Hockey's Future just updated the Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect page which is going to be the primary topic of this post.
Last week I wrote about the Leafs having too many pro-contracts - this week I'm going to look at the positives that have come with them.
Brian Burke has been criticized for looking too short term with the Leafs by bankrupting the future in the Phil Kessel trade. While hindsight suggests that that trade likely wont favour the Leafs long-term, it's tough to say that Brian Burke hasn't deepened the team's prospect pool.
The Leafs have long been a team accused of ignoring youth and development. Coming out of the lockout, the team was slow to understand the value of entry-level contracts and under-estimated the role youth would play in the new NHL. Since taking over as GM, Burke has righted the ship in this regard.
Since taking over as GM, Brian Burke has added several talented young prosects to the team, despite having traded away three high draft picks. Nazem Kadri looks like the right pick at the seven spot in the 2009 draft. Tyler Bozak projects to be a high-end NHLer and Gustavsson is a highly regarded goaltending prospect.
According to Hockey's Future, Brian Burke has brought in 8 of the Leafs' top 10 prospects (Kadri, Gustavsson, Bozak, Rynnas, Caputi, Ross, D'Amigo, Aulie) in only two offseasons of work. Of these, Gustavsson, Bozak and Rynnas were brought in as free agents and cost the Leafs neither picks nor players. No assets for top ten prospects. Awesome.
In Caputi's case, he was brought in for Ponikarovsky - a pending UFA. In Aulie's case, he was a player deemed by many to have been a throw-in in the Phaneuf deal.
D'Amigo and Gunnarsson were both late round picks by a scouting staff that is largely intact. Reimer was a fouth rounder.
Only Kadri and Ross consumed longterm assets (first and second round pick respectively).
The point of all this? Brian Burke and his staff have made a lot out of a little. Using expiring assets like Ponikarovsky or no assets at all, they've been able to replenish what was a barren farm system. Their prospect pool is rated 6th on Hockey's Future and while they don't have anywhere near the high-end prospects that a team like the Kings have, they do have a significant amount of organizational depth. The hope is that in the coming years, this girth of prospects will allow the Leafs the opportunity to overspend in free agency and bring in some top-tier talent.