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by @TheDailyBites on 05/21/12 at 11:19 PM ET
This is the fourth article in a series looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Thus far I have completed my review of goalies, defensemen and center icemen in the organization and that leaves us with wingers to round things out. As I stated in my previous article, most forwards can play multiple positions and often do throughout a season, I will do my best to categorize players as centers, left wingers or right wingers. For example, I am including Nazem Kadri in the right winger evaluation. Although Kadri plays center with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he has almost been exclusively a right winger in his stints with the Maple Leafs which suggests that he will be a winger at the NHL level.
Left Wingers on 2011-12 roster:
Joffrey Lupul was the leader of the left wing group this past season. After being acquired by the Maple Leafs late in the 2010-11 season, Lupul has been productive since he put on the blue and white and was an all-star in his first full season. After Lupul the drop-off was huge among the left wingers. Calling Nikolai Kulemin a disappointment last year would be an understatement. Kulemin went from being a 30 goal scorer and looking like he could take another step in his development, to only scoring 7 goals and 28 points in 2011-12. Clearly the Maple Leafs were missing his production on the second line and it’s questionable where he will fit in next year. Kulemin is a restricted free agent this off-season and I would be surprised if he gets more than a one year deal. Mike Brown, Joey Crabb and Jay Rosehill are all role players and can’t be faulted for their efforts this past season. Brown and Rosehill fit the mold of fourth line players and Joey Crabb showed that he can be effective in a checking role while chipping in some offense. Crabb and Rosehill are both unrestricted free agents this off-season and it will be interesting to see if either is back with the organization. It is a weak free agent class so Crabb might be able to score a multi-year deal on the open market.
Jerry D’Amigo burst onto the scene and into the minds of Maple Leaf fans at the 2010 World Junior Championship where he scored 6 goals in 7 games and helped lead the USA to a gold medal victory. D’Amigo was a sixth round pick but his performance in that tournament seemed to raise his ceiling. D’Amigo has failed to live up to the unrealistic expectations put on him after that tournament but he does appear to be developing nicely. After splitting the 2010-11 season between the AHL and the OHL, D’Amigo made the jump to the AHL for his first full season and he put up 41 points in 76 games. What is even more encouraging is his performance in the playoffs thus far. He has 6 goals and 10 points in 10 games playing alongside Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin on the Marlies top unit. D’Amigo has good speed and he plays a 200 foot game which will help him as he tries to make the jump to the next level. D’Amigo will have a chance to crack the big squad next year but he will most likely be starting the season with the Marlies. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his offensive production from the playoffs into next season and be more of a scoring threat.
Brad Ross was the Maple Leafs second round pick in 2010 and brings the kind of pugnacity and truculence that Brian Burke has been looking for in his group. Ross is more of an agitator than a tough guy, but he brings with him some offense as he scored 42 goals in 68 games this past season to go along with 163 penalty minutes with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Ross continued his great play in the playoffs where he scored 12 goals in 22 games. Ross has average size but will need to bulk up to play his style at the pro level. A full season in the AHL will most likely be needed to aid his development but Ross looks like he will be an NHL player in the future.
Marcel Mueller was signed by Brian Burke as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of the German Elite League (DEL). He is an interesting prospect as he has the size (6’3” and 220lbs) and skating ability of an elite prospect but he is still very raw. Mueller had a good season with the Marlies putting up 47 points in 72 games but at 24 years old in July and at the end of his entry level deal it is questionable whether the Leafs will resign him or if he will even want to stay in North America if he is not playing in the NHL.
Nicolas Deschamps is a former second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks that was acquired in a minor league deal this year by Brian Burke for Luca Caputi. After a good rookie season in the AHL with Syracuse where he put up 46 points in 80 games, Deschamps struggled out of the gate in 2011 with only 7 points in 31 games. Both Deschamps and Caputi did well with a change in scenery. Deschamps put up 30 points in 40 games with the Marlies and he has 8 points in 10 playoff games thus far. Deschamps clearly has offensive upside but one has to question his consistency. Another year playing with the Marlies under head coach Dallas Eakins should help Deschamps’ development.
Josh Leivo was taken in the third round of the 2011 draft after finishing up his first season in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves. Leivo had a quality second season with the Wolves posting good offensive numbers. Leivo had 32 goals and 73 points in 66 games while adding 61 penalty minutes. Leivo will most likely be back with Sudbury next season and will need to add strength to his 6’2” frame as he continues to develop.
Daniel Brodin, David Broll and Jamie Devane are all lower level prospects. Devane is the most interesting of the three as he is 6’5” and 220lbs. He put up 23 goals in 59 games with the Plymouth Whalers last season and added 104 penalty minutes. Thus he showed he can be more than just a tough guy at the junior level. Devane will most likely be with the Marlies next season and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the pro game playing against bigger and stronger men.
The Maple Leafs have some good prospects at the left wing position but they are clearly lacking star power. It will be interesting to see what happens in training camp next season as D’Amigo has a chance to make the big club and if Mueller signs on in the off-season his intentions will be to play at the NHL level. Two players I will be keeping an eye on are Ross and Devane as both should be with the Marlies and it will be interesting how they adapt to the next level.
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