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The Successfully Rebuilt Prospect Development System

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03-05-2012, 10:38 AM
  #1
Drew75
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The Successfully Rebuilt Prospect Development System

This is NOT a thread about the UFA signings, any trades or lack of, or anything else that Burke and co. have done / not done other than one thing – the very good job of implementing a solid prospect development system here in Toronto.

Let’s take a look at some of the no-brainer FACTS about player development.

• There is a HUGE jump from Junior to the NHL. The game is faster, the players are bigger, and you don’t have anywhere near the same amount of time to think. A mistake in Junior that will go unnoticed or is recoverable will burn you instantly in the NHL.

• All players will hit the start of their prime around the age of 25. Now there are some generational talents that can succeed in their teens and early 20’s because of natural talent masking their development – but the fact is that even Gretzky was his best from around 25 – 30/31. This means that from 18 to 25 players all go through a natural learning curve and maturation process – they are constantly developing until that age when they have the physical & mental maturity to put it all together.

• I think one of the most important facts that is constantly overlooked is the simplest. At 19 / 20 years of age – these “prospects” are still kids! We tend to forget that because of the celebrity status and hype they receive, but for those of us older folks here, think about when you were that age and thought you knew everything but it turned out you didn’t know crap. Until a person fully matures, everything about them is more fragile. It’s fine if you play in LA, where a guy like Doughty can make his youthful mistakes and go through the ups and downs of his development without reading about every mistake on the front page of the sports section every day. Here, it’s a totally different beast. Kids have a natural development, but to throw them in the fishbowl before they are ready is the easiest way to completely destroy a young mans confidence.

So what does this mean for the Leafs? Simple – the key to success is to do exactly what they are doing – shelter kids on the Marlies and let them grow and make their mistakes there in front of 1,900 fans rather than with the big club in front of 19,000 + about one million on TV.

The system the Leafs has adopted works – and the best example of it – as I’ve mentioned before - is the Detroit Red Wings. Nik Kronwall took 6 years of development before being brought into the lineup. Same goes for Howard and for Kindle. For their forwards, they tend to go with about 4 years of development. Now that’s patience.

Is Lombardi / Connelly sucking the bag this year? Yes. But the most valuable aspect they bring this team is the ability to have a Calder Cup run with Kadri, Colborne, Frattin, Blacker, Ashton, Scrivens, etc.

Next year, on the last year of their deals, Connelly and Lombardi will be moveable assets, to make room for guys like Kadri and Colborne who will be far more mature, further along in their development, and better able to handle 1 million eyes on their every mistake.

And then the system continues. Next year the Marlies will have McKegg, Ross, Carrick, etc. The year after Percy, Olden, and maybe even Biggs. When those guys are ready to step up to the big team, they’ll be replaced with the guys we draft this year and next, and so it continues.

So when people here are screaming “let the kids play!” – I say no. I say let the kids develop in a sheltered environment as they physically and mentally mature. Let the kids play for a young instructional coach like Eakins or which ever capable replacement we get when he moves on. Let a guy like Kadri play on the 3rd line to work on his defensive game so he’s an overall better player down the road. Let the kids compete for a Calder Cup and learn what it means to win.

A lot of people go on and on about scouting, but I think our scouting is good. An interesting thing I learned when looking into it recently is that Detroit – who people say has the best scouts in the NHL – actually has about the same success record as any other team in terms of number of players becoming NHL players. The biggest difference with Detroit is not in their scouting, but their development, so that when a player in their system does succeed, they end up maximizing on their potential due to the extended and patient development time in Grand Rapids. If you don’t believe me – look at Hockey DB – for every one successful player Detroit drafts – they have 5 busts.

I’m not saying we have a Zetterberg or Datsyuk in our system – but at this stage in development, Detroit didn’t know quite how good those guy would be (or else they wouldn’t have gone as late as they did). But if rushing a guy in give him 50% chance of hitting his potential – taking your time seems to give him a 80% - 90% chance.

Some of the guys I’m looking forward to seeing with our new, patient development system are Olden and Tom Nilsson. Give Olden an overage year of Junior, and then maybe 3 full years on the Marlies and see what he become. Same for Nilsson – who I think has a great upside given the proper time to mature and develop.

