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Scanning the NHL Reserve Lists For Unsigned Prospects

With the trade deadline fast approaching and the immediate needs of the Leafs organization at the forefront of most discussions, I thought I’d take a step back and take a look at middling prospects and whether or not they have a future with the Leafs. I can’t think of any topic people would want to read about more.

Internally the Leafs have four prospects they need to figure out by either June 1st (the CHL/Europe crowd) and the August 15th (NCAA) and the end result is that we’ll probably see a couple of these guys signed.

Fedor Gordeev (D) and Ryan MacGregor (C) have likely played their way into the organization wanting to at least take a look at what they could turn into. Gordeev, has always been viewed as a potential project defenseman, and while his results haven’t been earth shattering, there may be some appetite to see what he could do a tailored to him development program within the Leafs organization.

As for MacGregor, well, the Leafs always seem to in short supply of potential centers, and while it’s hard to imagine that MacGregor would be anything more than a bottom six player in pro hockey, he’s probably low risk enough to explore.

The players that are probably on the verge of being walked away from are Martins Dzierkals and Dakota Joshua. Both have been kicking around the Leafs prospect list long enough, and neither has had a moment where they’ve stood out significantly. Joshua might potentially fall into the same category as MacGregor, in that all center options should be explored, but at best I’d imagine we see an AHL contract here, especially since he’s a relic of the Nonis run draft table.

See, none of this is too exciting, right? Why the hell am I even writing this?

Anyway, like the Leafs, pretty much every team accept for Tampa has some unsigned guys that need to be figured out, and while most of the names worth mentioning are likely to sign with the team that drafted them, there are always a couple of names that trickle through. Here’s the short list of players to watch between now and June 1st.

Noel Hoefenmayer-D (drafted by the Coyotes)

The Ottawa 67’s defenseman was drafted in the fourth round in 2017. He’s a talent offensive defenseman, but might not have the high end speed for the NHL and might be a defensive liability, at least to start his pro career. With Sandin and Liljegren close to graduating from the Marlies, Hoefenmayer could be a solid offensive replacement, along with Mac Hollowell. He’s intriguing because he likely won’t cost much to acquire and Chayka loves to trade for the sake of the trading.

Adam Ruzicka- C (drafted by the Flames)

The Sudbury Wolves center had been playing with Leafs prospect Ryan MacGregor up until this season when he was dealt to Sudbury. He’s held a point per game pace over the past two seasons, and hasn’t dropped below 20 goals per year in his OHL career. He’s a three time World Juniors rep for Slovakia, which doesn’t carry the same weight as it would if we said Sweden or Canada, but he does have 6 points in 15 games there. At 6’4, size is absolutely a selling point, but I can’t imagine the Leafs put much stock in that.

Markus Phillips- D (drafted by the Kings)

The fourth round pick found his way onto the Canadian World Junior team this season, and frankly I can’t imagine the Kings are going to walk away from him when they are about to embark on a rebuild that looks like it has the potential to be quite painful. If Phillips isn’t interesting in signing up to be a part of the Kings rebuild and would prefer to take his chances on reentering the draft when his stock is high, it seems possible the Kings could deal him. While the Leafs could be interested, I wonder if Phillips is more likely to be a throw-in for the team willing to help the Kings unburden themselves from one of their unfortunate contracts.

Matthew Brassard- D (drafted by the Canucks)

Like the Kings and Coyotes before them on this list, I can’t imagine a rebuilding team giving up on a young prospect who managed to draw the attention of me, the laziest prospect researcher on the planet. As a 6’3, right shooting defenseman, Brassard isn’t a bad option to bring under contract, and his above a point per game pace since joining the Ice Dog only sells me more on the seventh round pick. Brassard was taken as an overager, largely due to injury, and while he benefited from a strong partner in Oshawa, he certainly seems worth mentioning as a target or trade throw-in.

Nick Henry- F (drafted by the Avs)

Nick Henry has played on some really good teams in Regina and now in Lethbridge, and while initially I thought his numbers were exclusively a product of who he was getting to play with, it seems more and more that he’s quite capable at producing offense himself. I can’t help but think of him as a better skating Connor Brown, and potentially a reunion with Adam Brooks might do Brooks as much good as it will do Henry.

Liam Hawell- C (drafted by the Stars)

FORMER SOO GREYHOUND ALERT!!!

Okay, he’s pretty far removed from his Soo days, and there wasn’t any Dubas overlap, but we are mandated to point out any and all Soo connections, as we know a watchful eye is on that organization.

Hawell is 6’5, and you can’t teach size, but he’s also been pretty good at scoring the past couple of years, as most overagers are. He’s got decent enough speed that he should be able to take the next step into pro hockey

Joseph Cecconi- D (drafted by the Stars)

This is pretty much a lost cause. Cecconi is finishing out his time at the University of Michigan, and given the desperate situation on the right side of the Stars blueline, they’ll absolutely lockdown someone who has put together an impressive college career. In the unlikely event that’s not the case, keep an eye on Quinn Hughes defensive partner.

Leon Gawanke- D (drafted by the Jets)

A German named Leon who won’t break your bank. The Jets draft pretty good, and might have done well again here in the 5th round, though like other teams that consistently draft well it might be a red flag that they haven’t signed him yet.

Gawanke is a solid right handed defenseman, with some offensive upside. Like pretty much everyone on this list, he’s someone that you’re committing to developing longer term, but this is largely about cheating our way back to solid prospect depth, and Gawanke might be a good way of doing that.

Stelio Mattheos- C (drafted by the Hurricanes)

Any chance you can add a Brandon Wheat King to your prospect pool, you should take that opportunity. Additionally, the Leafs would be adding Danforth’s new favourite Marlie.

Mattheos is a third round pick, who is coming off a 40 goal/90 point season and looks like he’ll be bettering it this year. It’s hard to imagine the offense depleted Hurricanes wouldn’t sign and shop an offensive prospect, but since Mattheos wouldn’t be much help for a couple of years, perhaps a more immediate option would hold more appeal to them.

Daniel Bukac- D (drafted by the Bruins)

Sticking with the idea of taking former Wheat Kings, let’s look at this 6’5 right shooting defender that has fun project written all over him. The catch being that the Bruins are also likely to be excited about that project. Bukac is probably too stay at home for most tastes, but the hope is that can be coached out of him, and that he can be a project in the spirit of the Fedor Gordeev and the ultimate dream of building our own Colton Parayko.

In Closing…

Yeah, these are interesting names to keep an eye on, but this is slightly more ridiculous than speculating over NCAA Free Agents. Given the recent shallowing of the Leafs prospect pool (largely for all the right reasons, but also because Mark Hunter isn’t what he was billed as) adding some youth to the organization and giving Keefe some kids to work with seems like a good idea that would benefit the team long term.

(reserve list data from capfriendly.com)

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