With THN’s annual Future Watch special issue about to be unleashed on the streets, I thought it would be prudent to give readers a sneak peek of how the Maple Leafs rank in the youth department: Not well.
Is that a shocker? Not particularly. With the exception of draft dandy Luke Schenn and hopeful goalie of the future Justin Pogge, the Buds are devoid of young high-end talent, compared to the rest of the league. In fact, only New Jersey — it of the veteran-laden and playoff-bound Devils — ranked lower.
A revolving door of team brass in the past couple seasons played a big role in this. Though, so far, none of the GMs have done the team any favours by stocking up on draft picks, let alone high draft picks, in an attempt to restock what was pretty much always an empty cupboard.
As of today, the Leafs head into this summer’s entry draft with just five selections, the second-least amount of picks in the NHL, tied with a cluster of teams and one better than San Jose, a team that will contend for the Stanley Cup this year. The Leafs have an infamous history of crushing young souls by mishandling them in a variety of manners, from Jeff Ware and Jeff Farkas all the way up to Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen, the latter two of which are now finding room to breathe in St. Louis.
The fact Schenn was able to step right into the Leafs’ lineup this year was certainly a blessing, but at least new coach Ron Wilson was pragmatic about expectations. If this is the philosophy going forward regarding Toronto prospects, it’s a sound one.