TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: Honourable Mentions


On Friday, we kicked off our summer prospect rankings by going over the players who received no votes from our staff. Today, we’ll go over the players who did receive votes but didn’t quite make the list. Let’s begin!

Frederik Gauthier

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Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 10 21

Nobody was quite sure where Freddie the Goat was going to end up at the start of last season. Some thought he’d be better suited to working on his offensive game in the ECHL, but the organization decided to put him on a somewhat-bottom-six line with Nikita Soshnikov and Rich Clune on the Marlies.

Unfortunately, his year wasn’t stellar. He picked up just 18 points in 56 games and was the only player on the line to have a negative relative Goals-For percentage. Still just 21 years old, Gauthier has a bit of time to get his game together, and those who love the idea of a big body presence and enjoy his off-ice demeanor are certainly rooting for him to make it. But until he gives people a reason to be excited on the ice, it might be time to lift the first-round pick expectations off of him and treat him like another depth prospect in the system.

Jesper Lindgren

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Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
18 17 16 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 27

Lindgren is an extremely intriguing prospect. He’s a right-handed defenceman, which the team is in short supply of in the long-term, and is known for making extremely intelligent puck decisions. Lindgren played his first half-season of SHL hockey last year. While he had just three points, teenagers struggle to get ice time in European leagues and Modo themselves were so bad that they were relegated to Allsvenskan for next season. His Swedish junior (SuperElit) numbers in his Age 16 and 17 years were very respectable, so playing in a very good if not top-end European league with a bit more responsibility handed to him might be a useful step in his development next season.

Joseph Woll

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A 15 N/A 18 N/A 19 N/A 22

We all talk about Goalies being “voodoo”, but there’s a lot to be said about putting them in a position to succeed to minimize that factor. In drafting Woll this year, the Leafs picked up a goalie that they can spend a lot of time developing (he just turned 18 two weeks ago). He’ll be playing at Boston College next year and for as many as three seasons after that, giving the team lots of time to see what they’ve got in him. Hopefully, his development path takes a similar route to Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko, who excelled at the same school before signing his ELC this year. 

Antoine Bibeau

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Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A 17 N/A N/A N/A N/A 16 26

Bibeau is a very polarizing goalie in this city, and that might because even his performances are very polarizing. A momentum and confidence driven goalie if you’ve ever seen one, Bibeau is as known for his 40-save shutouts as he is for his 40-minute blowouts.

With that said, there’s some reason to be cautiously optimistic for the 22-year-old. While he started off last year as one of the single worst goalies in the AHL for his first two months, he clawed his way back to post an above-average 0.909 save percentage over 40 games, and, for better or worse, stole the starter’s job come playoff time, winning two rounds before he and the Marlies were eliminated by the Hershey Bears.

Viktor Loov

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 11 21

Loov is a little like Gauthier in the sense that he’s an immensely likeable person, has the body to mess things up in the NHL, but nobody is quite sure if he’ll ever actually make that jump to get there full time. Loov followed up a 21-point rookie season with the Marlies by putting up 3 goals and 12 assists in 55 games, while typically being paired with Stuart Percy.

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His age (23) and his handedness (left) will work against him as he tries to climb up the rankings. In the team time, though, there might not be a player in the system who is more entertaining in open ice; his massive hits have given him a cult-like following. That alone is probably worth the 7th round pick they used to draft him, so anything else is found money.

Rinat Valiev

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 20 N/A 13 16

Valiev is another player stuck in left-side purgatory, though there might be some time for him yet. Personally, he just missed out being in my rankings due to the abundance of solid players in the system, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he became a somewhat regular NHL defenceman at some point. Valiev doesn’t wow you with his physical presence but isn’t scared to dish it out, and also makes smart decisions with the puck.

In his first full AHL season, Valiev put up 23 points in 60 games, while spending most of his time with defensive specialist Andrew Campbell. He also earned himself 10 games with the Leafs, where his possession numbers were basically neutral from a relative perspective, but was held pointless. He’ll presumably be used in more offensive situations this year with TJ Brennan being removed from the picture, though he’ll have to compete with newcomers Travis Dermott and possibly Andrew Nielsen for those minutes.

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Martins Dzierkals

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
20 18 19 N/A N/A 19 N/A N/A 19

Dzierkals is already looking like one of the pleasant surprises of the 2015 draft. Making the jump across the pond from the MHL to the QMJHL, Dzierkals was a pivotal player for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies as they made their way to the Memorial Cup Final, finishing third in team scoring with 24 goals and 43 assists in 59 games. He’ll likely spend one more year with the team before making the jump to the pros.

Justin Holl

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 17 35

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The only reason that Holl missed out on so many of our ballots, really, is his age. While he makes it in as a prospect thanks to his Calder Trophy eligibility, Holl is 24 years old and about to turn 25 in January. However, the former second-round pick appears to finally be coming into his own, now that he’s jumped into the Leafs organization.

