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Photo Credit: @ChicagoSteel

5 potential third-round targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs

With the 2022 NHL Entry Draft just over a week away, it’s time to start looking at prospects that could be targeted for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Most of the attention has gone to their 25th overall pick, as it is the first time the Leafs have held a first-round pick since 2020 when they drafted Rodion Amirov, but it is important for Toronto to hit on their later picks as well. Currently holding the 79th overall pick and potentially adding more mid-round picks depending on what the week ahead has in store, today we’ll be looking at prospects expected to be available in the Leafs range during the third round.

Excerpts on each prospect have been taken from Nick Richard’s final top 100 rankings for the 2022 draft, be sure to check out the list in full for lots of great information on prospects throughout the draft board.

Nick Moldenhauer, RW, USHL

Consolidated #76

Not dissimilar from Matt Knies’ draft season a year ago, Nick Moldenhauer is an intriguing prospect thanks to his excellent play late in the USHL season.

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To begin the year, Moldenhauer was sidelined with an illness that kept him out through Chicago’s training camp and the first month of the season. Upon finally getting back to health and making his season debut, Moldenhauer was cut on the jawline by an errant skate in his first shift back in action.

As if the illness that saw him lose 15 pounds wasn’t bad enough, Moldenhauer then had to go through the traumatic experience of the skate cut and an ensuing long surgery to repair the damaged artery in his face.

For more on what Moldenhauer’s overcome this year, be sure to check out Scott Wheeler’s article on The Athletic. Through it all, Moldenhauer finally got into consistent game action in November, needing to play catchup not only from his missed time to be an impactful player for his team, but to rebuild his stock in his draft year.

While Moldenhauer was slow out of the gate upon returning, as one would anticipate, he was fantastic in the back half of the year when he started to find his rhythm. He finished the regular season on a five-game multi-point streak and over the course of the year, proved himself to be a top USHL scorer despite all of the adversity he faced.

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Considering everything Moldenhauer went through in the past calendar year, to still produce 43 points in 41 games during his first full season in the USHL is very impressive.

Despite his second-half success, Moldenhauer still finds himself ranked in the third round by most outlets. On the current consolidated list, Moldenhauer ranked 76th with a high of 40th (Scott Wheeler) and a low of 129th (Draft Prospects Hockey). Notably, Moldenhauer wasn’t even ranked on Bob McKenzie’s top 90, though he was an honourable mention.

This points towards a solid chance that the 5-foot-10, 170-pound winger out of Mississauga will still be on the board when the Leafs go on the clock at 79th overall. I think there’s a good chance he has a massive season in the USHL next year and makes a lot of teams regret passing on him.

A speedy, hardworking forward who can pull off skilled moves in stride, Moldenhauer possesses a diverse offensive skill set. He sees the ice well and distributes the puck with pace, has the puck skills to beat defenders one-on-one and play through traffic, and has a good sense of anticipation to arrive in scoring positions at the right time to utilize his quality shot. He can sometimes try to do too much but when he utilizes his teammates and plays a give-and-go game, he can be a real offensive driver.

– Nick Richard

Jordan Dumais, RW, QMJHL

Consolidated #71

Here’s a list of CHL players to score 100 points as a draft-eligible over the past five years:

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  • Marco Rossi – 56 games, 39 goals, 120 points
  • Alexis Lafreniere – 52 games, 35 goals, 112 points
  • Cole Perfetti – 61 games, 37 goals, 111 points
  • Jordan Dumais – 68 games, 39 goals, 109 points
  • Arthur Kaliyev – 67 games, 51 goals, 102 points

Lafreniere obviously went first overall, while Rossi and Perfetti both landed in the top ten. Kaliyev, the outlier of this group prior to this season, was drafted at the sharp end of the second round.

And while Dumais’ company here would suggest he’s a top ten candidate…he wasn’t even invited to the combine and was not ranked on Bob McKenzie’s top 90 list.

So what gives? Well, Dumais is a small winger, listed at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. That’s the first knock, but a manageable one as we see small players ranked highly often (just look at Matt Savoie). The primary issue is that the small players that are ranked highly often come with explosive speed that is projectable to the NHL. That isn’t the case here for Dumais.

What he does possess are skill, hockey IQ, and a high work ethic, three elements that the Maple Leafs have often targetted in the draft under Kyle Dubas.

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Yes, Dumais’ defensive results weren’t great. Yes, his shooting percentage ranked a fair bit higher than where his shot generation did. But he also scored 109 points.

If the Leafs feel they can work with Dumais to improve his skating and he remains on the board at 79th overall, as is currently anticipated, he ticks a lot of the boxes they look for in a prospect and could be a great value swing in the third round.

