Leafs Prospect Update – New Prospects and Playoff Brackets

Toronto Welcomes Two New Prospects to the Organization

After moving out a number of contracts before and at the March 2nd trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs used their roster flexibility to add two new prospects to the pipeline over the weekend.

On Friday, the Leafs announced the signing of 21-year old Nikita Soshnikov, an offensively-gifted winger out of Atlant Mytishchi of the KHL. The following day, Toronto made another splash in signing 23-year old centre, and prized college free agent Casey Bailey of Penn State.

Soshnikov signed a standard three-year entry level contract and will report to Toronto, either to the Leafs or Marlies, at the beginning of next season. Bailey, due to his age, signed a two-year contract. Though, since Bailey will report immediately to the Leafs and see some action before the season ends, he will burn the first year of his contract and become a restricted free agent at the end of next season. 

There’s a chance, albeit not excellent, that both of these players could play significant minutes for the Toronto as early as next season – the lure of a rebuilding franchise and tremendous opportunity certainly played a large role in landing both Soshnikov and Bailey.

That being said, let’s pump the brakes a bit before we start talking about their on-ice impact. The Leafs, and specifically Mark Hunter, did an excellent job to add two young pieces to the organization, but they do not arrive in Toronto as must-see prospects. 

William Nylander still headlines the Leafs prospect pool – he’s miles ahead of the rest of the group in terms of talent and potential. Next, there’s Andreas Johnson and Connor Brown; two late round boom-or-bust prospects that have been doing a whole lot of booming and not a lot of busting lately. It’s somewhere after those top three guys that Soshnikov and Bailey will fall, amongst the Greg McKegg’s and Josh Leivo’s of the organization – guys who certainly have a chance at being everyday NHLers, but still have a ways to go.

But hey, that’s not to get down on the kids. Again, there’s so little risk in picking up young free agents like this and taking a chance on their apparent talent. It’s exactly the kind of thing the Maple Leafs organization needs to be doing right now.

Gauthier, Rimouski Finish Atop the QMJHL

Frederik Gauthier closed out the season strong with two goals and an assist in three games, helping his Rimouski Oceanic finish first the the QMJHL with a 47-16-5 record. On the year, Gauthier contributed with 16 goals and 32 points in 37 games, having spent a good deal of time either injured or representing Canada at the World Juniors.

Rimouski will take on the Victoriaville Tigers in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs, starting Friday evening. Victoriaville, the 16th seed, finished the season with a 27-34-7 losing record, so I can’t imagine the series will last very long. 

Verhaeghe Closes Out Regular Season on a High Note

It’s been a well-documented rough year of the Niagara IceDog’s Carter Verhaeghe. After blowing up in his first post-draft OHL season, the 19-year old centre looked sluggish out of the gate. Without his primary running mate in Brendan Perlini (sidelined with a hand injury), Verhaeghe scored only 19 points in his first 25 games – a scoring clip much lower than his average output. 

But, as the team around him improved, so did Verhaeghe. Perlini would return and the IceDogs would acquire Josh Ho-Sang by trade, and Verhaeghe would start scoring like his usual self. Verhaeghe would be held pointless only once in his final 12 games and scored seven goals and 18 points during that span. On the season, Verhaeghe would match last season’s point total with 82 points in 68 games. You always hope that a prospect improves on his numbers year after year, but 82 points is a pretty decent outcome considering the slow start.

Niagara will face off against the Ottawa 67’s in the first round of the OHL playoffs starting Thursday.

Multiple Leafs Prospects Heading to the NCAA Tournament

Three Leafs prospects will be heading to the 2015 NCAA Tournament this year on behalf of University of Minnesota Duluth and Boston University. Unfortunately, they’re on a collision course if they make it out of the first round.

Tony Cameranesi and Dominic Toninato will represent UMD, facing off against cross-campus rival Minnesota in the first round on Friday. Cameranesi lead the Bulldogs with 28 points in 38 games this year, though Toninato certainly gave his teammate a run for his money with 25 points in 32 games. Both played big roles for UMD season, with the sophomore Toninato most often lining up at centre on the top line while Cameranesi, a junior, anchored the second line.

For Boston University, the Leafs will be represented by 2014 draft pick J.J. Piccinich. The freshman played only a minor role with the high-scoring Terriers, managing only three points in 24 games.

  • Ultimate Sports'er

    The prospects sound great and all, but they are not our best. I still consider Reilly, Brown, Nylander, and Johnson. Reilly is elite, and the rest have a chance to be the same. Do you think any of these people will play in the NHL next year (that do not have the name Morgan Reilly)?

    Great Article, and great pick up for essentially free.

    I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE CLARKSON IS GONE!

    Sorry, had to throw that in there because I keep thinking about Salary Cap space and how much we have now…

    Anyways, keep up the great work.

    • Reilly isn’t a prospect anymore and both Nylander and Brown play for the Marlies, which Jeff covers in his Marlies posts.

      Johnson didn’t get a mention this week for no particular reason. He’ll likely make an appearance next week.

    • CMpuck

      C.M. I seriously think the leaf management should give the thought of getting a solid defensive partner for young Reilly.

      I would do the same again next season as it appear there are a number of defence prospects for the 2016 draft. Burkie never did fulfill his blue print but I think the idea was correct in building from the goalie out.

    • I think they would consider Hanifin along with Marner and Strome but Provorov doesn’t quite belong in that discussion.

      You make it sound as if either of Strome or Marner wouldn’t make good picks. That just isn’t true. I have Hanifin ahead of them both but it isn’t like either of them would be bad picks.

      • CMpuck

        IMO Hanifin = Strome > Provorov > Marner

        If we’re shipping out Dion when our blueline is already fugly. Hanifin or Provorov are needed.

        What if Strome is as good as his brother? That isn’t exactly a franchise player and Marner? I don’t get why so few people are honest that Mighty Mouse isn’t a horrid option next to Hanifin.

    • CMpuck

      Maybe it’d be prudent to not treat Rielly as a savior, he’s a good piece, he very well may turn out to be exceptional. But if Kadri and Schenn taught us anything it’s not to get ahead ourselves in a rebuild.