Your thoughts? Who are you looking forward to seeing, that may have not have had as much as a chance in ‘rushed’ system of past regimes?

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03-05-2012, 10:52 AM
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Agree 100%...

I've watched a lot of them...2 painful years of Lanny McDonald trying to find his way...the destruction of Biomstruck, Benning, Bester, etc...
Have a feeling Schenn would have benefitted from a slower approach...

I really enjoy the approach now being taken...and if i really want to see these players just hop down to the Ricoh and see the kids play in a less pressurized environment...
Hope Burke and Company keep it up

Good read

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03-05-2012, 10:52 AM
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Good post. I agree.

That somehow seems inadequate for the amount of thought and effort you put into your post.

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03-05-2012, 10:54 AM
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Well said, I agree entirely with you on this.

It wasn't up until recently that I actually noticed this and noticed that Burke's blueprint is coming into fold. He's built tremendous organizational depth from the ground up to ensure stable success over the long term. While his NHL roster still hasn't gotten to the playoffs, even at this highest level, he's been able to acquire quality talent and some building blocks that should at least get a sniff of the playoffs. But for a few reason's they've come short.

Another thing people haven't seen is that Burke hasn't handicapped the team into any long term contracts. Sure the cap hits of Komi, Lombo, Connolly and Army aren't good but they're not signed on for a long term. This will make them easier to move if roster space is needed for the kids to come up. But it's only if the kids deserve to be up and are playing admirably.

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03-05-2012, 11:02 AM
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very well written, and bang on

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03-05-2012, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew75 View Post
This is NOT a thread about the UFA signings, any trades or lack of, or anything else that Burke and co. have done / not done other than one thing – the very good job of implementing a solid prospect development system here in Toronto.

Let’s take a look at some of the no-brainer FACTS about player development.

• There is a HUGE jump from Junior to the NHL. The game is faster, the players are bigger, and you don’t have anywhere near the same amount of time to think. A mistake in Junior that will go unnoticed or is recoverable will burn you instantly in the NHL.

• All players will hit the start of their prime around the age of 25. Now there are some generational talents that can succeed in their teens and early 20’s because of natural talent masking their development – but the fact is that even Gretzky was his best from around 25 – 30/31. This means that from 18 to 25 players all go through a natural learning curve and maturation process – they are constantly developing until that age when they have the physical & mental maturity to put it all together.

• I think one of the most important facts that is constantly overlooked is the simplest. At 19 / 20 years of age – these “prospects” are still kids! We tend to forget that because of the celebrity status and hype they receive, but for those of us older folks here, think about when you were that age and thought you knew everything but it turned out you didn’t know crap. Until a person fully matures, everything about them is more fragile. It’s fine if you play in LA, where a guy like Doughty can make his youthful mistakes and go through the ups and downs of his development without reading about every mistake on the front page of the sports section every day. Here, it’s a totally different beast. Kids have a natural development, but to throw them in the fishbowl before they are ready is the easiest way to completely destroy a young mans confidence.

So what does this mean for the Leafs? Simple – the key to success is to do exactly what they are doing – shelter kids on the Marlies and let them grow and make their mistakes there in front of 1,900 fans rather than with the big club in front of 19,000 + about one million on TV.

The system the Leafs has adopted works – and the best example of it – as I’ve mentioned before - is the Detroit Red Wings. Nik Kronwall took 6 years of development before being brought into the lineup. Same goes for Howard and for Kindle. For their forwards, they tend to go with about 4 years of development. Now that’s patience.

Is Lombardi / Connelly sucking the bag this year? Yes. But the most valuable aspect they bring this team is the ability to have a Calder Cup run with Kadri, Colborne, Frattin, Blacker, Ashton, Scrivens, etc.

Next year, on the last year of their deals, Connelly and Lombardi will be moveable assets, to make room for guys like Kadri and Colborne who will be far more mature, further along in their development, and better able to handle 1 million eyes on their every mistake.

And then the system continues. Next year the Marlies will have McKegg, Ross, Carrick, etc. The year after Percy, Olden, and maybe even Biggs. When those guys are ready to step up to the big team, they’ll be replaced with the guys we draft this year and next, and so it continues.

