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Leafs Prospect Roundup: Sandin’s situation, Hallander on a heater, SDA returns from injury

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Much has been made of Rasmus Sandin’s place on the depth chart and the fact that one of the Leafs’ top prospects hasn’t played a game in 11 months. In a somewhat curious decision, Sandin wasn’t among the handful of Leafs prospects that were loaned overseas as the organization sought to find ice time for their youngest players when the NHL season was still up in the air. That was probably due to the fact that the Leafs viewed him as a more likely candidate to factor into their opening night roster plans but as it stands, he is currently behind Mikko Lehtonen in the rotation as the team’s eighth defenceman. With the Marlies’ season still in question, there remains no clear path to playing time for Toronto’s first round pick from the 2018 draft.

Lehtonen has only received limited opportunities to this point himself, and has struggled to adjust to the pace of the NHL game. It appeared for a short while on Thursday evening as though Lehtonen might be in line for a more consistent opportunity when Travis Dermott was forced to leave the game early in the first period and was unable to return. Fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately for Lehtonen and Sandin – Dermott looks like he may have escaped serious injury and he could be back in the lineup for Saturday’s rematch with the Canucks.

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Sheldon Keefe has shown a willingness to rotate Lehtonen in for Dermott on the third pair and give him a chance to show he is capable of handling more playing time, despite Dermott’s strong play early in the season. One has to wonder how many more looks he is going to get before Sandin is the one that’s given a chance to rotate in on the third pair. Both he and the Leafs organization are surely getting anxious for him to get back into an NHL game.

 

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

Another Prospect Roundup, another Rodion Amirov highlight. After a long stretch without finding the back of the net, the 2020 first rounder scored his second goal in three games on Thursday and is now up to seven goals and four assists on the season. Amirov has been doing a better job of getting to dangerous scoring areas and he is getting rewarded for it. It has been an up and down year for Amirov as far as playing time goes and though there were rumors of a contract extension with Ufa earlier this season, there has yet to be any official announcement and the noise surrounding his desire to play in North America is beginning to get louder.

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Filip Hallander – LW – Lulea (SHL)

Hallander has played a prominent role for Lulea all season and the offensive production has finally started to show up. He now has nine goals and nine assists in 38 games on the season, with four of those goals coming in his last six games. Hallander’s hot streak isn’t totally surprising, as he has been generating a high percentage of his shot opportunities from in tight and wreaking havoc in front of the opposition’s net on a consistent basis.

Filip Hallander Shot Attempts (2020-2021) – © InStat Hockey

Hallander is an effective net front presence with good size and a knack for corralling rebounds to get them on net from in tight but he has also been showing off his quality release and ability to beat goaltenders cleanly as of late. His goal production might not stay at quite this pace for the rest of the season but with the way he gets to the dirty areas, it should be somewhat sustainable. He has been chosen to represent Sweden at the upcoming Euro Hockey Tour tournament and a good showing there coupled with a strong finish to the SHL season would set Hallander up well to push for a job with the Leafs next season.

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Yegor Korshkov – RW – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)

It was perhaps a bit disappointing for the Leafs faithful when it was revealed that Korshkov would remain on loan in the KHL rather than return to Toronto for NHL training camp, but his performance for Lokomotiv this season has been anything but. His 16 goals on the season are twice as many as his previous KHL career high, and his 31 points in 53 games have him tied for the team lead in scoring. There is still some uncertainty surrounding Korshkov’s future in North America but his performance this season won’t hurt his stock among the Leafs brass.

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

SDA was out of action for over two months recovering from a leg injury he sustained at the end of November but finally returned to Torpedo’s lineup this week, netting a goal in his first game back. He now has 11 games under his belt in the KHL this year, racking up two goals and four assists in the process. Prior to his injury, he had been playing 15-18 minutes a night and he will look to slot back into that role as he gets his legs back after an extended layoff. Der-Arguchintsev is expected to return to North America whenever Torpedo’s season comes to an end.

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Roni Hirvonen – C/W – Assat (Liiga)

Hirvonen picked up a pair of goals at the World Juniors but was mired in a bit of a slump in Liiga, going seven games without a goal before scoring his sixth of the season last Friday. He has added six assists on the year, giving him 12 points in 27 games playing mostly second line minutes at Finland’s top level. At the WJC, Hirvonen made his mark with his tenacity and relentless forechecking ability, and while that wasn’t just a flash in the pan, it seems as though he struggles to play that style of game as effectively on the bigger ice surface – never mind against more mature competition. That said, Hirvonen has had a solid year for Assat and having just turned 19 years old in January, he is primed to take on a larger role for both his club team and the Finnish junior squad next season.

Artur Akhtyamov – G – Bars Kazan (VHL)

After a dominant stretch of games in the MHL, Akhtyamov was once again recalled to the VHL and got into three games for Bars Kazan this week. He went 1-1-1 and stopped 90 of the 97 shots he faced for a .928 save percentage. For the season Akhtyamov is 4-4-4 with a 2.00 GAA and .925 save percentage at the VHL level, and 5-2-0 with a 1.42 GAA and .947 save percentage in the MHL. His strong performances as of late should earn him more playing time in the stretch drive of the season.

Filip Kral – LHD – HC Kometa Brno (Czech)

Kral has quietly had a very impressive season after being loaned to the Czech professional league. He has been playing big minutes and producing strong offensive numbers along the way with five goals and twelve assists through 36 games. His play has turned heads within the Leafs organization and Kral has been rewarded by being named to the Czech roster for next week’s Beijer Hockey Games. Hopefully the AHL is able to return to some form of normalcy next year because Kral has shown he is ready to take on the challenge of North American professional hockey.

 

(Statistics from EliteProspects.com & VHLRU.RU)