We’re halfway through our list of the Top 20 Maple Leaf Prospects, and now seems like the perfect time to recap who we’ve covered off so far.
Largely because we do read the comments occasionally and someone brought up the important point of seeing the list in its entirety in one place. That just makes good sense, so let’s do that…
The players who went unranked by all of us (Chebykin, Kara, Joshua, O’Connell, Holmberg, Kizimov)
The name to watch here would probably be Pontus Holmberg, since he was a 2018 pick with generally promising numbers. I’d assume he has the best chance of climbing the list, while Joshua might not even be a Leafs prospect next August when we do this all again.
Pontus Holmbergis 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.
The Honourable Mentions (McGregor, Greenway, Dzierkals, Bouthillier, Marchment, Scott, Stotts, Gordeev, Kaskisuo)
It appears we’ve seen the end of the Dzierkals era, and I suspect the Greenway era is coming to close as well. The bulk of the Leafs goaltending prospects ended up here, which seems fine considering they are voodoo and all. Kaskisuo did finish just behind Andrew Nielsen in our rankings, though admittedly I feel I was wrong-ish to rank him since his upside seems to be AHL starter.
I also want to mention that those who liked Stotts, Gordeev, and Marchment liked them a lot, and I suspect those who didn’t rank them consider them near misses for their lists.
Riley Stotts some of us were excited about a new playmaking center being drafted (5 of us), but the majority think it’s too soon to be excited about Stotts who has a chance to take on a bigger role with the Calgary Hitmen this year. Potential middle six centers always have value and I’d expect his stock to rise. The highest ranking this year for Stotts was 14th.
#20: Andrew Nielsen (dropped from #6 in 2017)
Nielsen’s stock dropped fast this year among our voters. The previous year we (not me, the TLN team at large) considered him the 6th best prospect in the organization. The addition of other AHL defensemen, and improvement of other prospects slide Nielsen down the depth chart in 2017-18, and 2018-19 will be a fight for him to get back on track. Personally I wouldn’t doubt that an AHLer for AHLer trade is in his future, and now the Leafs just need to wait for John Chayka to call.
Adam Laskaris on Nielsen:
Currently, on the left side of the defence, the Leafs are running Gardiner-Rielly-Dermott at the NHL level, with Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman both having NHL experience on the Marlies. Martin Marincin’s full-time NHL career is probably a moot point in this organization, so at best, he’s slotting in as the Leafs’ sixth best option there, but with the addition of Rasmus Sandin in this year’s draft, Nielsen’s fighting an uphill battle.
#19: Mac Hollowell (drafted in 2018)
Never underestimate bloggers ability to get excited about undersized defensemen that put up offensive numbers. Hollowell might be the case and point, as the 2018 draft pick sneaked into the Top 20 on the strength of a lot faith in the Soo system, a right shot, and some pretty good underlying numbers.
Ziggy on Hollowell:
Hollowell’s scoring exploded last season. His 0.89 points per game was good for 9th overall amongst OHL defenders. This is pretty similar to his teammate and fellow Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin, who scored 0.88 P/GP. Furthermore, if we only look at primary points per game, Hollowell was 6th overall amongst OHL defenders.
#18: Jordan Subban (acquired in 2018)
That name carries a lot of weight, so much weight that every single one of our writers had Subban in their top 20, although apparently not that high since, he’s clocking in at 18. Subban shares a lot of the same characteristics as Hollowell, but is a bit further along in his development. There’s probably a bit of a buyer beware since the Canucks thought it was time to cut him loose, but giving Subban a fresh start isn’t a terrible idea. Worst case scenario is that he’s a good RD for the Marlies in the years to come, and Toronto can use that too.
That’s Kappy on Subban:
Despite a disappointing season, Subban has shown his potential, and there remains reason to believe that a bounceback season could be on the horizon. Should Kyle Dubas’ bet on Subban as a reclamation project succeed, Subban’s progression as a decent mid-level prospect could be right back on track before we know it. While Subban’s progression has taken a strange turn downward, there’s nothing here to suggest this trend cannot be reversed with even a different stroke of luck.
#17: Eemeli Räsänen (dropped from #10 in 2017)
He’s really big, and a really raw talent, but there is no ignoring what his upside could be. The same way that people are excited about Gordeev, there seems to be an excitement about Eemeli Räsänen. Personally, I’m much more willing to believe that Gordeev will be our friendly giant.
Hayley Hendren on Räsänen:
Räsänen is obviously not without skill, but his skating leaves something to be desired, and he can be outmaneuvered by smaller players. However, he has continued to improve after 2 years in the OHL, and time competing at a higher level in the KHL can only do him good, assuming he’s able to stick on Jokerit’s regular roster.