So when people here are screaming “let the kids play!” – I say no. I say let the kids develop in a sheltered environment as they physically and mentally mature. Let the kids play for a young instructional coach like Eakins or which ever capable replacement we get when he moves on. Let a guy like Kadri play on the 3rd line to work on his defensive game so he’s an overall better player down the road. Let the kids compete for a Calder Cup and learn what it means to win.

A lot of people go on and on about scouting, but I think our scouting is good. An interesting thing I learned when looking into it recently is that Detroit – who people say has the best scouts in the NHL – actually has about the same success record as any other team in terms of number of players becoming NHL players. The biggest difference with Detroit is not in their scouting, but their development, so that when a player in their system does succeed, they end up maximizing on their potential due to the extended and patient development time in Grand Rapids. If you don’t believe me – look at Hockey DB – for every one successful player Detroit drafts – they have 5 busts.

I’m not saying we have a Zetterberg or Datsyuk in our system – but at this stage in development, Detroit didn’t know quite how good those guy would be (or else they wouldn’t have gone as late as they did). But if rushing a guy in give him 50% chance of hitting his potential – taking your time seems to give him a 80% - 90% chance.

Some of the guys I’m looking forward to seeing with our new, patient development system are Olden and Tom Nilsson. Give Olden an overage year of Junior, and then maybe 3 full years on the Marlies and see what he become. Same for Nilsson – who I think has a great upside given the proper time to mature and develop.

Your thoughts? Who are you looking forward to seeing, that may have not have had as much as a chance in ‘rushed’ system of past regimes?
couldn't agree more

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03-05-2012, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew75 View Post
Your thoughts? Who are you looking forward to seeing, that may have not have had as much as a chance in ‘rushed’ system of past regimes?
Great thread and very well-thought out and written post!!





I am really excited to see what McKegg will do as everytime I see him play I am blown away and he clearly stands out!

On eplayer I've been interested in but don't know much aboutis Josh Nicholl's. Can someone please fill me in on this guy and what he's all about?

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03-05-2012, 11:09 AM
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great post, i'm going to link it to a bunch of retarded Leaf fans i know

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03-05-2012, 11:24 AM
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Outstanding post.

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03-05-2012, 11:31 AM
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Drew311
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I agree, and am also excited about the kids coming up in the next few years. In 2009, who were we excited about?

Chris Didomenico?
Tyler Ruegsegger?
Dale Mitchell?
Joel Champagne?
Mikhail Stefanovich?

I cringe when I look back on our prospect pool before Burke was hired. A few guys worked out like Reimer, Frattin and Kuelmin, but there were very few Leafs prospects that even showed an ounce of NHL potential.

Now you just know that guys like Ross, Ashton, Colborne, Blacker, Biggs and Percy will play with the big club, and even to a lesser extent Carrick, Olden, McKegg and Nicholls will contribute at the NHL level in some capacity.

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03-05-2012, 11:33 AM
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The strongest draft in history, 2003, came before a lock out year.

Just saying.

AHL does wonders for players. Kadri/Colborne/Frattin seem set for next year (3 yrs is enough) Ashton/Holzer/Blacker the year after that.

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03-05-2012, 11:36 AM
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Duke Silver
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A+ job. Would read again.

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03-05-2012, 11:39 AM
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Great post. The most positive force that we have is our new development system in place. The Leafs had always been a team that did not value player development and relied on borrowed time by signing UFAs and trading picks for veterans. That method left the Leafs organization relatively unprepared for the new reality of a cap system and we're finally at the point where the mistakes of the past are behind us as now the first crop of players are starting to break into the League (the '08s and '09s).

The Aulie trade is a perfect example of a trade that we can now make which we were never able to in the past. We can improve the overall depth of the organization by moving NHL ready prospects rather than dropping picks and leaving a void in the system years ahead and ensure a proper environment for them by having a balanced winning team in the AHL.

The Leafs can finally buy something with cash rather than putting it on the credit card.

Soon we'll be flush with prospects who are NHL ready and probably won't have room for them all which means we trade them to other teams for even higher picks which feeds right back into the system (development comes with a price tag). It's a good place to be.

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03-05-2012, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hero View Post
The strongest draft in history, 2003, came before a lock out year.

Just saying.

