Keeping an eye on the prospects of the Maple Leafs organization may be one of the most enjoyable and more positive aspects of the 2015-16 season, if we cannot find positives with our prospects, we are truly in trouble this year.
Last time we discussed the prospect list we went over the most obvious of all choices. The names of Nielsen, Timashov, Valiev and Johnson all players that have started the 2015 campaign in a positive regard for Junior and Professional teams alike.
This week we will look at big names and some names that not many people pay attention to but maybe they should start.
Leafs fans are always asking who can be a defenceman of the future for the Leafs and quite often most fans forget about 19 year old Travis Dermott. The Maple Leafs selected Dermott with the 34th pick overall in the 2014 entry Draft. Playing in his third OHL season for the Erie Otters, Dermott measures 5’11 and weighs a solid 207 pounds. Smooth moving and an excellent ability to see the ice well, Travis has tallied 3 goals and 25 assists thus far in the season. His play earned him an opportunity to perform on the international stage being selected to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Helsinki. Dermott played well in that tournament but the entire team seemed to have an issue when it came to geling and performing the way most Canadians believe our team should perform. Travis will look to make the jump to the AHL after this season is complete and play with the Toronto Marlies as a 20 year old blueline prospect.
Often overlooked when it comes to discussing talent in London, is the Leafs 4th round pick in the 2014 entry draft, JJ Piccinich. Standing in at 6’ and weighing 200 pounds the right winger is having a solid season with the Knights organization. The native of New Jersey has compiled a very respectable 25 goals and 28 assists for a 53 point campaign to this point in the season. While bringing a bit of size to the table, Piccinich plays a more passive and skilled game that has resulted in a mere 13 penalty minutes. This does not mean he will shy away from high traffic areas but ‘dumb penalties’ are not an issue with this player either. Piccinich brings the attributes of a responsible, two way winger (with skill) to any team that he is on and would forecast to be exactly that as he continues his climb towards his goal of playing Professional hockey.
Dakota Joshua. Yup, maybe one of the coolest names in the Leafs organization, is a 19 year old centerman that played for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, before moving to THE Ohio State University for the 2015-16 season. Joshua, is a player that was selected in the 5th round of the 2014 Entry Draft. 6’2” and a 183 pounds the native of Dearborn, Michigan has only registered 10 points in his 18 games with Ohio State this year but as a rookie, you have to earn playing time with Senior hockey players getting the majority of the minutes. Expect to see this young American to play his entire four years at Ohio State as he grows into his lanky frame a bit more. Potential and athleticism are the words you will hear most when it comes to this prospect.
Last but certainly not least, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the solid weekend of play from 2015 first round pick, Mitchell Marner. The London Knights played three games in the last four days but had been enduring a rough patch of hockey prior to that. Different line combinations and even positions on those lines seemed to have hindered the cohesive nature that was previously evident with the Knights lineup.
Thursday night, on the road versus Niagara, the Knights managed another loss and the concern was starting to mount. Marner had a mere assist in the game, fishing off with a plus/minus of -1. There are times that it is obvious that Mitch has his ‘game face on’ and in Niagara that evening, things didn’t seem to be clicking at all. Even though the team started strong, by grabbing an early lead, they eventually lost the game and headed home for two tough challenges.
While that game was concerning for the Knights management team, the weekend should have that group (and the Leafs management team) ecstatic with the play of Marner. On Friday evening the Knights returned to more friendly confines and Mitch put on a show. Scoring a goal and adding three assists versus Owen Sound, it would appear that Marner had returned to ‘the groove’. Strong skating and vision will continue to be the calling card of the young Leafs prospect and it was on display as well on the matinee game on Sunday when the Knights took on the Sarnia Sting. It is always tough to follow up a strong four point performance but what did Marner do? Simple: he had an assist on all four of the Knights goals on the weekend (Tkachuk hattrick) and dictated offensive zone time and puck control. The Knights loaded up with Dvorak, Tkachuk and Marner on one line and simply put they cannot be stopped. Weekend scoreboard totals were 9 points in 3 games for Mitch Marner. Not bad at all.
As an aside, I talked with Paul Marner (Mitch’s Dad) while he was in Niagara and we discussed positional play and of course size concerns. When it came to questions on whether Marner has played Center much of his career, I was reassured that Mitch has played the middle of the ice since he was 6 years old. With the exception of playing wing during his rookie season in London, Marner is more than capable to assume full time Center duties.
Mr. Marner then mentioned that during a recent height check by the Knights organization, that Mitch had grown to 6 feet tall and would continue to work on putting weight on his slender frame. Weight and muscle mass will definitely be THE area of focus when it comes to the summer training regiment of the native from Thornhill, Ontario. People need to remember that Marner does not turn 19 years of age until May of this year. He will mature in physical attributes but he has already grown to just slightly below the average height in the NHL (6’1”).
So there we go Leafs fans, another edition of the prospects update and we hope to continue providing information on a regular basis.
If there is every a question or a player you would like us to focus on, please don’t hesitate to let us know.