Today we’re highlighting the Leafs prospects who were not ranked in the top 20 by any of our Maple Leafs Nation panel members. Does that make them lesser prospects? In some cases the answer is absolutely yes. In other cases the lack of knowledge about a prospect might have been a contributing factor. We’ll use that to explain away what looks like a Russian bias in our voting as a number of Russians failed to make the cut.
Nikolai Chebykin is notable since he managed to make the Top 20 last year, but couldn’t land a single vote this year. He put up 18 points in 32 games as a winger in the secondary Russian league, but didn’t see a single minute of KHL ice time last year. At 21 years old it would be nice to see something more promising by now, but the fact that Chebykin is 6’4 will probably buy him a couple more years of the Leafs paying attention to him.
Vladislav Kara is a Russian prospect that showed a bit more promise, and personally I can I considered him for my top twenty. Kara had 9 goals in the VHL, same as Chebykin, but also got 11 games in the KHL and represented Russia in the World Juniors and Super Series. There is also some hope that Kara could develop as a center, which is an asset to the Leafs.
Semyon Kizimov is a new addition to the Leafs system and it’s not surprising to not see him make the cut, being that he was a late pick. Kizimov’s Russian junior numbers don’t standout, but he was regularly selected to represent his country in International play and did quite well. It seems unlikely that Kizimov will be in the KHL this year, but he may represent Russia at the World Juniors which would be fun and help build our appreciation of him.
Ryan O’Connell still seems like a strange draft pick. Selected out of a Canadian High School program before playing a year in the BCHL, and now committing to Ohio State is a roundabout path to being a NHL prospect. Playing in the NCAA will probably get more eyes on him and give us some perspective on a prospect that seems to have been selected as a project.
Dakota Joshua is another Ohio State project for the Leafs. He’s now 22 and becoming a solid contributor in his role as center, but heading into his senior year he’s yet to standout or get on the radar as a top 20 prospect. Joshua is someone that could help the Marlies beyond this year, and if he can cement himself a solid center he could have an AHL career ahead of him.
Pontus Holmberg is probably the player on this list that is least likely to make a repeat appearance next year. A smallish forward, with skill and playmaking abilities as strengths, his numbers in his rookie SHL campaign will likely have us praising him as the next Andreas Johnsson. I’m starting to rethink not putting him on my list.
I guess the lesson here is that if this is the bottom of the heap for the Leafs, they aren’t in bad shape, or at least we’re pretty bad at ranking. Personally I think the honour mentions might have some more questionable players than this group, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if you agree with me.