The first half of the hockey season has seen some minor shuffling amongst the Leafs’ Top 10 prospects, but none of which should be reason for concern. All-in-all, it’s been a good half-year for blue-and-white prospects across North America. Here’s #’s 5 through 1…
5) Tyler Biggs – RW – Miami RedHawks (NCAA) [Last Ranking: 4th]
It didn’t take long for the 18-year old Tyler Biggs to get closely acquainted with his older opponents in the CCHA. The 6’2 man child is currently serving a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head, and won’t be eligible to return until January 20th against Western Michigan. When not getting his nails dirty though, Biggs has put up reasonable numbers for a college freshman. Biggs has 9 points in 20 games for the RedHawks so far. By comparison, fellow Leafs prospect Matt Frattin managed 15 points in 43 games with UND his freshman year.
4) Matt Frattin – RW – Toronto Marlies (AHL) [Last Ranking 6th]
Speaking of, Matt Frattin hasn’t exactly been putting up fantastic numbers in his own right. That being said, Frattin’s play away from the opposition net has been quite impressive. Frattin has contributed 5 goals, 10 points in 37 games with the Leafs this season, which isn’t exactly indicative of his awesome speed on the outside, his solid two-way game, and his willingness to go to the corners. Whether Matt Frattin blossoms into a scoring winger or a grinding Bottom-6′r remains to be seen, but all signs point to an industrious NHL career.
3) Joe Colborne – C – Toronto Marlies (AHL) [Last Ranking: 3rd]
Joe Colborne may have cooled off significantly over the past two months, but there’s not denying an absolutely explosive opening to the season, including 16 points through the first 9 games of the season with the Toronto Marlies. Colborne currently sits pretty with 12 goals and 26 points in 30 games, good enough a showing for an invitation to the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic taking place later this month. In a short stint with the Leafs earlier in the year, Colborne held his own with 4 points in 9 games; an indication that Colborne’s arrival in the big leagues may be sooner rather than later.
2) Jake Gardiner – D – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) [Last Ranking: 2nd]
Let us be frank: Jake Gardiner hasn’t put up a fantastical amount of points this season, his +/- isn’t anything to write home about, and more recently he’s had trouble staying in the lineup. No matter, Leafs Nation should still be excited about the smooth-skating rearguard. For a rookie defenceman who’s logged on average 20+ minutes a night, his 10 points and -1 rating is actually pretty reasonable, and Gardiner has managed this with constant pressure from deserving Leafs defencemen in the press box. Gardiner looks to be every bit a Top-4 defenceman right now, but for an ‘offensive defenceman’ a goal might be nice, no?
1) Nazem Kadri – LW/C – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) [Last Ranking: 1st]
Nazem Kadri just can’t win. First, he was asked to work on his defensive liabilities in the AHL, and did so while putting up 22 points in 22 games with the Toronto Marlies. Then, the now-winger was asked to bring his offensive flair to the NHL and provide secondary scoring. And while Kadri hasn’t necessarily lit any scoring sheets on fire yet, his 3 goals in 14 games so far matches his 3 goals he managed in 29 games last year. Nazem Kadri is showing improvement and growth, whether Leafs fans like it or not. Of course, if Kadri can actually start putting up big numbers in a Leafs uniform before Toronto’s armchair GMs ship him out of town is another story entirely.