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Prospect Roundup: Lehtonen strikes, Scott ready and waiting, Barabanov lands

With the initial fury of the offseason’s early days behind us, the Leafs’ organizational depth chart is beginning to take shape. Many of Toronto’s most prized prospects are still a year or more away from playing professional hockey in North America, but there are also a number of them that will be fighting for playing time with some of the team’s more recent acquisitions in the NHL and AHL when training camps get underway. There are lots of bodies, both up front and on the blueline, so any extra bit of preparation could be the difference in a camp that promises to feature some serious battles for roster spots.

Mikko Lehtonen – LHD – Jokerit (KHL)

Lehtonen recorded two goals and an assist over his three games this past week, bringing his totals to eight goals and eight assists over 14 games. He is currently the second leading scorer on his team and he is averaging 22:47 of ice time per game – about three minutes more per game than anyone else on Jokerit’s roster. Lehtonen’s abilities on the power play have been well documented but five of his eight goals on the season have come at even strength, helping to dispel the notion that he might be nothing more than a weapon on the man advantage. It’s becoming difficult to ignore just how good Lehtonen has been in the KHL, and he’s looking more and more likely to push for a prominent role on the Leafs blue line this coming season.

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Egor Korshkov – RW – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)

Korshkov scored the only goal in Lokomotiv’s 1-0 victory over Dinamo Minsk last Friday, and added a slick shootout goal to help secure another 1-0 victory over Spartak on Tuesday. He is up to six goals and six assists through 16 games to this point, with all of his goals coming at even strength. He continues to slot in on the right side of Lokomotiv’s first line, though he’s averaging just under 16 minutes of ice time per game. There are going to be lots of bodies competing for jobs in Toronto’s bottom six when camp opens, but Korshkov could have a head start on some of them when the time comes.

Rodion Amirov – LW/RW – Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Amirov started the season playing in a first line role for Ufa but, as should be expected for a 19 year old in the KHL, has seen his role fluctuate recently. He was moved down to the third line at the end of last week, and then was out of the lineup for two consecutive games before rejoining the third forward unit on Wednesday. It’s important to remember that Amirov is still just a 19 year old kid playing in the second best league in the world, so there are going to be ups and downs over the course of the year and he isn’t likely to play every game the rest of the way. None of that is an indictment on him as a prospect, either. He will continue to get his opportunities with Ufa and he looks primed to star for Russia at the World Juniors when they get underway in December.

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Ian Scott – G – Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Last season was supposed to be Scott’s first full season of professional hockey, as he was slated to spend the year with the Marlies after being named the CHL’s Goaltender of the Year in 2018-2019. A hip injury, and ensuing surgery, wiped out the entire 2019-2020 season for the Leafs 2017 fourth round pick and it has now been almost 18 months since his last game of competitive hockey. He has been cleared to play and participate in formal skates with other Leafs players, so now it’s just a matter of continuing to bide his time and prepare for whenever NHL and AHL training camps get underway. Scott will likely battle with Joseph Woll for playing time behind Aaron Dell with the Marlies, but both Scott and Woll could see time with the Newfoundland Growlers as well, depending on how the ECHL season takes shape in the coming weeks.

Roni Hirvonen – C/LW – Assat (Liiga)

Hirvonen has gotten off to a decent start with Assat this season, splitting time between left wing and center while averaging 16:26 of ice time and winning 53.7% of his faceoffs. Through eight games, he has picked up a goal and two assists to go along with 26 shots on goal. Hirvonen is a undersized playmaking forward with good vision who plays a smart two-way game. He likes to push the puck into the high danger areas of the offensive zone but is still adjusting to playing against more mature players in Liiga. Look for Hirvonen to be an important piece of the Finnish team at the upcoming World Juniors.

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Alexander Barabanov – RW – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)/Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Barabanov has become something of a forgotten man in Toronto, what with all that’s taken place since he signed with the Leafs. Unlike fellow European free agent signing Mikko Lehtonen, Barabanov was not loaned back to his KHL team and has instead taken this time to get settled in Toronto as he prepares for his first NHL training camp. He arrived in Toronto back in September and that extra bit of familiarity with the city, his teammates, and the rest of the organization should help make his transition to North America a little easier. Barabanov is a skilled offensive player who skates very well and plays an energetic game. He has the ability to open up his stance with the mohawk skating style we’ve seen from Jeremy Bracco in the past, and survey a wider range of options with the puck on his stick. Barabanov registered 20 points in 43 games last season for SKA, after 46 points in 58 games in 2018-2019. He’ll be in tough with all the competition for jobs in the Leafs’ forward group, but he could help replace some of the speed that was lost with the departures of Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.

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(Statistics from en.khl.ru, liiga.fi,

and eliteprospects.com)