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Five CHL free agents for the Toronto Maple Leafs to consider targeting

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Photo credit:(Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Steven Ellis
27 days ago
With the CHL regular season ending in a couple of days, you’ll start to hear more overage prospects signing NHL contracts.
For the most part, we’re talking about depth additions who may fill a bottom-six role at some point, but often spend most of their time in the AHL. And that’s fine – don’t let anyone tell you finding good, quality talent for the Toronto Marlies isn’t a good thing for the organization. But that just might not excite the average Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
Still, searching the 20/21-year-old market to bulk up the minor system is something every NHL team does. These guys were passed over at the NHL Draft, but no longer hold eligibility and are set to turn pro next year. It’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario – and it’s a reason why teams will often send multiple scouts to any given junior game. They’re not just there to watch the draft eligibles.
Here’s a look at five CHLers the Leafs could look to sign to a contract in the coming weeks:

Matthew Sop, LW (Kitchener, OHL)

Does the name sound familiar? Sop took part in Toronto’s development camp last year, and I liked how often he had the puck on his stick. The Kitchener native has exploded for 42 goals and 88 points while adding some extra physicality to his game, too. Sop always seemed to have the potential to excel, putting up good numbers in his OHL Draft season with the Jr. Rangers. The lost 2020-21 season put Sop on the outside looking in, but he started showing signs of being a legit depth-scoring option over the past two years. I’m not sure if his puck skills alone will take him far, but I think he’s worth taking a chance on.

Sam Sedley, RHD (Owen Sound, OHL)

Sedley is a late bloomer who was fun to watch this season. He’s so clever, using a high level of deceptiveness to beat players in 1-on-1 situations. He’s a play starter, often controlling the pace with the puck on his stick. With the Attack, Sedley is a big piece of the team’s power play, using the open space to trick opponents into a false sense of security before making a pass. His skating needs to improve, but he’s an all-around threat with the puck with some decent upside.

Hudson Thornton, LHD (Prince George, WHL)

Thornton might be the most exciting player on this list to watch. He’s so confident, with a great shot and solid footwork. He’s on track for a second consecutive 70-point season, showing some of the best offensive chops of any defenseman in the CHL. He can get caught trying to be too fancy with the puck at times, and NHL forwards won’t let you do that, but he’s got the numbers, the skating and the poise to do some damage at the pro level. From a puck-work perspective, there’s a bit of Noel Hoefenmayer in Thornton, if you remember him from his days with the Marlies.

Trevor Wong, C (Saskatoon, WHL)

It was never about a lack of skill for Wong, who had an impressive 86-point campaign a year ago with Saskatoon before playing a big part in the team’s playoff push. He’s the best playmaker on this list, with the 21-year-old chasing a whopping 90 assists and over 100 points this season. But at 5-foot-9, teams are wary. He’s not physically strong enough to make up for his smaller frame, such as Logan Stankoven in Dallas. It’s a shame because Wong was once viewed as a top 60 candidate for the 2022 draft thanks to his heads-up passing, but he never added the muscle needed to excel in the pro ranks. Wong could be one of the smaller guys that builds a nice career in the AHL, such as Alex Barre-Boulet or Nic Petan, but, hey, in spot duty, he could be interesting.

Israel Mianscum, LW (Sherbrooke, QMJHL)

Scouts have noticed how hard Mianscum has worked to improve his game over the past few years. In previous years, he was your run-of-the-mill forward with muscle who put up decent yet uninspiring numbers in the Q. There was always a decent scoring touch, but Mianscum’s playmaking took a huge step forward this year. He’s more deceptive than scouts remember from his draft years, allowing him to get more creative with the puck and make more effective plays. The fact he’s built tough helps his chances of sneaking into the bottom six one day, too. At the very least, he should have a decent AHL career.

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