#16: Jesper Lindgren (up from #18 in 2017)
Lindgren is the first climber on our list, and that’s probably on the strength of the Leafs track record with Swedes, and in particular, Swedish defensemen. Lindgren is coming off a decent season in Finland, and is probably a year away from the Marlies.
The best comparable is probably sitting in the Leafs organization right now, and that’s Jordan Subban. Both are undersized with offensive flair, who need a bit more time to see if they can be NHL players, but with the very real acknowledgement that it will be a longshot for them to become NHL regulars.
#15: Filip Kral (drafted in 2018)
As someone living in Western Canada I’m always thrilled when the Leafs bless me with a WHL prospect to watch, and that may be part of my personal fast buy-in on Kral. Another reason for that buy-in, and what I suspect influenced others on our panel, was the fact that Kral’s numbers support the notion that he can bring some defensive responsibility to the organization while being very competent in transitioning to moving the puck up the ice.
Thomas Williams on Kral:
Being able to enter the zone with control of the puck as a defenceman, is a very important skill to have in the modern hockey landscape. Kral was in the 91st-percentile in controlled entries per hour, then again he did not have a very preferable success rate. This is telling that Kral attempted a ton of zone entries in control – which is also something nice to see. Even if he was not very successful, being able to try this and potentially getting better at doing so, is something to look for in a prospect.
#14: Yegor Korshkov (dropped from #9 in 2017)
Korshkov took a bit of heat from our panel by not coming over to North America this season, because with the fact that he’s steadily improved from year to year, it seems he’s ready to take the next step, but probably won’t until a Leafs roster spot is there for him or at least a very good chance to challenge for one. The fact that he was selected 31st overall with names like DeBrincat and Girard still available will haunt many of us for a long time, though it shouldn’t impact our valuation of Korshkov.
My thoughts on Korshkov:
His speed, reach, and hockey sense have always been good, but as his icetime goes up, he’s shown that he can produce more offensively as well. I know getting excited about a 3rd line winger seems like a challenge, but I do believe that Korshkov is well on his way to being the exact kind of 3rd line winger you’d want to see.
#13: Calle Rosén (was #13 in 2017 as well)
I’m kind of surprised that I’m excited about what Rosén could bring this year. After being thrown to the wolves in his early days with the Leafs last year, Rosén made the most of his time with the Marlies and looks to be capable of challenging for a Leafs roster position again.
Scott Maxwell on Rosén:
I’d argue that we might have got a bit more out of him than we were expecting going into the season. He made the Leafs right out of training camp, even though it was short-lived, and had arguably his best season to date with the Marlies. Starting the season at 23, he’s beginning to reach the age where what we get from him is about what we should expect from him in the future, so a defenseman with a chance to add a bit of depth to the Leafs certainly isn’t a bad thing, especially since we got him for free.
#12: Adam Brooks (dropped from #5 in 2017)
The WHL overager point total shine wore off Brooks a bit this year as dropped out of the top five prospects, and in fact right out of the top 10. It seems like with Brooks there’s a “I want to believe” mentality about him, but the reality is on a team with not a lot going on at center in the AHL, Brooks struggled to hold down 4th line duty, although he improved in the second half of the season.
Ryan Hobart on Brooks:
Things took a step back, hype-wise, for Brooks this year. With only 19 points in the regular season, he hasn’t made much of his limited opportunity. There’s obviously still hope, as this was only his first season in the AHL. However, there’s definitely a lot of ground to make up before he can crack an NHL roster.
#11 Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (drafted in 2018)
You better believe every time you see “Semyon Der-Arguchintsev” I’ve just copied and pasted his name. Thankfully SDA seems to have caught on, and we can go with that until he inevitably makes the Leafs roster and I can commit his name to memory.
SDA is an exciting offensive center who gives us all a later pick to be excited about. Between Der-Arguchintsev and Stotts the Leafs have addressed their center prospect shortcomings, and while both aren’t expected to be in the Leafs or Marlies lineups anytime soon, they certainly are players to get excited about, especially SDA.
Dylan Fremlin on SDA:
His numbers may not jump off the page at you, but when you look at the context of him being a pass-first player on a terrible Peterborough Petes team which didn’t score much while also considering the kid turned 17 right before the season started, your hopes should rise a bit. I’m already trying to find somewhere I can consistently stream Petes games because I think he could really break out in his D+1 and also because he’s just a blast to watch.
So the next couple of weeks will see us wrap up this countdown, and we’re down to the names that either most likely to push for NHL jobs this year and/or the greatest upside players in the organization.
A couple of spoilers for you, we didn’t have a unanimous #1 this year, so start guessing at how that turned out. We have 5 players in the top 10 who weren’t there last year, and probably less surprising, 6 of them are Swedish Nationals.
So tell all your friends, more great #content is on the way.