Maple Leafs Prospect Roundup: Matthew Knies is back, Marlies trio stepping up, Denis Malgin update
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Kyle Cushman1 year ago
It’s time for another Toronto Maple Leafs prospect roundup! With essentially every league back and underway after various winter breaks, it’s a busy roundup once again after a couple of minimal updates. Matthew Knies is back at the University of Minnesota and did not miss a beat, a trio of prospects with the Marlies had a big week, we’ll catch up with @Denis Malgin over in Switzerland, plus lots more news and notes to finish things off.
Matthew Knies | LW | Minnesota (Big 10)
Matthew Knies returned to the Golden Gophers lineup over the weekend following his abbreviated spell with Team USA at the World Juniors. Suiting up for the first time for Minnesota since December 5, Knies picked up right where he left off.
On Friday, Knies recorded two assists, including this primary assist on Minnesota’s third goal of the game.
He was good in his return, but it was the follow-up performance on Saturday that really draws the attention. Knies once again scored two assists, but also added seven shots on goal, mixing in a lacrosse goal attempt while he was at it. Saturday’s game from Knies is the exact performance to point to when discussing how exciting of a prospect he’s blossomed into this season.
Matthew Knies is up to 20 points in 20 games as a freshman. His ability to win puck battles on the boards and quickly turn them into dangerous chances from the slot has been remarkable, looking as if he is a fourth-year senior rather than a player just 20 games into his NCAA career.
In fact, his play has been so impressive that it appears as though Team USA will give him a look for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Olympic squad despite only being drafted in the second round last summer.
He’s a long shot to make the final roster, but the sheer fact that Knies is in consideration for such a spot this fast after being drafted is incredible.
Back in August, I dove into some of the reasons why Knies went as low as he did and the gamble the Maple Leafs were taking on him. So far, it’s paying off.
Denis Malgin | C | ZSC Lions (NL)
Speaking of Olympic hopefuls, remember Denis Malgin? Acquired in 2020 in exchange for @Mason Marchment, Malgin played eight games for Toronto before the pandemic hit and the season was shut down.
That was the last time we saw Malgin suit up for a game in North America, as he spent the 2020/21 season with Lausanne in Switzerland on loan before moving to Zurich this past summer. The Leafs tendered his restricted free agent rights in the offseason and retain his NHL rights for another two years after this season.
It’s easy to forget how young Malgin is as he made his NHL debut at just 19, but he is still only 24 years old (he turns 25 next week). Many have written him off as a Swiss league lifer, but his production has been very strong over the past two years. A recent article from the German NHL site has shed some light on his current situation, linking back to an interview Malgin did upon signing with ZSC in September.
“I had an offer from Toronto, but I wouldn’t have played there often. I’m only 24, I need a lot of game time. Moving to ZSC is the best step in my career to show what I can do.”
– Denis Malgin, via Zürcher Zeitung
In the same interview it is also noted that while Malgin signed a four-year contract with ZSC, he holds an NHL opt-out clause that kicks in on July 15. If Toronto wants to bring Malgin back, as they wanted to do this past season, there is still the opportunity to do so.
With 35 points in 32 games, Malgin is having one of the best U25 seasons in the Swiss league over the past decade. Only @Auston Matthews, @Damien Brunner, and @Dominik Kubalik have scored at a higher rate than Malgin’s current 1.09 points-per-game pace among U25 players with 30 games played since 2010.
Keep an eye on Malgin at the Olympics next month for Switzerland. If he were a European free agent signing, fans would be pencilling him into a top-nine role. Instead, he’s barely given a thought.
We’ve seen @Pius Suter and the aforementioned Dominik Kubalik come over to the NHL and be solid middle-six players after strong performances in the Swiss league as 23 to 24-year-old players. We’ve seen Malgin produce at the NHL level already. Don’t be surprised to see Denis Malgin sign with Toronto again in the summer and battle for a spot in 2022/23.
Mac Hollowell | RD | Toronto Marlies (AHL)
I was harsh on @Mac Hollowell’s lacklustre start with the Marlies, dropping him down my prospect rankings following an underwhelming first few games and an absence from the team. Since then, Hollowell has found his game and is performing at a time where the Marlies have needed him.
