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Prospect Roundup: Lehtonen on fire, Leafs earn letters

Welcome to the first installment of TLN’s newest feature, Prospect Roundup, where we will be keeping tabs on Leafs prospects throughout the year. With the NHL draft just around the corner, the Leafs are set to add a fresh new crop of prospects to their system but there are already a handful of potential future Leafs playing meaningful hockey games as several European leagues have gotten their seasons underway. So, without further ado…

 

Egor Korshkov – RW – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)

With uncertainty surrounding the status of the next NHL season, never mind the next AHL season, the Leafs loaned Korshkov back to his former KHL squad to get him into some games as he prepares for his next NHL training camp. The former second round pick is off to a hot start with his old team, racking up three goals and three assists through eight contests thus far.

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After a bit of an up and down first season in North America, it can only be good for Korshkov’s confidence that he’s producing at the KHL level. He provides a different element than most of Toronto’s other depth options up front with his power, size, and willingness to play a physical game. Korshkov is putting his offensive skills on display so far this season and could push for a job on the Leafs’ fourth line at some point this coming year.

Mikko Lehtonen – LHD – Jokerit (KHL)

After leading all KHL defenders in scoring and taking home the league’s award for top defenceman last season, Lehtonen is once again on a torrid pace to begin this season. He has already racked up four goals and three assists through the first six games playing on Jokerit’s first defensive pairing and quarterbacking their top power play unit.

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Lehtonen will be 27 years old in January so he’s not really a prospect, and there’s a good chance that he’s in the Leafs lineup whenever opening night rolls around again. He is likely to begin the season on Toronto’s third defensive pair but he could be called upon by Sheldon Keefe to quarterback the second power play unit, depending on how the rest of the Leafs blue line shakes out this offseason. Undrafted European free agents always come with some level of uncertainty, but it would be difficult for Lehtonen to do much more to prove he’s ready for his NHL opportunity.

Filip Hallander – LW – Lulea HF (SHL)

Hallander is listed as a center by several outlets but he has played mostly on the left wing for the last couple of years, and he has begun this season playing on the left side of Lulea’s top line. They played their third game of the season on Thursday and Hallander picked up his first point, wiring a shot off the post and picking up an assist on Isac Brannstrom’s rebound goal:

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Hallander is a hard working, intelligent player who forechecks well and wins his share of board battles. He isn’t overly flashy but he uses his teammates well and he can make plays in tight spaces. His brain and compete level make him an effective penalty killer, and he can play a net front role on the power play as well. Hallander will come to North America for Leafs training camp but is ticketed for a return to Lulea unless he surprises and steals an NHL job to begin the season.

Mikko Kokkonen – LHD – Jukurit (Liiga)

Toronto’s third round pick in 2019 played 39 games in Finland’s top league last year, finishing with three goals and seven assists. He also suited up for Finland in the World Juniors, scoring two goals and earning player of the game honors in their final game of the tournament. Kokkonen has been a leader on his junior teams in the past, and he was somewhat surprisingly named an alternate captain for Jukurit this season at just 19 years old. Of the three other players wearing letters for Jukurit, none of them are younger than 29 years old.

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Kokkonen is a quiet but steady defender who can move the puck out of his zone efficiently. He is a sturdy kid at 5’11” and 198 pounds, and though he doesn’t play an overly physical game, he has enough strength to box out opposing forwards and win puck battles. He will look to improve on last year’s offensive totals as he takes on a larger role for Jukurit this season.

Mikhail Abramov – C – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

Abramov was Mr. Everything for Victoriaville last season, leading the team in scoring and finishing with 35 more points than their next leading scorer, so it was only fitting that they named him captain for the upcoming season.

Abramov is highly skilled forward who impacts the game in a number of different ways offensively. Prior to last season, he was primarily a pass-first playmaking center but he unleashed his deadly shot to beat goaltenders with regularity in 2019-2020. Abramov is as smart as he is skilled, and has the ability to pick apart opposing defenses with his outstanding vision and puck skills. If he can add some muscle to his slight frame and improve his foot speed, the Leafs could have a legitimate offensive weapon to add to their lineup in the coming years.

Pontus Holmberg – LW/C – Vaxjo Lakers HC (SHL)

Holmberg had a solid age 20 season in Sweden’s top league, tallying 17 points across 52 games in mostly a bottom six role for Vaxjo. He has once again begun this season centering their fourth line but has already managed two points in his first three games, picking up his first goal of the year on Thursday:

Holmberg will be in tough to improve on his offensive totals from last season if he isn’t able to secure a larger role as the season wears on, but there is some offensive ability in his game. He skates well and likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone, and if he can earn some minutes higher in the lineup, he could be poised for a breakout season.

Kalle Loponen – RHD – Karpat (Liiga)

Loponen was selected by the Leafs in the 7th round of last year’s draft and spent the following season with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. He had a decent first season in North America, showing off his heavy point shot on his way to six goals and 18 assists in 56 games but has returned to Finland for the coming season. He picked up four points in eight games with Karpat’s under 20 team prior to the Liiga season, but it looks as though he’ll have a job on the big club when they begin play.

Eemeli Rasanen – RHD – HPK (Liiga)

Rasanen is often forgotten by many in Leafs land – a symbol of the mostly fruitless drafts under the guidance of Mark Hunter. Taken in the second round of the 2017 draft, Rasanen was sold as a monstrous defenceman who played a mean game with some untapped offensive upside. After a disappointing post-draft season where he failed to show much progression in his game, Rasanen left the OHL and signed with Jokerit of the KHL. He struggled to earn ice time over the next two seasons and has practically fallen off the prospect map. He is still just 21 years old and has started this season playing on the second defensive pairing for HPK in Liiga so the opportunity is there for him to salvage his status within the Leafs organization.

 

(Statistics from eliteprospects.com)