Thursday, July 16, 2015

30 Teams in 30 Days - Toronto Maple Leafs

With a team of the OHL's best administrators and coaches now under the MLSE umbrella, there's no doubt that Toronto will become a hot bed for OHL talent. Ultimately, before the 2015 NHL Draft, the team didn't have much in the wake of current OHL prospects.

1. Mitch Marner - London Knights
I'm sure Leaf fans have made themselves quite well versed in all things Marner by now. You can read about him at great lengths on this blog. His hockey sense, skill with the puck and offensive creativity are all elite and make him a great bet to develop into a top scorer in the National Hockey League. The great thing is how he's been able to accomplish everything he has thus far, while being so immature physically. That's why I expect Marner to be back in the OHL for another season, for him to get stronger, fine tune a few things, play at the WJC's, and avenge his tough defeat in the OHL scoring race. Marner should be a face of the new look Leafs for quite some time. Even with a performance at the U20's, I expect him to be in competition for the scoring title in the OHL next year.

2. Travis Dermott - Erie Otters
Already Mr. everything for the Otters, Dermott will be relied upon even more next year with so many graduations on the back end for Erie. Dermott's an incredibly smart defender at both ends, but a return to the OHL will allow him to work on his ability to run the power play (particularly his shot), in addition to gaining confidence as a puck rusher. It will also allow him to continue to get stronger and gain confidence in using his body to separate forwards from the puck. Towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, he really started to blossom into a physical player and I think his intense nature in the defensive end will make him one of the league's elite at his position next year. I also think he's a strong candidate to wear the 'C" for Erie, taking over for McDavid. I think he finishes in the top 5 of defensive scoring next year.

3. Carter Verhaeghe - Niagara IceDogs
Struggled initially this past year, with Brendan Perlini out of the Niagara line up. Ultimately, he really needed someone to help him create time and space for him to operate. Verhaeghe isn't a burner, so he really benefits from a big, quick guy like Perlini to stretch defences. In the 2nd half (and into the playoffs) Verhaeghe was great for Niagara and managed to match his offensive output of 2013/2014. With a very well rounded skill set, it remains to be seen what type of role he'll play at the next level. In the AHL next year, he could play a variety of different roles. He could be slotted on a scoring line right away, and as long as he's got some quicker wingers, he could be fine. But he's also a solid two-way player who would likely find success in a checking role. It'll be interesting to see how his game translates next year.

4. Nikita Korostelev - Sarnia Sting
One of the biggest fallers at this year's NHL draft, Korostelev will have a lot to prove next year in Sarnia. This past year he struggled with being a go to offensive guy (when Zacha was out of the line up) and he needs to spend this offseason making some improvements to his game. The most obvious of those is improving his first few steps to become a more explosive player down the wing. But he also needs to find the physical aggression that he played with as an OHL rookie in 2013/2014. With his size and skill, adding that power element to his game will be key to his development. Sarnia should be among the best team's in the West next year (pending they get Zacha back and their young players progress) and Korostelev will be a big part of that. I'd be downright shocked if he's not hovering around the 35 goal mark next year.

5. Stephen Desrocher - Oshawa Generals
What a great selection by the Leafs this year. Not many players improved as much as Desrocher over the course of this season. From bit player, to Memorial Cup star. Desrocher is only scratching the surface of his potential. With great size, mobility, and a budding offensive game, Desrocher could be a big time point producer next year. This is especially true if Oshawa decides to pair he and Vande Sompel together on the first pairing. He'll most definitely see power play time too. Could be a real breakout star in the league next year with the increased playing time and responsibility he should receive on a rebuilding Oshawa team. Don't be surprised if he's around the 12 goal and 40 point mark next year.

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