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Prospect Roundup: Return of Rodion, Finland’s finest, Abramov unleashed

Though the NHL owners and NHLPA are still working towards establishing parameters for the 2020-2021 season, some NHL hopefuls have already started making plans for the upcoming season. Mikko Lehtonen – signed as an undrafted free agent last May – has been playing with Jokerit of the KHL this season but his loan agreement was recently terminated and he has made his way back to Toronto to quarantine before joining some of his new teammates on the ice.

One of those prospective teammates, 19-year-old Nicholas Robertson, has remained in Toronto since the Leafs were eliminated by Columbus in August with the hope that more time around the Leafs players and development staff will serve him well in his fight for a job in training camp. There will be plenty of competition for spots in Toronto’s forward group, but with the uncertainty surrounding the OHL season, the Leafs will give Robertson every opportunity to win a job just as they did back in July.

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After taking a week off, there is plenty more to discuss in this week’s Prospect Roundup so let’s get to it.

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

Following a dominant showing at the Karjala Cup where he was named the top forward in the tournament, Amirov returned to Ufa but was out of the lineup for the next handful of games. There was no official word from his team, but there were rumors that he was dealing with a minor injury suffered while representing Russia at the Karjala Cup. Amirov has been back in the lineup for the last three games and his ice time has begun to climb again, and he played at least 13 minutes in each of his last two appearances. He also scored a beautiful goal – his fourth of the season – in what might have been his final game before heading to Russia’s World Junior training camp.

Topi Niemela – RHD – Karpat (Liiga)

Niemela spent much of the early part of this season in the press box for Karpat but he has become more of a regular contributor in recent weeks. He has now played eight games and is averaging 14:36 per game, with his season high of 20:31 coming in a 3-2 victory over Vaasan. For the season, Niemela has three assists and the top possession mark among Karpat regulars with a 63.2 CF%. He has proven to be a steady defender at the men’s level, and consistently makes smart decisions with the puck on his stick. He is another one of several Leafs prospects that is expected to be a key figure for his country at the upcoming WJC, and that’s the only reason he should be coming out of Karpat’s lineup again.

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Mikhail Abramov – C – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

Abramov went more than a month without playing a game but once Victoriaville entered the QMJHL’s temporary bubble system last week, it appeared as though he didn’t miss a beat. While his team struggled and picked up just one victory (a game in which Abramov scored the OT winner) through five games, he was once again the driving force for the Tigres. He added two goals and four assists to bring his season totals to four goals and 10 assists in nine games. Upon exiting the bubble, Abramov boarded a plane to join Rodion Amirov and the rest of the players competing for a spot on the Russian World Junior team. He hasn’t had a ton of talent around him in Victoriaville, and Abramov is a player who will benefit more so than most from playing with smarter and more refined players, so don’t be surprised if he is a big part of whatever success the Russian’s have at the upcoming WJC.

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Roni Hirvonen – C/LW – Assat (Liiga)

Hirvonen is the latest darling of Leafs twitter after he put himself on the highlight reels a couple of times in recent weeks. The Leafs’ 2020 second round pick has turned it on offensively and is beginning to show off the high end skill set that had scouts salivating in his draft year. Hirvonen has now scored in back to back games and has scored four goals in his last seven games while seeing time at both center and on the wing. He is averaging over 15 minutes of ice time per game, winning 52.9% of his faceoffs and is now up to five goals and three assists in 18 Liiga games. Hirvonen is getting hot at the right time as he, too, will soon be heading to Finland’s U20 camp and it is expected he will play a middle six role at the World Juniors.

Hirvonen made his debut on TheLeafsNation’s Prospect Rankings this week coming in at number 12, but Nick DeSouza is here to tell you why he’s likely to land much higher on the list next time around.