His greatest assets are his anticipation and ability to identify his options in short order. Dumais is always moving with a purpose, supporting the play or hunting for open space to make himself available. He quickly strings pass receptions into skilled moves and back into a shot or return pass, relentless in his pursuit of creating offense. There is room for improvement in his skating, notably in his explosiveness as his stride lacks power and extension, but that should improve as he adds strength to his lower body. He is a hard worker and that helps to mitigate some of the weaknesses present in his game, such as the skating and physicality. Those weaknesses will be obstacles on his way to the pros but NHL clubs place a premium on skill and hockey sense, and Dumais has an abundance of both.

– Nick Richard

Michael Fisher

Consolidated #84

In the four drafts that Kyle Dubas has been general manager of the Maple Leafs, Toronto has selected three prospects out of the American high school ranks: Mikey Koster, Joe Miller, and John Fusco.

While all three were taken in the final three rounds of their respective drafts, it does show the Leafs are both actively scouting this level of competition and are willing to use draft picks on these players.

Michael Fisher, a 6-foot-2 right-shot defenceman out of Massachusetts, won’t be available as late as Koster, Miller, or Fusco were, and that’s more than okay. His dominance at the USHS-Prep level this year presents an exciting package for teams willing to take the swing later in the top 100.

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Comparing him to other USHS defencemen drafted in recent years, Fisher outproduced all of Jackson LaCombe, Ian Moore, and Scott Morrow on a per-game basis. With 50 points in 28 games, Fisher was clearly far too good for this level, which is part of the reason why he ranks as a third-round prospect despite an exciting blend of skating and offence.

Unlike LaCombe and Morrow, Fisher does not have any experience at the USHL level. Moore, who didn’t have USHL experience as well and has similar characteristics as a 6-foot-3 right-shot defenceman who can skate, was drafted 67th by Anaheim in 2020.

Fisher would be a risk, as is any player out of USHS-Prep, but the upside is huge.

Fisher is an elusive skater and a skilled puck handler who drives offense from the back end. He never hesitates to activate offensively and he has a dangerous shot working in from the point. There is two-way upside there and he doesn’t shy away from playing with physicality either.

– Nick Richard

Christian Kyrou

Consolidated #61

Sticking with right-shot defencemen, Christian Kyrou came out of nowhere this year in the OHL to vault himself from barely even a thought for the draft, to a top 100 ranked prospect.

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One of the oldest first time eligible prospects in the class, born one day away from being eligible for last year’s draft, Kyrou went from a pointless blueliner that split time in the GOJHL as an OHL rookie in 2019-20 to a near point per game player upon return to action this year.

A goal-scoring defenceman with a cannon of a shot, Kyrou had elite offensive production this season with Erie, particularly at even strength. This came on a weak Erie team as well, where Kyrou finished three points shy of the team lead in scoring with his 60 points in 68 games.

The defensive side of his game needs work and Kyrou isn’t an amazing skater, not a great combination for the 5-foot-10 defenceman, but the offensive upside is there. He’s a legit shot threat, and as Erie improves their team, expect his assist rate and powerplay production to improve with it.

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Kyrou ranks on the higher end of the Leafs range at 61st on the consolidated list but is down at 78th on Bob McKenzie’s rankings. He’s a prospect that could very well be higher rated among public rankings than among NHL teams and could slip to the Leafs at 79.

Kyrou has legitimate offensive skill on the back end but is small and doesn’t have high-end skating ability. He will have to continue to round out his game away from the puck but he has potential as a bottom pairing defender with powerplay utility at the pro level.

– Nick Richard

Hunter Haight

Consolidated #63

An underrated aspect of the draft this year is the impact that a lost season has had on prospects, particularly those out of the OHL.

One of those prospects is Hunter Haight, a top ten pick in the OHL draft who didn’t quite have the offensive output that some expected for the talented centre. With 41 points in 63 games his stat line was still solid, but reflected more of a DY-1 season than what was expected out of his draft year.

A gamble on Haight would be one that looks at his promising tools, such as his skill and creativity, and factors in the impact a lost season had on his development.

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A promising sign is that of Haight’s 30 points at even strength, 27 of them were primary. While he wasn’t producing as much as anticipated, he was heavily involved when he was picking up points, a reflection of his offensive tools.

Haight has been described as a breakout candidate next year, and it makes sense. His skill and offensive creativity suggest more production will come, he has one year of OHL experience to build upon, and Barrie is graduating a handful of forwards that should see his ice-time significantly increase.

Haight is ranked on the highest end of the players profiled today, ranking 63rd on the consolidated list and 68th on Bob McKenzie’s rankings. There’s a decent chance he’s off the board come 79th overall, but if he slips or the Leafs add a higher third-round pick by trading down or moving a roster player, Haight would be a solid swing.

Haight is a versatile offensive threat who can make plays for his teammates, create his own opportunities, and finish them in a variety of ways. He shows intelligence and a good work rate off the puck but he is undersized and will need to put all of his offensive tools together to reach his potential as a middle-six NHL forward.

– Nick Richard

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