It didn't take long for Jake Gardiner to make an impact in Toronto.
The defenseman was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks (that also netted Joffrey Lupul) in exchange for blueliner Francois Beauchemin in February 2011. After a brief stay in the AHL that followed three seasons at Wisconsin, the Deephaven, Minn., native made his NHL debut as a 21-year-old and acquitted himself well.
In 75 games, Gardiner had seven goals, 30 points and was minus-2 on a team that was outscored by 22 goals at even strength last season.
Do the Leafs have another prospect that can make an impact right away?
For the purposes of this list, players must have played fewer than 20 NHL games, so the likes of Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin are not included. Here's a completely subjective look at the Leafs' top 10 prospects currently in their system:
1. Joe Colborne, C -- The 22-year-old played most of the 2011-12 season with an injured wrist that required surgery this summer. It kept him from participating in the team's prospect camp in July, but it shouldn't limit his potential upside.
At 6-foot-5, 213 pounds, Colborne has the size to be a force down the middle in the NHL. In 65 games with the Marlies of the AHL last season, he had 16 goals and 23 assists and another two goals and six assists in their run to the Calder Cup Final.
2. Jesse Blacker, D -- The 21-year-old acquitted himself well in his first full season at the AHL level. He had a goal and 15 assists in 58 games with the Marlies along with a plus-8 rating.
Blacker is an offensive defenseman who led the all OHL blueliners in points with 10 goals and 44 assists in 62 games in 2010-11. At 6-1, 190 pounds, he still has room to grow physically.
3. Brad Ross, LW -- Ross, who turned 20 in May, had 42 goals and 40 assists in 62 games and 12 goals and 10 assists in 22 postseason contests with Portland in the Western Hockey League.
Not to be overlooked is Ross' ability and willingness to get under the opposition's skin. In four seasons with Portland, he has amassed 656 penalty minutes in 267 games.
4. Tyler Biggs, RW -- The 6-foot-3, 210-pound, 19-year-old just completed his first year with Miami (Ohio) University. The native of Binghamton, N.Y., had nine goals, eight assists and 63 penalty minutes in 37 games after honing his game with the U.S. National Development Team Program.
Biggs left Miami after last season to start his pro career with the Leafs. He could earn a spot with the Marlies or wind up in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals.
5. Morgan Rielly, D -- He was the Leafs' top pick in the draft in June, and the No. 5 selection may have the most potential of any of Toronto's prospects. The 18-year-old already has NHL size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) but his season was cut short in 2011-12 after 18 games (and 18 points) because of an ACL injury.
Rielly rehabbed and returned for the playoffs, posting three points in five games. He earned full marks for his character, returning ahead of schedule from such a tough injury.
6. Greg McKegg, C -- The Leafs could look to tap into his potential at the AHL level this season after another successful campaign split between Erie and London of the OHL. The 20-year-old had 31 goals and 75 points in 65 games.
7. Jerry D'Amigo, LW -- The 21-year-old's first season with the Marlies was a successful one. He had 15 goals and 41 points in 76 games and turned it up in the postseason with eight goals and five assists in 17 games.
8. Matt Finn, D -- After the Leafs grabbed Rielly, they selected the 6-foot, 197-pound Finn in the second round with the 35th pick. He had 10 goals and 38 assists in 61 games with Guelph of the OHL.
9. Leo Komarov, C -- The native of Estonia stood out at Leafs prospect camp this summer, but some of that had to do with the fact he's 25. The 5-foot-10, 187-pounder had 66 points in 145 games over three seasons with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL.
10. Korbinian Holzer, D -- The native of Munich, Germany is 24 years old and has spent the past two seasons with the Marlies. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Holzer, a right-handed shot, had a goal and 19 assists in 67 games last season.
Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer