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Photo Credit: twitter.com/MapleLeafs

Toronto Maple Leafs 2020 NHL draft recap

The final major event in what has been the longest year in hockey history has come and gone, with the draft itself feeling like the longest in the NHL’s history too. Relying on all the hard work done by Kyle Dubas and his scouting staff over the last calendar year, the Leafs added 12 new prospects to their organization when the 2020 draft was all said and done.

1st round (15th overall): Rodion Amirov – LW/RW – Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Salavat Yulaev Ufa KHL 21 0 2 2
Toros Neftekamsk VHL 5 1 2 3
Tolpar Ufa MHL 17 10 12 22
2020-2021 Salavat Yulaev Ufa KHL 10 3 2 5
Toros Neftekamsk VHL 3 1 1 2

The Rodion Amirov selection was met with disappointment and frustration from some fans, stemming from the belief that the Leafs should have drafted a player that filled a more pressing need on the roster. The fact is that any player drafted at that point is highly unlikely to step into the NHL immediately, never mind address a pressing need for their team.

In Rod the Leafs trust

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Amirov had been ranked right around the middle of the first round for most of the year leading up to the draft and the Leafs grabbed the best player on their board when it was their turn to pick, position be damned.

He is a smooth skating, offensively creative winger that excels in the transition game. He can carry the puck up ice and has the quick hands to go with great vision and agility, giving him the ability to start plays as well as finish them. Amirov is a smart player who understands his defensive responsibilities, and though he isn’t usually the one to initiate contact, he doesn’t shy away from battles and can play through traffic in the dirty areas. He immediately jumps to the top of the Leafs prospect ranks alongside the likes of Nick Robertson and Rasmus Sandin.

2nd round (59th overall): Roni Hirvonen – C – Assat (Liiga)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Assat Liiga 52 5 11 16
2020-2021 Assat Liiga 3 0 1 1

The Leafs entered day two of the draft in possession of the 44th overall pick but when their turn rolled around, Kyle Dubas opted to trade down and secure a pick in the early part of the third round in exchange for sliding down 15 spots in the second round. The move paid off with the Leafs landing two highly touted Finnish prospects that were projected by most analysts to be selected earlier than where the Leafs landed them.

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With the 59th pick, Toronto was able to secure playmaking center Roni Hirvonen who was ranked as the 35th best prospect in the draft by Elite Prospects. He has excellent vision with the puck on his stick, willing and able to make passes with a high degree of difficulty. He can run a power play from the half wall, using his patience to find seams with the man advantage but also has a good enough shot to beat goaltenders on his own. Hirvonen is a smart but undersized player at 5’9″ and 170 pounds, and though he can be elusive in tight spaces, he needs to improve his overall quickness and speed as he continues to develop in Finland’s top professional league.

3rd round (64th overall): Topi Niemela – RHD – Karpat (Liiga)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Karpat Liiga 43 1 6 7
Karpat U20 Jr. A SM-Liiga 1 0 1 1
2020-2021 Karpat U20 Jr. A SM-Liiga 4 1 3 4

Toronto didn’t have a third round pick going into the draft but thanks to their deal with Ottawa, they were able to acquire one and select right handed defender Topi Niemela with the 64th overall pick. He was projected by most analysts to be chosen in the middle of the second round, and was ranked as high as 28th by the team of scouts at Dobber Prospects, so this trade turned out to be tidy piece of business for Kyle Dubas and his staff.

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Niemela is a mobile, puck moving defender with excellent defensive instincts and a 6’0″ frame to build on. He can evade oncoming forecheckers and make a crisp pass to start a breakout, and though he has some untapped offensive upside, Niemela’s NHL value will be derived from his heads up defensive game and his ability to consistently make the smart plays. He isn’t an overly flashy player, but he is an effective one who gets around the ice well and projects as a modern day defensive blue liner.

4th round (106th overall): Artur Akhtyamov – G – Irbis Kazan (MHL)

Year Team League GP GAA SV%
2019-2020 Irbis Kazan MHL 46 1.80 .931
2020-2021 Bars Kazan VHL 4 0.98 .957
Irbis Kazan MHL 3 1.67 .926

In the fourth round, the Leafs added to their goaltending depth chart with the selection of Russian netminder Artur Akhtyamov. He has put up impressive numbers at the junior level over the last couple of seasons and has looked very sharp early on this season at the VHL level.

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Akhtyamov has decent size at 6’2″ and will undoubtedly add some weight to his frame as he matures. He is a quick, athletic goalie who is very aggressive in challenging shooters – sometimes to a fault but he is a worthwhile project for a Leafs team that has no clear goaltender of the future. Look for him to push for more playing time at the VHL, and perhaps even KHL, levels in the coming year.

4th round (122nd overall): William Villeneuve – RHD – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 64 9 49 58
2020-2021 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 2 0 1 1

The Leafs added another right handed defenceman to the pipeline in the fourth round with their selection of 6’1″, 181 pound William Villeneuve.

