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Paul Hendrick's Prospect Update

by Paul Hendrick / Toronto Maple Leafs

With the Leafs' January struggles behind them, the organization can look into the system hopeful there are potential big-leaguers developing at various levels in both Europe and North America.

The quest for strength up the middle might eventually lead to sophmore centre Domenic Toninato at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The Leafs' fifth round pick in 2012 scored his team leading 14th goal of the season Saturday night to lead the seventh ranked Bulldogs past the Denver Pioneers 4-2. Toninanto has tallied 22 points in 25 games and is a team leading plus-16.

Teammate and fellow Leaf draftee Tony Cameranesi is a third year centre known for his skating ability. Cameranesi played in his 100th career NCAA game Saturday and has 19 points in 26 games for the Bulldogs this season.

Frederik Gauthier, another centreman, continues to build on a solid show showing for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

The Toronto fist rounder in 2013 continues to work on his offensive game producing 25 points in 23 games. Considered a defensive centre, Gauthier is plus-22 and is one of the premier faceoff takers in the country.

His Rimouski Oceanic are tied for the top record in the QMJHL and Leaf management is hopeful Gauthier and the Oceanic qualify for the Memorial Cup this spring to further advance his development.

Niagara's Carter Verhaeghe has put up six points in his last three games for the OHL's IceDogs. The Waterdown, Ont., native is a centre as well and is 23rd overall in scoring with 53 points in 48 games. More importantly, the 2013 third rounder is plus-8 on the season after ending last year at minus-19.

Kootenay defenceman Rinat Valiev has responded from September knee surgery to win silver with Russia at the recent World Juniors.

Valiev was selected by the Leafs in the third round last June. He has produced 32 points in 33 games and is a plus-15. Valiev leads all Ice defencemen in scoring despite missing 19 games due to injury and participation at the World tournament.

Finally, Andreas Johnson may be the organization's diamond in the rough with a bright future.

A seventh round selection in 2013, the Frolunda forward is 22nd in Swedish Hockey League scoring with 28 points in 43 games including 18 goals.

Just 20, Johnson could join a growing contingent of Swedish talent on the Marlies next season. A left handed shot who plays the right wing, Johnson is built like William Nylander with comparable skating ability.

As a difficult season for the big club enters February, there is reason for optimism that previous drafts will eventually make an impact in the NHL.

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