Over the last few weeks, we here at The Leafs Nation have been counting down the top-20 prospects in the Leafs’ organization as voted on by our team of writers, as well as a couple of outside contributors familiar with Toronto’s system. Our countdown reached it’s conclusion on Friday with Rasmus Sandin taking over the #1 spot after Nicholas Robertson had held that honour a year ago.
A handful of players made their debuts in our prospect rankings this year, including 2021 second-round pick Matthew Knies coming in at #7 and undrafted free agent signing Pavel Gogolev landing the #15 spot. The Leafs’ didn’t graduate anyone from the 2020 list but last year’s #5 prospect Filip Hallander was dealt back to Pittsburgh earlier in the offseason, vacating a spot in the top-five.
Our biggest risers from a year ago include a pair of players who were honourable mentions for the 2020 list in St. Cloud State winger Veeti Miettinen and Sibir Novosibirsk forward Dmitri Ovchinnikov. Miettinen racked up plenty of accolades during a tremendous freshman season in the NCAA and Ovchinnikov torched Russia’s junior league, earning a look in the KHL as an 18-year-old. After impressive draft+1 seasons, Topi Niemelä and Roni Hirvonen both saw their stock rise, climbing to #5 and #6 respectively. Both players held their own in Liiga against men and starred for Finland at last year’s World Junior Championships.
With the addition of a few new prospects to the organization and no one graduating from last year’s list, a handful of players fell out of the top-20 this time around. Defenseman Filip Kral and goaltender Artur Akhtyamov just missed the cut despite strong seasons, netminder Ian Scott slipped off the ranking after seeing next to no game action in the last couple of years, and Saint John Sea Dogs blue liner William Villeneuve was squeezed out of the #20 spot. The player that saw the most dramatic fall inside the top-20 was goaltender Joseph Woll who was unable to take a step forward in what was a disjointed AHL season. The Marlies struggled as a whole in 2020-21 and Woll’s numbers suffered as a result.
The Leafs’ prospect pipeline might be lacking in star talent but there are a number of players in the system with legitimate NHL potential, including a few that are close to contributing to the NHL squad. Rasmus Sandin appears to be a lock for the opening night roster, Nick Robertson, Timothy Liljegren, and Joey Anderson are all knocking on the door for NHL playing time, and guys like Mikko Kokkonen and Nick Abruzzese might not be too far behind them. There is a good mix of projectable NHL talent like Knies and Hirvonen, high-upside bets such as Miettinen and Ovchinnikov, and long-term projects like Gogolev and Rubins throughout the organization. Now it is on the Leafs’ player development staff to get the best out of this group of players.
Check out the full list and be sure to click on each player to read their individual report:
|Player||2021 Ranking||2020 Ranking|
What did we get right? What did we get wrong? Leave a comment below and let us know.