Each day until September 15th TPS will take a look at one team from the East and one club from the West and spotlight a few rookies to watch for this season. This afternoon we explore the potential first year guys for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With 30 games under his belt Nazem Kadri no longer has "rookie" status. Neither do defenceman Keith Aulie, winger Luca Caputi or netminder James Reimer. With that much youth recently injected into the NHL roster it might be tough for any new blood but surely some newcomers will make an appearance if not the team out of camp.
Big Joe Colborne was impressive after joining the organization from Boston shortly before the trade deadline. The former Camrose Kodiak and Denver Pioneer has filled out his 6'5 frame to near 220 lbs, a far cry from the 170 or so that he weighed on draft day back in 2008 when he went 16th overall. He dressed for the final game of the season and registered an assist, perhaps just the tip of the iceberg for what the big man can do for Toronto as early as this year. The former guest blogger here at Coming Down the Pipe, Colborne is a first class person with a great attitude where even if he didn't stick with the Leafs to begin the year, he'll head to the Marlies and work his way back into the NHL picture.
36 goals in a season might not sound like much but when we're talking a 44-game NCAA campaign it puts it into the right perspective. Matt Frattin was one of only two collegians to score more than 30 goals and his 36 were five more than his closest competition. His fall of grace, return to Edmonton and eventual redemption back with North Dakota is well documented but it makes his 60-point season with the Fighting Sioux even more remarkable in my mind. He was a Hobey Baker finalist and like Colborne, dressed for the final game of the year which fell immediately on the heels of UND's loss at the Frozen Four. The Hockey News doesn't rank him amongst Toronto's top 10 prospects, Hockey's Future slots him 7th on their top 20 list. On a team led by a pro-NCAA General Manager I can see Frattin getting an opportunity sooner as opposed to later and he's got a track record of overcoming the odds. I wouldn't bet against him.
Another former Collegian and Edmonton-area prospect worth watching for this year is goaltender Ben Scrivens. An in-studio guest of ours this summer, Scrivens completed a stellar NCAA career at Cornell in 2009-10 and made his professional debut last year with the Marlies. I'm not going to suggest that he's going to usurp a starting job in the next month or two but should injuries or poor performance lead to a recall from the AHL, Scrivens has the capacity to succeed.
Lastly, one should probably give consideration to former Wisconsin Badger and 1st round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Jake Gardiner. After a point-per-game junior year with the Badgers he turned pro and ended the season with the Marlies collecting 3 assists in 10 games. He probably needs seasoning at the AHL level but Gardner might be one of those guys who is ready to make the jump midway through the year.