Villeneuve was an offensive weapon for the Sea Dogs in his draft year, playing big minutes as a primary puck mover for his team. He is an offensively gifted defenceman with good hands and vision who loves to push the play from the back end. He wasn’t consistently exposed at the junior level but he will need to improve his defensive reads as he works towards becoming a pro. Villeneuve is a decent skater who could have some legitimate upside if he can shore up his play without the puck and increase his mobility.

5th round (137th overall): Dmitri Ovchinnikov – C – Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Sibir Novosibirsk KHL 2 0 0 0
Siberskie Snaipery Novosibirsk MHL 54 24 31 55
2020-2021 Sibir Novosibirsk KHL 3 0 0 0
Siberskie Snaipery Novosibirsk MHL 6 3 4 7

With an abundance of late round picks, the Leafs pulled the trigger on a deal to move up and select center Dmitri Ovchinnikov with the 137th pick in the draft.

Ovchinnikov is another highly skilled offensive player who dominated playing against his peers in the Russian junior league last season. He has a good hockey IQ and plays hard in both ends of the rink. His high end puck skills and vision allow him to be aggressive in attacking the middle of the ice, either by himself or with a slick pass to a teammate for a scoring opportunity, but he will need to add speed and strength to his 5’11, 163 pound body.

6th round (168th overall): Veeti Miettinen – RW – Kiekko-Espoo U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Kiekko-Espoo U20 Jr. A SM-Liiga 52 42 31 73

The Leafs took a home run swing on an undersized but extremely talented winger in the sixth round, adding Veeti Miettinen to the organization.

Miettinen has been a dual threat offensive dynamo at the Finnish junior level, scoring 134 points in 100 games across the last two seasons in the Jr. A SM-Liiga, while playing a responsible defensive game. He was too good for the league but remained at that level to maintain his NCAA eligibility as he plans to join St. Cloud State. He has a great shot, smooth hands, and excellent playmaking ability to go with above average speed and agility. He is definitely a project but there are plenty of high end tools in Miettinen’s game and this is the kind of player worth taking a chance on late in the draft.

6th round (177th overall): Axel Rindell – RHD – Jukurit (Liiga)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Jukurit Liiga 47 6 16 22
Jukurit U20 Jr. A SM-Liiga 13 3 5 8
2020-2021 Jukurit Liiga 2 0 2 2
Jukurit U20 U20 SM-sarja 2 0 1 1

With the 177th pick, the Leafs nabbed another right handed defenceman from Finland in overager Axel Rindell who had been passed over in the previous two NHL drafts.

Rindell is an offensively minded defender who can make high end plays with the puck on his stick. He skates pretty well and does a good job of maneuvering at the offensive blue line to find passing lanes or openings to unleash his heavy shot. At 6’0″ and 176 pounds, Rindell has the size to handle opposing forwards but his defensive game is still a work in progress.

6th round (180th overall): Joe Miller – C – Blake School (USHS-MN)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Blake School USHS-MN 25 25 34 59

With their third and final pick of the sixth round the Leafs took another big swing on a small, offensively talented player in Joe Miller.

Listed at 5’9″ and just 146 pounds, Miller will certainly need to get bigger and stronger before he’s a consideration at the pro level. He does have some offensive upside but he is the definition of a project pick. Miller is committed to the University of Minnesota where he will continue his development.

7th round (189th overall): John Fusco – RHD – Dexter Southfield School (USHS-Prep)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Dexter Southfield School USHS-Prep 24 10 21 31

In the seventh round, the Leafs once again dipped into the US high school ranks and selected defenceman John Fusco with the 189th pick.

Another late round gamble, Fusco is a player that was a bit off the radar. I don’t know much about him aside from the numbers you see above, and other scouts I spoke with didn’t have much knowledge of his game either. He is committed to Harvard University where he will join fellow Leafs prospect, Nick Abruzzese.

7th round (195th overall): Wyatt Schingoethe – C – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Waterloo Blackhawks USHL 47 17 21 38

With the 195th pick, Toronto added another center to the prospect pool with the selection of Wyatt Schingoethe.

Listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds, Schingoethe plays a hard working two-way game. He has a good motor and supports the puck well all over the ice when he isn’t battling for it himself. Nothing spectacular, but he competes hard and has a good hockey brain.

7th round (213th overall): Ryan Tverberg – C – Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)

Year Team League GP G A P
2019-2020 Toronto Jr. Canadiens OJHL 47 26 25 51

With the draft winding down, the Leafs made a move to jump back into the seventh round to add one more prospect in local kid Ryan Tverberg.

Tverberg has decent size and competes hard but like any other seventh round pick, there isn’t much that stands out about his game currently. He is a longshot to make it but so were Andreas Johnsson and Pierre Engvall. He will join Nick Abbruzzese and John Fusco as a Harvard commit.

 

(Statistics from eliteprospects.com)