AHL does wonders for players. Kadri/Colborne/Frattin seem set for next year (3 yrs is enough) Ashton/Holzer/Blacker the year after that.
I don't know if that had much to do with anything... the 2003 draft was seen at the time as a fantastic draft, it didn't just turn out to be one after the fact.

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03-05-2012, 11:45 AM
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GordieHoweHatTrick
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Player development is largely overlooked amongst HFBoarders

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03-05-2012, 11:47 AM
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great post. be patient and we should be good in years to come. I dont want a 1 year playoff and out, develop and bring up the young players and be a perenial playoff team. Dont give up on players like Schenn and Kadri, we drafted them, we develop them and they will be good for us, every single elite player in the NHL was drafted and developed by the same team (some examples where its not but thats the general rule) so letour prospects get developed like they should and dont rush them.

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03-05-2012, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew311 View Post
I agree, and am also excited about the kids coming up in the next few years. In 2009, who were we excited about?

Chris Didomenico?
Tyler Ruegsegger?
Dale Mitchell?
Joel Champagne?
Mikhail Stefanovich?

I cringe when I look back on our prospect pool before Burke was hired. A few guys worked out like Reimer, Frattin and Kuelmin, but there were very few Leafs prospects that even showed an ounce of NHL potential.

Now you just know that guys like Ross, Ashton, Colborne, Blacker, Biggs and Percy will play with the big club, and even to a lesser extent Carrick, Olden, McKegg and Nicholls will contribute at the NHL level in some capacity.
Tlusty could probs be in that too.

Bold'd part is most important

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03-05-2012, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by GordieHoweHatTrick View Post
Player development is largely overlooked amongst HFBoarders
HFBoarders generally only care about #1 or #2 overall and other players who can make it into the league in year one. Everybody else is a bust apparently

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03-05-2012, 12:07 PM
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Drew75
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Originally Posted by Vexxed14 View Post
HFBoarders generally only care about #1 or #2 overall and other players who can make it into the league in year one. Everybody else is a bust apparently
They also tend to feel that players from the later rounds who do come in and make an impact is solely because of scouting - without looking at the science behind how that player was developed.

Players like datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Kronwall, were all slowly developed at their own pace. Who knows what would have happened to them if they were rushed in before they were ready!

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03-05-2012, 12:22 PM
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Excellent post and I totally agree. I actually feel that the approach Burke and co are using regarding prospects is the most important part of the teams progression towards the ultimate goal. I'm very much looking forward to the years ahead with this management team.

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03-05-2012, 01:08 PM
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There is something with leafs drafting and "development system". Unlike other teams, the marlies have not picked nor developed many high quality players (line 1 quality and I'm not talking Bozak). Even Grabovski was not a leaf pick but a trade for Montreal.

Until we see better quality and quantity of players from picks and development, I wouldn't call this a success just yet.

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03-05-2012, 01:17 PM
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So when people here are screaming “let the kids play!” – I say no. I say let the kids develop in a sheltered environment as they physically and mentally mature. Let the kids play for a young instructional coach like Eakins or which ever capable replacement we get when he moves on.
I don't agree 100% on this. While a longer maturation period in the minors away from the spotlight is a good thing for most kids, there are some who are ready to kick some ass in the pros at a younger age, and the system has to be ready to accommodate this and reward them based on a system of meritocracy. So if you have a Ryan O'Reilly or Jeff Skinner coming up at 18 ready to do a job, don't bury him back in juniors just because you have unyielding rules, because three years of ELC service in the NHL is extremely valuable.

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03-05-2012, 01:19 PM
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The Leafs can finally buy something with cash rather than putting it on the credit card.
awesome analogy

and great post OP, couldn't agree more

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03-05-2012, 01:24 PM
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Erza Scarlet
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We still have pretty much nothing to show for it that made significant NHL impact toward winning.

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03-05-2012, 01:36 PM
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Drew75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by number72 View Post
There is something with leafs drafting and "development system". Unlike other teams, the marlies have not picked nor developed many high quality players (line 1 quality and I'm not talking Bozak). Even Grabovski was not a leaf pick but a trade for Montreal.

Until we see better quality and quantity of players from picks and development, I wouldn't call this a success just yet.
The whole point is with the patience they are showing with the current crop of prospects. The fact that it will take time to see what we have = a greater chance of more prospects being able to reach their potential. This is a fact that has been proven with other successful organizations.

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