Since the 2015 off-season the Leafs have made a good amount of trades. Most of these trades being for either draft picks or young talent, but there are still many more moves to be made before this rebuild is complete.
On to what looks like the most exciting part of the of the Maple Leafs future, the forwards.
Since the Maple Leafs currently hold the number 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, it looks as though Auston Matthews will be wearing blue and white next season. After watching Matthews play in the World Hockey Championships, I understand why he is the consensus first overall pick. It is hard to find any flaws in Matthews and he’s very fun to watch. It looks to me like Matthews is going to be the Leafs top center for a very long time.
Another guy who I believe can be a solid second or third line Center for the Maple Leafs for many years to come is Nazem Kadri. Kadri was drafted by the Leafs in 2009 7th overall. In his last 4 NHL seasons he has put up at least 17 goals each season and can be relied on to do the same for many more years to come for the Maple Leafs.
I believe that current London Knight Mitch Marner will be with the Leafs after the rebuild. Marner has potential to be as good as Patrick Kane. He is that good. In his last 2 seasons (including playoffs) with the London Knights Marner has 302 points in just 145 games. That means that Mitch Marner has averaged 2.08 points per game in the OHL. With those numbers and Marner’s endless potential, I feel that he will be an elite player for the Maple Leafs for many years to come.
In 2014 the Maple Leafs selected ex-NHLer Michael Nylander’s son William. Since then William Nylander has done nothing but live up to the expectations of going 8th overall. In the last two seasons that Nylander has played in the AHL, he has had over a point per game average with 77 points in 75 games. He did all of this being under the age of 20 and playing against grown men. I project that Nylander will be a solid fit in the leafs top two lines, and potentially even be on the top line in the future.
After those 4 forwards there are still many more forwards who will be apart of the Leafs future. Players that I predict will have a high chance of being with the leafs after the rebuild are James van Riemsdyk, Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, Leo Komarov, Nikita Soshnikov and Dymtro Timashov. After that a few guys who I believe have a lower chance but, still a chance to be with the Leafs are Tobias Lindberg, Jeremy Bracco, Zach Hyman, and Brendan Leipsic.
On defense for the Leafs I personally feel that the leafs already have a guy who will be an elite defenseman for many years to come in Morgan Rielly. At the age of 22 Morgan Rielly will be going into his 4th NHL season and is already Toronto’s go to defenseman, so I find it very hard to believe that he wont be with the leafs for many more years.
After Morgan Rielly it hard to really know who will still be around. Jake Gardiner is someone who I feel will stay with the Leafs after the rebuild and will be a solid top 4 defenseman.
In my opinion if Connor Carrick keeps playing the way he has played since he got traded to the Leafs organization, he will also be with the Leafs for the long term. Carrick has had an outstanding Calder Cup playoffs and has recorded 6 goals and 14 points in 10 games. Which is enough points to put him in the lead for points in the entire AHL playoffs.
Nikita Zaitsev could be another guy who will be with the Leafs long term. I haven’t had the chance to watch Zaitsev play, but from what I have read he should slot into the Maple Leafs top 4 right away. Zaitsev is still relatively young being only 24 years old. So, if Zaitsev does fit into Toronto’s plan moving forward he could be with the team for a very long time.
After those 4 defensemen it is hard to tell who else will be playing with the Leafs when the rebuild is over. But, it definitely looks like there are some young leaf prospects who have the tools to become good NHL defenseman. Some defenseman that I see sticking around in a couple years are Scott Harrington, Frank Corrado, Martin Marincin, Travis Dermott, Stuart Percy and possibly T.J Brennan.
Overall, the defenseman as a whole look like they could be strong in a couple of years if they continue to develop.
The Leafs have been searching for a solid number one goalie for quite a few years now, and in my opinion I personally don’t think anyone currently in the leafs organization is going to become that.
Now I know that at times Bernier has been great and stole games for the Leafs, but he just hasn’t been consistent enough for my liking. So I can’t see Bernier being the Leafs number one in a couple years and he will take up to much cap space to be a number 2.
I think that it is still to early to take Bibeau out of the picture, since he is only 22. I have to be honest and say that so far in the Calder Cup playoffs he has been very strong. He has showed signs that he is improving and has potential to become an NHL goalie. But, at this point in time I am not convinced that Bibeau will be an elite starting goalie in the NHL.
In my opinion Toronto should either look to draft a goalie who they project is going to be a solid number one goalie in the NHL, or to try to acquire one via trade. In this years draft there are a couple of goalies who look like they have to potential to become great NHL goalies. If the Leafs do decide to draft a goalie I would like to see them draft either Evan Fitzpatrick from the Sherbrooke Phoenix or Carter Hart from the Everett Silvertips organization.
As a whole group the Maple Leafs look like they have a bright future ahead of them, and if you give them a bit of time they should be solid playoff contenders.