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Egor Korshkov – RW – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)

The Leafs’ second round pick in 2016 has really found his footing with Lokomotiv in the KHL this season, currently leading the team with 10 goals and nine assists in 28 games. He has been a key part of their lineup all season and it looks as though he will finish the season in Russia rather than returning for Leafs camp where he will be in tough to make the team, according to a report from TLN’s very own Nick Barden. There has been no indication as to what Korshkov’s plans are following this season but his performance in the KHL has surely turned some heads in Toronto’s front office.

Mikko Kokkonen – LHD – Jukurit (Liiga)

Kokkonen has been shouldering the defensive load for a very poor Jukurit team this season but has finally found his way onto the scoresheet, picking up three assists as his team has pulled out three victories in their last five games. His calling card is always going to be the defensive part of his game, but Kokkonen has the smarts to make plays in the offensive end as well. He currently leads his team with an average of 21:19 of ice time per game and a 49.1 CF%. He is set to join Niemela and Hirvonen on the Finnish World Junior squad and he will likely take on the role of top pairing, shutdown defenceman for them as well.

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev – C – Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL)

As I mentioned earlier with Abramov, SDA is another player whose skill set is best put to use when he’s playing with more refined players who see the ice and think the game at his level. That has been evident in the early going of his stint with Torpedo of the KHL where he has shown the ability to generate offence against more mature competition, and he has already picked up a goal to go along with four assists in his first nine games. There has been no confirmation but, like Korshkov, I expect Der-Arguchintsev to play out the rest of the season in Russia and assess his options next year.

Mike Koster – LHD – University of Minnesota (NCAA)

The Leafs selected Koster in the fifth round of the 2019 draft after he spent most of his draft year playing high school hockey in Minnesota. He spent the 2019-2020 season with Tri-City of the USHL where he tallied three goals and 15 assists in 37 games, and has since joined the University of Minnesota for the 2020-2021 campaign. He has played just four games so far this season, and has one assist which was originally credited as a goal.

Koster is a smooth skating, undersized defenceman who moves the puck well but struggles in puck battles and defending stronger players. He is a long term project and he will likely spend the next three to four years honing his craft in the NCAA.

Vladislav Kara – RW/LW – Molot-Prikamie Perm (VHL)

Kara was chosen in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and has since bounced between the MHL, VHL, and KHL. He put up 21 points in 25 VHL games last season, and eight points in 27 games at the KHL level. He once again began this season playing in the KHL but struggled to produce with just one goal and two assists through 17 games, and was demoted to the VHL last week. Kara is now 22 years old and just barely visible on the Leafs’ prospect radar.

Nicholas Abruzzese – C/LW – Harvard (NCAA)

In the last Prospect Roundup, I discussed the cancelation of Harvard’s season and how the Leafs might be motivated to find a place for Abruzzese to play this season. Well, it seems that was a moot point as it was revealed earlier this week that Abruzzese is currently recovering from hip surgery and would have been on the shelf until March anyway. There’s never a good time for a player – especially a young one – to need hip surgery but if there was, this built in extended lay off is the perfect time for Abruzzese to be able to focus on his recovery and rehab. He’ll be a key part of the Harvard hockey program whenever they do get back on the ice, as he continues to work towards earning his entry level contract.

Ryan Tverberg – C – University of Connecticut (NCAA)

The Leafs traded back into the seventh round of the 2020 draft to select local product, Ryan Tverberg. He put up 51 points in 47 OJHL games last season and had previously committed to Harvard, where he would have joined Abruzzese. Not long after it was announced that Harvard would not be playing hockey this season, Tverberg announced that he would instead be committing to the University of Connecticut. I’m not sure that the Ivy League canceling winter sports was the motivating factor for Tverberg changing schools, considering that he isn’t set to start playing college hockey until 2021-2022 but Tverberg won’t be donning the Crimson colors regardless.

 

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to continue following TheLeafsNation’s Prospect Ranking series as we begin counting down the top ten prospects in the Leafs organization next week!

 

(Statistics from eliteprospects.com & Liiga.fi)