Leafs Prospect Roundup: Král & Abramov adjusting to the AHL, Voit’s big night, Liljegren’s graduation
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Nick Richard1 year ago
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Normally, the focus of these Roundups are the big names in the prospect pool like @Rodion Amirov, Matthew Knies, or Topi Niemelä but for sustained organizational success, teams need to be able to harvest talent later on in the draft as well. That has been an issue for the Leafs and the Marlies in recent years due to some poor drafting but we are starting to see some of Kyle Dubas’ later-round picks join the pro ranks and make an impact at the AHL level.
On top of players like Filip Král, Mikhail Abramov, and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev who are already suiting up for the Marlies, the Leafs have a number of other mid-late round picks such as Ty Voit, Nick Abruzzese, and Ryan Tverberg who are looking like potential contributors in the next couple of years. Maintaining a steady pipeline of talent will be crucial for a team like the Leafs who are always going to be looking for surplus-value around the margins of their top-heavy NHL roster.
@Filip Kral | LHD | Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Drafted in the fifth round back in 2018, Král has mostly flown under the radar the last couple of years but his recent play might change all of that. He put up solid numbers playing in the top Czech professional league last season but registered just two assists in his first 17 games with the Marlies this season as he adjusted to the North American pro game.
Král has looked like a different player as of late, however, and his strong play has been rewarded on the score sheet. He has been held without a point just once in his last 10 games, racking up two goals and 10 assists over that span. The 22-year-old has started to trust his offensive instincts as he gets more comfortable with the pace of play and it has paid off. He is a heads-up passer from the backend who helps to drive play in transition and he does a good job of picking his spots to jump into the play.
He still has a few rungs to climb on the organizational ladder but the way he has adjusted to the speed of the AHL so quickly is a strong indicator that there is still room for growth with Král. Building upon his play in recent weeks and putting together a strong second half to the season will put him in good standing as a potential depth option for the Leafs at some point down the line.
@Mikhail Abramov | C | Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Similar to Král, Abramov went through an adjustment period in his first few weeks of AHL hockey but he has started to produce as of late. He scored just a single goal and four assists through his first 18 games but has taken advantage of an opportunity higher in the lineup in the last couple of weeks, tallying two goals and six assists in his last seven games, including a three point outing against Hershey on Saturday.
Abramov was thrust into a larger role than the organization likely had in mind for him when the Leafs lost depth center options like @Adam Brooks, Michael Amadio, and Kirill Semyonov early in the season. There have been some bumps in the road, particularly on the defensive side of the puck, but that is to be expected for a 20-year-old playing big minutes down the middle as a first-year pro. That he has managed to keep his head above water and find a way to produce points in difficult minutes bodes well for his future development.
Even though Abramov hasn’t taken over games or looked dynamic in the same way that he did in junior just yet, there has been steady progression in his game since the beginning of the season. As he continues to gain experience and add strength to his slight frame, his raw offensive skills could have him knocking on the door to the NHL in the next couple of years.
@Ty Voit | C/W | Sarnia (OHL)
Ty Voit has been outperforming his draft position all season long, showing why many believed he would have been selected long before the fifth round in the 2021 NHL Draft. He has shifted back to playing down the middle this season, taking on more responsibility and flourishing with it. Through 27 games so far this season, Voit leads the Sting in scoring with nine goals and 27 assists.
He has been consistently productive all season, going without a point just twice in his first 20 games of the season. After slowing down ever so slightly in December, Voit has been dynamite so far in January and had his biggest performance of the season in a 6-5 win over Windsor on Friday. The Pennsylvania native racked up five (!) assists in the contest, all of which were primary.
Voit was lauded for his playmaking abilities coming out of the draft and it seems the move back to center where he is more involved and receives more puck touches has helped translate those skills into big-time production. He is elusive with the puck on his stick, allowing him to hold onto it until options present themselves, and he has great vision to identify those options in short order.
Voit is still very much a project for the Leafs’ development staff and he won’t turn 19-years-old until June so there is plenty of runway for him to mature physically while rounding out his game. Though he isn’t quite knocking on the door to the NHL just yet, the early returns on Toronto’s fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft have been very encouraging.
Notes from the rest of the prospect pool
- Matthew Knies had another strong weekend for Minnesota, scoring his eighth goal of the season on Friday night before tallying an assist in Saturday’s rematch. For the season, he has 22 points in 22 games and has been one of the Gophers’ most dangerous offensive players on a line with Ben Meyers and Chaz Lucius. Though his World Juniors experience was cut short, he won’t have to wait long to suit up in the Red, White, and Blue once again as he and fellow Maple Leafs prospect Nick Abruzzese were named to Team USA for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing.
- The Olympic nod wasn’t the only honor Nick Abruzzese earned last week. He was named the ECAC Conference’s Player of the Week and was also named as a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s best player. Currently leading Harvard in scoring and boasting the best points per game mark in college hockey, he should be considered a strong candidate to win the award. Missing time for the Olympics could hurt his chances, however. It’s going to be an exciting few months for Abruzzese as he gets to suit up for his country on the big stage before presumably turning pro at the end of the college season.
- Ryan Tverberg of the UConn Huskies was also on the long list for the Hobey Baker Award. His production has slowed a bit since returning from Canada’s World Junior Camp and he has seen his role slightly diminished but he is still tied for the team lead in scoring, averaging just under a point per game.
- Topi Niemelä found his way onto the scoresheet on Friday, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a 4-1 victory. Despite being held without a point in four of his last five games, he is still tied for the Liiga scoring lead among defencemen. Now that NHL players aren’t going to be participating in the Olympics, Niemelä is a likely candidate to be included on the Finnish roster.
- Král and Abramov aren’t the only Marlies who have been racking up points as of late. Alex Steeves has been one of the Marlies’ best players ever since returning from a shoulder injury he suffered in camp and currently has 19 points through his first 19 AHL games, including six points in his last five games.
- @Joey Anderson returned to the Marlies with a bang on Sunday, netting a hat-trick in his first game back after a brief NHL stint. He hasn’t been able to make an impact for the Leafs in limited opportunities to this point but he has been an important piece for the Marlies, playing big minutes and racking up 13 goals to go along with five assists in just 22 games. Anderson could eventually prove to be valuable depth for the Leafs.
- The Marlies were bitten by the injury bug this week as both @Joseph Woll and @Semyon Der-Arguchintsev landed on the shelf. SDA blocked a shot and should be fine after a few days assuming that nothing is broken, but the prognosis is a little less certain for Woll. He went down awkwardly in Saturday’s contest against Hershey and was forced to leave the game with what appeared to be a leg injury of some kind. Woll is in the midst of the best season of his career and finally looks comfortable at the professional level but injuries have limited his playing time. With any luck, both play be ready to return to action soon.
- He isn’t really a prospect anymore but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention @Timothy Liljegren’s first NHL goal. It has been a long road for the 2017 first-round pick but he has established himself as an NHL defenceman this season and it was great to see his solid play rewarded in the goal column. Consider this his graduation from the Leafs Prospect Roundup.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)
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