Holl was plucked away from the Indy Fuel after a half-point-per-game season in the ECHL and tasked with being the balancing act for TJ Brennan’s more offensively driven game. It worked out quite well; Brennan led defencemen in points, while Holl would often be in the right spot if a pinch went worse than expected. Together, they were likely the AHL’s most dangerous defensive pair.

Holl had just 21 points last year, but it’s worth keeping in mind that he was mostly used at even-strength and on the penalty kill. As the Marlies’ only right-handed defenceman at the moment, expect him to get big minutes in a way that allows him to be the catalyst. With an NHL contract now attached to him, he could be a call-up option as well.

JD Greenway

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A 19 N/A N/A N/A N/A 25

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Greenway doesn’t look like an offensive stalwart just yet, but if we’re being honest, most players his age don’t either. Adjusted for league difficulty, his USHL numbers (10 points in 25 games) stack up well against just about every other defenceman in the system at Age 17, which is something you like to hear about a very agile 6’4 athlete.

LIke Woll, Greenway has a lot of time to figure out what he wants to be in his hockey life. He’ll be joining the University of Wisconsin as a freshman next year, meaning the Leafs might not even see him as a pro until Late 2020.

Nicolas Mattinen

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A 20 N/A N/A N/A N/A 41

Another case of a big body with upside, the Leafs have a bit more familiarity with Mattinen thanks to his year of experience with the London Knights, who have in a sense become their unofficial junior team.

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On the surface, there’s really not much to much to talk about here. He had 10 points in 39 games, has the usual “big but responsible with a slapshot” scouting report, and has basically never done anything that’s hit a highlight reel. But he just turned 18 in March, and ultimately, we’re talking about a 179th overall pick that joined the organization six weeks ago. The jury’s going to be out here for a long time.

Nikita Korostelev

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A N/A 20 N/A N/A N/A 28

Many were calling Korostelev the steal of the draft when the Leafs selected him 185th in 2015, thanks to the fact that he was just as productive as 6th overall pick Pavel Zacha on the same Sarnia String roster. But his production slipped this year to 42 points in 53 games; decent enough, but not the Draft+1 dominance that everybody had hoped for.

It seems likely that he’ll play one more year with the Sting, but I wonder what happens in the year that follows. While the Moscow native has been trained in the Canadian system throughout his teenage years (even playing with Mitch Marner as a 14/15-year-old at The Hill Academy), the KHL definitely would have their eyes on bringing him back. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg will likely be losing young star Anatoly Golyshev to the New York Islanders next year and drafted Korostelev 9th overall in 2014, making him a potential replacement candidate if they pitch the right offer.

Hopefully, though, he has a strong year and joins the Marlies in 2017/18.

Vladimir Bobylev

Jeff Ryan H. Shawn Ryan F. Adam Dom Jess Katy Readers
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 20 N/A 32

If you want an example of a Leafs prospect going from Junior to the KHL for the sake of his development, this appears to be what’s happening with Vladimir Bobylev. Selected in the 5th round of this year’s draft, the 19-year-old will be following up a near point-per-game season with Victoria of the WHL by joining Spartak Moscow for the next two seasons.

As I detailed a few weeks ago, it’s probably the right move; the KHL is the second best league in the world and, in Bobylev’s case specifically, Spartak is rebuilding their roster after temporarily bowing out of the league in 2014/15. Bobylev is a highly skilled and responsible forward, and if he can build his creative game over there before returning to North America as a more-developed 21-year-old, that would be stellar.

Check back tomorrow for the start of our top-20 countdown!

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  • magesticRAGE

    I feel that Valiev and Loov are getting a short end of the stick. Loov’s puck carrying ability looked great with his cup of NHL coffee. He can mess with the big boys, and as far as I’m concerned, negates the need to deploy Polak. His AHL rookie was more stable than the one just passed, as Keefe put him in less offensive senarios (with the pressence of Brennan in the lineup). I hope to the pairing of Holl and Loov, and give him orders to shoot more, as he has a decent shot.
    Valiev, in my opinion, has top 4 capability. He does everything well, but has the IQ to pool his talents together. His junior career shows proof that he is efficient at both ends of the rink, but his AHL rooie year was more focused on the defensive side (being paired with Campbell). Keefe must have a lot of trust in him to place him there, and Babcock communicates with Keefe very regularly. Rinat just needs to bulk up more and try to push more offensively, which he will most likely be told.

    • Speaking personally, I think very highly of Valiev in particular, the Leafs just have a lot of very good prospects right now.

      If a player of his calibre is just outside your Top 20, that’s spectacular. Remember when Jesse Blacker and Matt Finn were in our Top 5?