Amirov resumes treatment, Akhtyamov excelling, Lisowsky lighting it up: Leafs Prospect Roundup
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Nick Richard2 months ago
It has been an incredibly difficult year for the Leafs’ 2020 first-round pick, Rodion Amirov, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor last February. Through it all, he has been an inspiring source of strength and positivity, and it was great to see him around the Leafs’ players and staff in the early part of the season. It was an invaluable opportunity for him to familiarize himself with the organization and experience what life in the NHL could be like.
Unfortunately, Amirov’s agent Dan Milstein announced last week that he has returned home to his family as he undergoes further treatment and will be putting his training on hold. Amirov continued to train in the early stages of his treatment and had been eying a return to the ice sometime this year, but it appears that is on the back burner as the primary focus remains his overall health.
We here at The Leafs Nation continue to send our best to Amirov and hope to see him fully healthy and back on the ice in the future.
Let’s get to this week’s Prospect Roundup.
Artur Akhtyamov | G | Neftyanik Almetievsk (VHL)
A fourth-round pick of the Leafs back in 2020, Akhtyamov has arguably been the best goaltender in the VHL so far this season. He is tied for the league lead in both wins and shutouts, and his .938 SV% is second among qualified goaltenders, though he has played in seven more games than the lone netminder ahead of him.
Akhtyamov played in his 17th and 18th games of the season last week, winning both to make it four straight starts with a victory. He was instrumental in each victory, first stopping 31 of 32 shots in a 3-1 win over Lada Togliatti on Tuesday. He followed that up with a 28 save shutout against his former team, Bars Kazan, on Thursday, his third of the young season.
Thursday’s matchup was set to be a showdown between Akhtyamov and fellow Leafs goaltending prospect, as well as former teammate Vyacheslav Peksa, but Peksa was an emergency call-up to the KHL on Wednesday and dressed for his first game in Russia’s top league, serving as the backup to Amir Miftakhov.
Both Akhtyamov and Peksa have been fantastic in the VHL so far this season, but the former is beginning to create a bit of separation, sustaining his stellar play well into November and perhaps beyond. Akhtyamov just turned 21 years of age and is already excelling in his second season in Russia’s second-tier pro league, playing on a new team to boot.
Akhtyamov is still under contract with Kazan in the KHL while playing on loan with Neftyanik, but he doesn’t yet have a contract for next season, perhaps freeing him up to sign an entry level deal with the Leafs this summer. As Amirov did earlier this season, Akhtyamov made the trip to Toronto in the summer to get a taste of the city and meet some of the staff, so a move across the pond at some point is clearly on his radar.
If he continues to perform anywhere near the level he has displayed in the early part of this season, you can bet Leafs brass will be eager to get him to sign on the dotted line sooner rather than later.
Brandon Lisowsky | W | Saskatoon (WHL)
Hitting on the occasional late-round draft pick is key for any organization hoping to sustain long-term success, especially in the salary cap era. While it is still too soon to declare him a hit, the early returns on 2022 seventh-rounder Brandon Lisowsky have been encouraging.
Lisowsky was an intriguing bet on draft day after registering 33 goals and 25 points in 68 games in his draft year, and after a slow start this season, he is now on pace to surpass last year’s production by a significant margin. He was held without a goal through his first seven games of the 2022-23 campaign but has been on fire since then, tallying eight goals and seven assists in his last 11 games.
If you followed along with public draft rankings at all last season, then Lisowsky’s early-season offensive surge probably isn’t entirely surprising. Despite falling all the way to the 218th pick before the Leafs scooped him up, Lisowsky was considered a top-100 prospect by multiple scouts and outlets in the public sphere. In fact, he was the 92nd ranked prospect in TLN’s Consolidated Rankings for the 2022 draft, a list that weighed rankings from sources such as Sportsnet, TSN, The Athletic, Daily Faceoff, Elite Prospects, Dobber Prospects, McKeen’s, and others.
Lisowsky likely slid due to a combination of factors – he is short at just 5’9″ though he is already a sturdy 180 pounds, but there were also concerns over his skating ability and one-dimensional offensive game. So far this season, however, he looks quick and agile while better utilizing his teammates to generate offense and set up plays. He still has that cannon of a one-timer and lethal release on his wrister, too.
Any seventh-round pick is going to be a long-term project, and Lisowsky is no different, but he appears to have taken his game to another level early on this season.
Notes from the rest of the prospect pool:
- It was a quiet weekend for Matt Knies, going without a point in a two-game split with Penn State. He now has seven goals and four assists in 12 games for Minnesota this season.
- Fraser Minten and his Kamloops Blazers played two games last week, with the Leafs’ second-rounder tallying a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 6-1 win over Kelowna. After recovering from a wrist injury he suffered in Leafs training camp, Minten has gotten into eight games and has four goals to go along with nine assists.
- Following his first stint in the NHL that saw him make his Leafs debut, Pontus Holmberg was returned to the Marlies and had a strong performance against Grand Rapids in his first game back. He scored his first goal of the season – one that was long overdue given some of the chances he’s had – and added an assist, bringing him to four points in nine AHL games this season.
- Semyon Der-Arguchintsev also had a big night against Grand Rapids last Friday, notching a pair of goals and an assist. He added another assist in Saturday’s rematch, extending his point streak to eight games. He’s got three goals and 10 assists in 10 games.
- Last but not least to have a big night against Grand Rapids last Friday, William Villeneuve scored the first goal of his professional career and tacked on a helper in the OT loss. A big-time offensive producer from the blue line in junior, Villeneuve has carried that into his first full season with the Marlies and already has five points through his first eight games of the season.
- Braeden Kressler kept up his torrid pace with a two point night against the Soo Greyhounds on Friday night. The undrafted free agent signing has had his fair share of injury troubles, but he is off to a great start this season with nine goals and five assists in 10 games.
- It has been a tough go for Dmitry Ovchinnikov upon his return to Sibir in the KHL this season as he has once again struggled to earn consistent ice time. He had a good week, though, and doubled up his season point total over the span of two games in which he picked up a goal and two assists. It is important to remember that Ovchinnikov is still just 20 years old, playing in what is considered to be the best league in the world outside the NHL, so hopefully he can build on his recent production and secure a more prominent role as the season progresses.
- Joe Miller has had an up-and-down start to his collegiate career. He scored a goal and added two assists in just his second game with Harvard, but was held off the scoresheet in his other four games until Saturday’s game against Union College, where he scored a goal and an assist in a 5-1 victory.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)
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