Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
2023-24 Toronto Maple Leafs goalie prospect breakdown: Where everyone stands
By Steven Ellis1 month ago
Goaltending will never not be a hot topic in Toronto, right?
Just this year alone, Martin Jones (13GP), Joseph Woll (15GP) and Ilya Samsonov (15GP) have shared the net almost equally, and all feature winning records. But, of course, we’ve seen Samsonov’s ugly play result in way too many lost points, and Woll’s been hurt for a while now. The fact they’re relying on Jones playing his best hockey in nearly a decade to save their season is… concerning, to say the least.
But they’ve got some solid depth, including Dennis Hildeby, one of the team’s top overall prospects. The Swedish mammoth has thrived in his first season with the Toronto Marlies, giving the team some hope for the future.
That said, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be Toronto’s No. 1 come playoff time. In a perfect world, Samsonov would have built upon his solid first year with the franchise last year, but he’s pretty much a write-off at this point. Can Woll stay healthy? History seems to suggest no. And can you really trust Jones? Do they look elsewhere ahead of the deadline? The goalie market isn’t exactly ripe with No. 1 quality right now.
None of the goalies below are going to change that this season. But could the team have the long-term answer waiting in the wings? Here’s a look at Toronto’s four contracted goaltenders currently playing outside the NHL:
Dennis Hildeby, 22 (Toronto Marlies, AHL)
Dennis Hildeby (Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
We got so close to see what the Hildabeast could do in the NHL with his recent call-up to the big club, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, Hildeby watched Martin Jones do his work while thinking, “Dang, I was better than him back at Coca-Cola Coliseum.”
Hildeby has been an integral piece of the Marlies’ run this year, entering the weekend with a 7-5-3 record with two shutouts and a .919 save percentage. The call-up to the Leafs kept him out of action for the past two weeks, but he was getting consecutive starts, which isn’t always easy in a crowded crease like the Marlies have. Even though his record is nothing to get excited about, he continues to find ways to steal victories and make the Marlies competitive, even in defeat. In fact, in all of his losses, he has kept the team to just a one-goal differential, which is bonkers.
It’s still early days for the 6-foot-7 keeper out of Sweden. This year was all about looking to get more experience, and potentially challenge for an NHL spot in two years. They won’t want to rush him, especially with Woll trying to capture the top spot. But with how Hildeby has played this year, I know Leafs brass is happy with what they’re seeing. Is he the long-term No. 1? I’m leaning no, but I think he’s got the potential to be an excellent backup if he continues to figure out how to handle the different angles on the smaller ice. So far, so good.
Keith Petruzzelli, 24 (Toronto Marlies, AHL)
Keith Petruzzelli (Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Petruzzelli has a well-defined role, and it’s simple: give the Marlies goaltending. The 24-year-old has struggled this year, though, posting a 4-5-1 record with an .875 save percentage. Simply put, he was just better last year, no question about it.
The 6-foot-6 goaltender signed an NHL deal last year when the Leafs ran out of options due to injuries. Beyond that, he’s mostly a replacement-level option that can steal a few games every now and then, but likely won’t ever push up to the NHL. Still, having him around when Jones was called up was critical in helping the Marlies have a guy they could rely on to give them a fair shake each night.
Petruzzelli will be an RFA with arbitration rights at the end of the year. If anything, I see the Leafs signing him to a league-minimum deal for one more year to work with Hildeby, and they can either keep him around long-term as a veteran or move on. Bank on the latter happening.
Vyacheslav Peksa, 21 (Newfoundland Growlers, ECHL)
Vyacheslav Peksa (Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
It’s been an exceptionally difficult season for Peksa, his first in North America. The 6-foot-3 keeper has a 2-4-0 record with a save percentage of .865, getting drastically outplayed by occasional Marlies keeper Luke Cavallin. In six games played, he has allowed five or more goals four times, including eight in a massive loss to South Carolina,
Peksa’s lack of playing time and his ugly record is disappointing to see. At 21, the idea was to bring Peksa out of the Kazan system and give him opportunities to work closer with Toronto’s coaching staff. Despite a losing record with Kazan’s VHL team last year, his actual numbers were impressive, so hopes were high.
The good news? He’s still young at 21 and has all the tools to succeed – a 6-foot-3 frame, speed and vision. But he can’t keep collapsing at the tip of a hat here.
Artur Akhtyamov, 22 (Neftyanik Almetievsk, VHL)
Artur Akhtyamov (Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
A fourth-round pick by Toronto in 2020, Akhtyamov has earned significant KHL experience with a 6-7-0 record with Ak Bars Kazan. Perhaps most impressive is his .921 save percentage, which is good for fourth among the six U-23 goaltenders in the KHL. Granted, that’s essentially average when it comes to this level given nobody really unloads offensively in the KHL.
Still, the fact he has played so much at his age is a good sign. Akhtyamov has spent the past month in the second-tier VHL putting up good numbers, so it’s been a successful season altogether. Playing time is key at this age, and he has already played much more than anyone else in Toronto’s prospect system. The big question: is he destined for North American duty next year? We’ll see, because it seems safe to assume the Leafs will want him close by.
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