2

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Robertson on WJC roster, high-danger Hallander, overpowering Ovchinnikov

We might not know exactly when we’ll see the Maple Leafs playing hockey again, but the organization is sure to be well represented at the upcoming World Junior Championships. Despite having no players suiting up for the Canadian squad, the Leafs could have anywhere from six to eight players representing their respective countries in the tournament.

Most of those players have found their way onto TheLeafsNation’s top 20 prospects ranking, which is set to begin winding down with the top five prospects in the organization next week so make sure to keep following along as we complete our countdown. Until then, let’s check out some of the latest news and highlights from the Leafs prospect pool.

Nick Robertson – LW – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Robertson has his sights set on a spot in the Leafs’ opening night lineup, but with more questions than answers regarding the 2020-2021 NHL season right now, he will shift his focus towards representing his country at the upcoming World Junior Championships after being named to USA’s preliminary roster. Whether he remains with the team through camp and into the tournament will depend largely on when NHL training camps finally get going, as the Leafs want to have Robertson in camp and competing for a roster spot in the NHL.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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

So, I might have jumped the gun in last week’s Prospect Roundup in speculating that Amirov had played his final game before joining the Russian U20 team in preparation for the World Juniors. It turns out he had another game in him, and another goal as well, as he scored for the second consecutive game while receiving 15:09 of ice time – the most he’s played since all the way back on October 26th. That could be a sign of things to come for Amirov once he returns from the WJC, especially after Ufa traded away former Leaf Nikita Soshnikov earlier this week. The World Juniors will be a great opportunity for Amirov to put his skills on display for the hockey world to see, but more consistent minutes once he returns to the KHL will be instrumental in continuing his development.

Filip Hallander – LW – Lulea (SHL)

Hallander’s offensive production hasn’t taken the jump this season that he or Leafs fans had hoped for, but he has picked it up a bit recently while still playing a key role for one the SHL’s better teams. He picked up two points yesterday to bring his season totals to two goals and seven assists in 17 games, and while the pucks haven’t been going in, Hallander has been getting his chances with his 35 shots on goal ranking second among forwards on his team. More importantly, he has been generating the majority of his shot attempts from the high danger areas in front of the net:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
© InStat

If Hallander continues to cause havoc around the opposition’s crease, he’s bound to start putting more of those attempts in the back of the net. He went into yesterday’s game shooting just 2.9%, before being rewarded with a hard earned empty net goal, and that number simply isn’t sustainable for a player generating a high volume of opportunities from around the net. In the meantime, Hallander will continue to drive play for Lulea while helping to create opportunities for his teammates.

Mac Hollowell – RHD – TUTO (Mestis)

Hollowell has been a star for TUTO since being loaned to the team by the Maple Leafs. He has picked up two goals and four assists through his first six games in Mestis and has controlled the play almost every time he’s been on the ice. If Hollowell is on the ice, the puck isn’t in TUTO’s zone very often. His speed and elusiveness, as well as his understanding of how to break down oncoming forechecks, has proven to be too much for most opponents to handle in Mestis. Hollowell has been a force in transition, and in the offensive zone where he is constantly activating and looking for offense while maintaining the ability to get back and cover defensively when the possession breaks down. Frankly, he is probably too good for this league and it will be interesting to see where he lands on the depth chart when the Leafs finally get their training camp underway.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Dmitri Ovchinnikov – C/RW – Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk (MHL)

Speaking of players that are probably too good for their current league, Dmitri Ovchinnikov just keeps dominating at the MHL level. After a brief recall to the KHL where he spent almost two entire games sitting on the bench, he was sent back down to the MHL where he’s continued to show that he probably deserves a larger opportunity than Sibir has given him at the KHL level to this point. He returned with a bang, recording a five point game against Reaktor and has since increased his output to 11 goals and 21 assists in just 20 games. Click on Dylan’s tweet below to see the rest of the highlights from Ovchinnikov’s five point game:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Unfortunately, Ovchinnikov is sort of caught in no man’s land at the moment where he’s too good for the MHL but hasn’t yet earned the trust of his coaches at the KHL level. This is complicated further by the fact that Sibir is one of the KHL teams that does not have a VHL affiliate so barring some kind of loan agreement with another organization, Ovchinnikov will have to continue biding his time and improving his overall game in the MHL. Kyle Dubas has traditionally shown a proclivity for trading down and gathering additional assets in the draft, but we’re seeing why he was aggressive in moving up to select Ovchinnikov in the 2020 draft.

Axel Rindell – RHD – Jukurit (Liiga)

Rindell has been on fire for Jukurit and is currently riding a five game point streak, with two goals and five assists in that time. He’s been the quarterback of their power play and has formed Jukurit’s top defensive pairing with fellow Leafs prospect Mikko Kokkonen, averaging 20:07 of ice time per game. The team as a whole has struggled to drive play for the season but Rindell’s 48.6 CF% is second behind Kokkonen among Jukurit blue liners. Rindell still has his share of defensive lapses but he is a legitimate offensive weapon from the blue line with his heavy shot and ability to create lanes by beating defenders one on one inside the line.

Veeti Miettinen – LW/RW – St. Cloud State (NCAA)

Miettinen was a force at Finland’s U20 level last season, piling up 42 goals and 31 assists in just 52 games for Kiekko-Espoo. His 73 points were 12 more than the league’s second leading scorer and he likely would have seen game action in Liiga, but for the fact it would have made him ineligible to play in the NCAA where he was committed to St. Cloud State. Miettinen made his NCAA debut this week, starting the game on the third line but he was dangerous throughout.

Miettinen is a well rounded offensive threat who is equally dangerous shooting the puck, beating defenders one on one, and setting up teammates with his great vision. There’s a chance that he could join fellow Leafs prospects Roni Hirvonen, Mikko Kokkonen, and Topi Niemela on team Finland at the upcoming World Juniors.

Update: it was announced on Friday morning that Veeti Miettinen has not been included on Finland’s preliminary WJC roster.

Semyon Kizimov – RW – Lada Togliatti (VHL)

The Leafs’ seventh round pick from the 2018 draft, Kizimov has become something of a forgotten man in Toronto’s prospect system. Still just 20 years old, the 6’0″ and 185 pound winger has taken a positive step in his progression early this season. He began the season with Torpedo in the KHL but played just four games before being sent back down their VHL affiliate, where he has already registered six goals and five assists in just 12 games. He spent the entirety of last season with Lada Togliatti as well, but tallied just 12 points over 45 games, and it looks as though he will easily surpass those totals in far fewer games.

Kizimov is a shifty winger who moves well laterally and has good puck handling ability, while being a threat as both a shooter and a passer. As with any seventh round pick, he is a long shot to make an impact in the NHL but his drastic uptick in production early this season has been an encouraging development. The Leafs don’t have to make a decision on Kizimov any time soon either as they hold his rights indefinitely.

 

(Statistics from InStat, eliteprospects.com,

SHL.se, & Liiga.fi)