The debate over the merits of the Islanders trading Michael Grabner to Toronto for five prospects rages on. Some see it as cashing in an expiring asset for five lottery tickets and some see it as letting a useful asset skate away for nothing.
But who are the prospects Garth Snow targeted for the trade? To answer that, I'll go to my favorite source for Maple Leafs news, views and media scrutiny, Pension Plan Puppets. Their recently concluded Top 25 Under 25 List included a couple of the newest Islanders.
Approximately 14% of the entire internet is made up of Maple Leafs analysis, but no one covers them as closely as PPP does. Here's what they had to say about the five dudes heading to Brooklyn.
Taylor Beck, LW
The only member of the package with NHL experience, PPP had him at No. 17 in their T25U25 and wrote:
Looking at War-on-Ice, Beck's performance on a good Predators team isn't exactly impressive. Beck struggled to control possession and didn't produce significant offence , but also appeared to be used much more frequently in the defensive zone. He looks like what you would expect most fourth-line players to look, and given the Leafs tremendous defensive issues the past few seasons, his numbers relative to that group would look much more favourable.
Carter Verhaeghe, C
Verhaeghe was No. 25 this year for PPP after dropping a few spots. A teammate of Joshua Ho-Sang with Niagara, Verhaeghe is more of a well-rounded player, according to prospect watcher Scott Walker:
A: I wouldn't say he took huge leaps forward, but he definitely progressed in certain areas. He finished 14th in scoring, up from 21st in his post-draft season despite having stabilized his numbers and his two-way game went to a different level than it had in years past, partly because he had to as the team's captain. After getting off to a slow start from September to November, he was dominant from December onwards, playoffs included.
Hard to complain about a second straight team-MVP award either. He's an intriguing prospect.
Matt Finn, D
Finn's one of those prospects that seems to have been around forever. Taken 35th overall in 2012, he dropped from No. 7 to No. 24 in PPP's list mainly due to added depth and injuries but also because he hadn't been progressing the way Leafs fans would have liked. They asked Leafs writer Jeff Veillette about him:
PPP: Has this season raised concerns about Matt's ability to thrive at this level, or is this more of a learning experience for a young pro?
JV: It's somewhere in the middle. Obviously, you want your players to be on a much more positive development trajectory than what Finn has shown this year, and an inability to accomplish, well, anything in the span of the year leaves you questioning a player's future. But given the circumstances involved, it's very possibile for him to rebound. If Finn shows up to training camp in the best shape of his life, physically and mentally, there's no reason that he can't move on and pretend that last sesaon never happened.
Christopher Gibson, G
The goalie! A free agent signee who was originally drafted by Los Angeles, Gibson took over the starting role for the AHL Marlies last season and has shown progress over his two years in Toronto's system. He's 22, so there's still no telling how he turns out because goalies are the worst. Fun Fact: He's Finnish.
Goaltending sometimes comes down to getting the right opportunity, and for Gibson last season, that may have come last year, when he took control of the starting role in the second half of the season, and put up a solid campaign. Gibson was in net as the Marlies overcame a significant deficit in the standings to make the playoffs, before falling to the defending champions in a hard-fought first round series.
Tom Nilsson, D
Swedish prospect Nilsson missed PPP's cut this year, but was No. 17 in their 2014 poll. He's not a big dude (only 6') but he's a defense only type to an almost absurd level.
Judging defensive defencemen is a lot tougher because of the nature of the skills that they bring. Physicality is great when it serves a purpose and, so far in his career, Nilsson's used his willingness to play the body as a means of protecting the defensive zone rather than just throwing a large number of hits after the puck has already moved on. But we've talked a little about using NHLe to help try and place some of the other guys on this countdown. When you contribute 4 points over a season, even with the caveat that Nilsson is a 20-year old playing in Sweden's top professional league, how do you translate that to the NHL? If you can't provide even occasional offence, is there a spot for you in the NHL?
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