Without @Alex Biega and @Joseph Duszak, Hollowell was the only right-handed defenceman in the lineup for the Marlies in their two games this week. He was electric, scoring a goal, adding two assists, and coming out of the two games a +6. This week, he looked like a player that could anchor a top pairing in the AHL and push for an NHL call up, something that we need to see much more consistently out of the 23-year-old.
With his strong week, Hollowell is now the Marlies top defenceman in 5v5 goal differential at 60% (15 GF, 10 GA). With six points in his last five appearances, Hollowell has been an offensive catalyst for the Marlies as of late. Now it’s about seeing him do so regularly over the course of the remainder of the season.
Mikhail Abramov (C) & Joey Anderson (RW) | Marlies (AHL)
@Mikhail Abramov and @Joey Anderson were paired with @Brett Seney for the Marlies most recent game against the AHL’s top team in Utica, and the trio was dominant. All three found the back of the net, with Anderson scoring twice, as the Marlies defeated the Comets 6-4.
Seney has been the Marlies best forward this season, but Abramov has struggled at times and Anderson has yet to score at a high rate. It was great to see Anderson’s shot generation (56 shots in 21 games) be rewarded, bringing his season totals to 10 goals and 15 points.
For Mikhail Abramov, he’s really started to find his groove at the AHL level as of late. He has seven points in his last 10 games and has been a much-improved player over that same span in 5v5 goal differential. For context, Abramov had five points in his first 15 games and was a -7 at that point of the season.
As a true professional rookie having graduated from the QMJHL over the summer, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Abramov struggle at the beginning of the season. The Marlies sudden lack of centre depth saw him thrust into a top-six position with no veterans centres to lean on. The recent addition of @Joseph Blandisi on a try-out has helped a touch, but it’s been Abramov that has embraced the role and is starting to succeed with it.
While goal-scoring was never Abramov’s strongest attribute at the junior level (his 35 goal season was more about volume than raw shooting ability), I would like to see him increase his shot generation. He has 39 shots on goal this season and three goals to show for it. Given his elevated role, it would be good to see Abramov get into dangerous areas and create more shots himself going into the next part of the schedule.
News and notes from the rest of the prospect pool
- It was great to see Josh Ho-Sang on the long list of options for Team Canada at the Olympics. While his play has dropped off over the last few games (expected given how long it’s been since he played a full season), Ho-Sang presents a unique offensive weapon for Canada given the circumstances.
- Curtis Douglas added another two assists this week, bringing his totals to four goals and 12 points in 23 games this year. He’s been a pleasant surprise, looking the part as a third-line centre at the AHL level. He turns 22 in March and is the clubhouse leader among AHL signed prospects to be upgraded to an ELC at season’s end.
- Matt Hellickson has struggled this year in AHL action but had a great game on Wednesday paired with the previously mentioned Mac Hollowell. He scored his first professional goal and added two assists, hopefully this kickstart a much better 2022 for Hellickson.
- Nick Abruzzese has quite the streak going with Harvard. He has scored a goal and two assists in three straight games, bringing his season totals to five goals and 21 points in 13 games. Despite undergoing hip surgery when Harvard cancelled their 2020/21 season, Abruzzese hasn’t missed a beat and is another Leafs prospect in consideration for the American Olympic team.
- @Ty Voit was back in action for the first time since mid-December with the Sarnia Sting this weekend, picking up a goal and another primary assist in a 5-3 win over Flint. Of Voit’s 31 points this season, 28 of them are primary. He’s been fantastic.
- It appears as though @Braeden Kressler is injured, as he has not dressed in Flint’s last three games. His last recorded game was January 1.
- A miserable season continued for @Rodion Amirov this week. He was missing from the Salavat lineup due to COVID protocol, adding yet another to the list of reasons why he’s been out of the lineup this season.
- Axel Rindell was not in Kärpät’s lineup on Saturday against his former team, Jukurit. Not sure if this was due to injury or not, as Rindell was a -3 in Kärpät’s 6-5 loss to Ilves earlier in the week.
Statistics from EliteProspects.com, game logs from individual team sites
Recent articles from Kyle Cushman