The Five Most Important Leafs For The Future

Mark SmithCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2009

It's all about the future for these Leafs. So who are the key men in the system today that will ensure the team 'rebuilds' quickly and assertively? The onus is on Burke to ensure that future picks are used well, and free agents are signed, but right now who are the five keys to the future?

1) Luke Schenn

Schenn is certainly the most important Leaf for the future. The Leafs need him to be a franchise player, and while that is by no means certain, he has shown all kinds of potential in his rookie season; while getting enough minutes that any fatal flaws would certainly have been exposed. 

Last night, given the injuries, he was on the ice a lot. He thrived, breaking up many plays and showing minor offensive bursts. He could look great as captain as early as 2011-2012.

2) Justin Pogge 

Will he be a Mikael Telqvist or Sean Burke? It is not certain Pogge will ever be a number one goalie, much less a franchise one, but like it or not he is a key to the Leaf's future.  If he can't step up over next few years the Leafs will have to invest picks, players, or cash to get the goaltending they need.

3) Thomas Kaberle

There is every possibility that Kaberle will be traded this summer. The cap will be tight for all teams, but a puck moving defenseman locked in for two more years at a reasonable salary will be sought after. 

If traded, he could land a first round pick and a good player, or strong prospect. Both of which are key building blocks. If he sticks around, he is young enough that he can make a real contribution to the Leafs in a couple of years as they become competitive.

4) Jiri Tlusty 

Before picking Schenn, the Leafs had traded five of eight picks away, and combined two others to acquire the great Lee Stempniak. For those who need to feel the pain, we rented Nolan, Leetch, Raycroft and Toskala for these top picks. 

The only man left standing is Jiri Tlusty, who has been burning up the Marlies. The Leafs need a homegrown scorer, and Tlusty is the best bet. He has the potential to be a real scorer in the NHL

5) Nikolai Kulemin 

Would be nice to see more of a sure thing in the number five position, but this is the state of the nation. Kulemin does have real scoring potential, and is a strong skater. He sees the ice well, and when he has been most effective has shown a willingness to grind it out as well. 

The Leafs would love to see him to emerge as a top six forward, and while it will not be a smooth path, it is very possible.

Those are the top five as of today, look forward to seeing the Sedin twins and another Schenn on the list as of August.