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Toronto Maple Leafs' Richard Panik, centre, celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers during first period NHL action in Toronto on Saturday, November 8, 2014.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

After back-to-back wins against two teams they could be battling for position all year, the Toronto Maple Leafs are suddenly the subject of a little glass-half-full talk.

Only a little, mind you.

What stands out isn't that the Leafs scored 10 goals on the weekend against the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, as impressive as that is.

What's more important, long term, is the players who were scoring, with particular focus on the likes of Peter Holland and Richard Panik.

Both have had some of their best games in the NHL in the past week. Holland scored twice and had an assist as part of a checking line with Leo Komarov and Mike Santorelli. Panik was shuffled way up to the second line, and has two goals and an assist in his past three games.

Both are 23 years old. Both are castoffs from other organizations, players who were taken in the first two rounds of the 2009 draft but who couldn't find steady employment on deep teams in Anaheim and Tampa.

Their loss is potentially Toronto's gain.

This is an organization that needs more youth. It needs more than only Nazem Kadri and the two defencemen – Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly – because it needs low-cost options that will develop into better players who outplay the value of their contracts.

Last season, part of what went wrong with the Leafs was simply a lack of trust in young forwards. Even with all the team's injuries up front, on average, forwards under the age of 25 played a total of less than 49 minutes a game, and more than three-quarters of those minutes came from James van Riemsdyk and Kadri.

Everyone else – including Holland – got very little ice time and, as a result, had a hard time making an impact.

Things started similarly this year. Holland averaged only nine minutes of ice time in his first 10 games, Panik had 7.5 minutes in his first 11 games and Brandon Kozun, before his injury, hardly played.

But if you look at the Leafs' past three games, when they're 2-0-1, that's changed. Leafs forwards under the age of 25 have been playing an average of 60 minutes a night, with Holland and Panik leading the way.

Some of that's been necessitated by injury, but it's also been proof that there's talent there to tap into.

"When you bring players in, it's not that you're afraid to use them," coach Randy Carlyle said of trying to integrate two more young forwards [Sam Carrick and Josh Leivo] into his lineup on Sunday. "It's just that there are certain situations you don't want to expose them to."

A lot gets made about the Leafs being a young team – they were tied for sixth-youngest in average age at 27.0 when the season started – but they have a core that is beginning to get older without making a great deal of progress.

The reality, too, is that the NHL is increasingly a young man's league. Teams such as Chicago and Los Angeles won championships with rosters close to the Leafs in age, getting contributions from young players in key roles.

With the salary cap not expected to rise much next season, the Leafs will need to keep finding their own cheap, young talent in order to get better. If a Holland or Panik proves viable in more minutes, it's found money. It also makes someone else expendable, allowing Toronto to move a big contract and find other upgrades with that cap space.

In order to prove useful, though, the young guys need those minutes.

The Leafs are in a bit of a tricky spot in this department. They have a coach who wants (and likely needs) to win now and who doesn't have a reputation for putting a great deal of trust in youth. But for the long-term good, the Leafs must find a few cost-controlled players and develop them from within, which can only happen by living with players' current mistakes and allowing them to get better in future.

The past few games have proved that those two goals aren't entirely incompatible. You can put confidence in young players and still win games.

If the Kings and Hawks can do it, the Leafs can, too.