forward Tyler Biggs looks to be settling in just fine in his new academic surroundings. The Redhawks freshman has 3 goals and 5 assists in 14 games so far this season; solid numbers for a first-year NCAA player. In fact, Biggs’ 8 points are good for fourth in team scoring, and only 3 points behind Dallas Stars prospect Reilly Smith for the team lead.
While Miami’s current 4-4-2 record isn’t something to write home about, the Redhawks’ preseason expectations were tremendously high. Miami was ranked as the top team in the entire country by the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Preseason Poll, ahead of NCAA powerhouses such as Notre Dame, North Dakota, and Denver.
The latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Rankings, released earlier today, don’t even peg Miami in the Top 15. If Tyler Biggs continues playing strongly, it won’t be long until the Redhawks begin climbing back up the standings.
Greg McKegg & Sondre Olden (Erie Otters, OHL)
Let’s get this out of the way first: The Erie Otters are brutal. Really brutal. Their 3-19-0 record should be enough proof of that, but if you need more convincing, consider their league-worst 112 goals against in only 22 games, or their league-worst 53 goals for. Or consider the fact that they’re a whopping 9 points behind the Kingston Frontenacs for the honour of being the OHL’s second worst team.
Yeah, it’s miserable times for the Otters, but Leafs fans might be able to find a silver lining in such an awful situation: Leafs prospects Greg McKegg and Sondre Olden sit first and second in team scoring, respectively.
Despite going pointless in his last four games, Greg McKegg has a proportionately impressive 21 points in 20 games with the Otters.
Sondre Olden trails only McKegg with 14 points in 17 games, despite not scoring a goal since October 26th against the Niagara IceDogs.
Seeing as both McKegg and Olden are ’92-borns, and that there’s a possibility that both turn pro following this season, it would not be surprising to see one, if not both moved at the OHL’s trade deadline. McKegg especially could bring in an enormous return for the rebuilding Otters.
Nazem Kadri (Toronto Marlies, AHL)
With AHL stalwarts Joe Colborne and Joey Crabb currently playing with the big club, the prime offensive duties have now been squarely placed on Nazem Kadri’s shoulders. That might be a lot to ask, considering Kadri started off the season on the mend from a sprained knee, then got off to a rather slow start with the Leafs before being assigned to the Marlies, but he’s answered the bell.
To be fair, Kadri’s stat line is far from perfect. In 11 games, the left-wing convert has only managed one goal. For a player with as much offensive skill as Kadri has, that may be considered inexcusable. That being said, his 9 assists certainly look good, and bring his points totals up into the point-per-game range. In his last 4 games alone, Kadri has 1 goal and 5 assists.
Nazem Kadri will realistically be the Toronto Marlies’ player to watch for the next month. With injuries piling up on the Leafs roster, Kadri needs to keep putting up consistent numbers and the recall is practically his.