Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp roster

We’re finally here.

After a shorter than usual offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally announced their development camp roster earlier today. It was a fascinating group, one featuring numerous invites but also some intriguing names within the system that we didn’t anticipate to be attending.

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Let’s begin with the Leafs affiliated prospects that won’t be attending development camp this year.

Player Team (League)
Nick Abruzzese Harvard (ECAC)
Artur Akhtyamov Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)
Rodion Amirov Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
John Fusco Harvard (ECAC)
Pontus Holmberg Växjö (SHL)
Matthew Knies Minnesota (Big 10)
Mikko Kokkonen Pelicans (Liiga)
Mikey Koster Minnesota (Big 10)
Kalle Loponen KooKoo (Liiga)
Veeti Miettinen St. Cloud State (NCHC)
Topi Niemelä Kärpät (Liiga)
Ryan O’Connell Ohio State (Big 10)
Dmitry Ovchinnikov Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)
Vyacheslav Peksa Irbis Kazan (MHL)
Axel Rindell Jukurit (Liiga)
Wyatt Schingoethe Western Michigan (NCHC)
Ryan Tverberg Connecticut (H-East)

None of these players were expected to attend development camp. European leagues have or are about to start, ruling them out, and the NCAA doesn’t allow players to attend NHL activities this late into the offseason given the school year has already started.

The much more interesting group is the players that were able to attend development camp but were not named to the Leafs roster. That includes the likes of Mac Hollowell, Joseph Woll, and recent Marlies signings Matt Hellickson, Ben Finkelstein, and Brennan Kapcheck.

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But enough on the players that we won’t see over the next week, let’s dive into the prospects attending the 2021 Maple Leafs development camp. Here are the players attending that the Leafs either own the rights to or have signed to an AHL contract.

Player 2021/22 Team (League)
Mikhail Abramov Marlies (AHL)
Ryan Chyzowski Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev Marlies (AHL)
Curtis Douglas Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Joseph Duszak Marlies (AHL)
Pavel Gogolev Marlies (AHL)
Noel Hoefenmayer Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Erik Källgren Marlies (AHL)
Filip Kral Marlies (AHL)
Riley McCourt Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Jeremy McKenna Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Joe Miller Chicago (USHL)
Keith Petruzzelli Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Matteo Pietroniro Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Nick Robertson Maple Leafs (NHL) / Marlies (AHL)
Ian Scott Marlies (AHL) / Growlers (ECHL)
Alex Steeves Marlies (AHL)
William Villeneuve Saint John (QMJHL)
Ty Voit Sarnia (OHL)

The most eye-catching name out of this bunch is easily Nick Robertson. Though Robertson is in the same age group as most of these prospects, the expectation for Robertson to contend for a roster spot with the Leafs made him a candidate to pass on development camp. Instead, returning from an injury-riddled season, Robertson will get early ice-time here in development camp and likely the rookie tournament to follow.

Another player I didn’t expect to see attending is Joseph Duszak. Duszak is the only player attending development camp with two seasons of experience with the Marlies under his belt. Clearly, the Leafs see untapped potential remaining in Duszak as they re-signed him this offseason and are having him attend development camp again. Of the invites, this is the one that surprised me the most, especially given his younger counterpart on the Marlies in Mac Hollowell is not attending.

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Coming off of an SHL championship, under-the-radar signing Erik Kallgren is somewhat surprisingly making his first appearance in the Leafs organization at development camp. Källgren is actually older than Joseph Woll, making this an unexpected invite, but Källgren’s lack of ice-time with the development staff is likely the reason for his attendance.

Now to the fun ones: the invites. With Toronto’s lack of draft picks in the 2021 entry draft, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Leafs look to sign one of these invites to an entry-level contract to supplement their draft class. A bulk of these players we already knew heading into this week, but there are still some interesting new names to take a look at.

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Player Draft Year 2021/22 Team (League) Position
Brett Budgell 2019 Charlottetown (QMJHL) LW
Landon Cato 2021 Niagara (OHL) RHD
Ryan Del Monte 2021 Barrie (OHL) C
Christian Fitzgerald 2020 Tri-City (USHL) C
Jordan Frasca 2019 Kingston (OHL) C
Taylor Gauthier 2019 Prince George (WHL) G
Jacob Guévin 2021 Muskegon (USHL) RHD
Lukas Gustafsson 2021 Chicago (USHL) LHD
James Hardie 2020 Mississauga (OHL) LW
Braden Holt 2021 Everett (WHL) G
Braeden Kressler 2021 Flint (OHL) C
Francesco Lapenna 2020 Drummondville (QMJHL) G
Lleyton Moore 2020 Oshawa (OHL) LHD
Cedric Paré 2017 Greenville (ECHL) C
Ethan Peters 2021 Edmonton (WHL) RHD
Théo Rochette 2020 Québec (QMJHL) C
Colby Saganiuk 2021 Erie (OHL) C
Sam Sedley 2021 Owen Sound (OHL) RHD
Vincent Sévigny 2019 Victoriaville (QMJHL) LHD
Lawson Sherk 2021 Hamilton (OHL) C

The group of invites this year can be split in two. The OHLers that didn’t get a season, and the rest.

Of the former, the obvious standout is James Hardie, a player who many had thought was deserving of being drafted the past two drafts and practised with the Marlies earlier in the year on an ATO. With 34 goals in his draft year, Hardie is a solid candidate to get a longer look into the rookie tournament and potentially earn an entry-level contract.

Other players to keep an eye on as potential entry-level contract candidates include Taylor Gauthier and Théo Rochette. Gauthier stated in an interview leading up to development camp of his interest in playing professionally as early as this season. A goaltender with Hockey Canada pedigree that has been passed over in the entry draft, Gauthier has a strong resume. There is a bit of a logjam of goaltenders in the Leafs system, but he would be a solid get.

Rochette was undrafted once again this summer despite a strong QMJHL season in which he scored 30 points in 32 games. A good playmaker with high skill, Rochette could be worth a flier as an undrafted free agent.

A few other invites that caught my eye:

  • Brett Budgell – 58 points in 40 games last year in the QMJHL. St. John’s native, eligible for the AHL/ECHL and could be a candidate for the Growlers
  • Christian Fitzgerald – Dominated the BCHL in a small sample as an overager last year, headed to Tri-City (USHL)
  • Jacob Guévin – Top draft-eligible offensive USHL defenceman last year, surprisingly went undrafted. If not for his intentions to play collegiate, I’d have him as a top target to sign
  • Lukas Gustafsson – Played for Ryan Hardy’s Chicago Steel at the end of the season last year. Clearly likes the player to bring him back into the fold at development camp
  • Braeden Kressler – 2021 draft-eligible who had a solid Draft-1 season with Flint (18 PTS, 46 GP in 19/20). Strong defensive results too
  • Cedric Paré – The oldest invite as a 1999 birthdate drafted in 2017, Paré had a solid first year as a professional with Utah (ECHL). A big centre at 6’4, the Marlies could poach him from Greenville (ECHL) if he has a strong showing
  • Colby Saganiuk – Listed at 5’8, 154 lbs which might be generous. Former USNTDP prospect who is moving to the OHL, his grandfather Rocky played 230 games with the Leafs

Maple Leafs development camp begins Thursday and will run through next Tuesday, before heading to Traverse City for the rookie tournament hosted by the Red Wings beginning September 16.