Minten & Cowan producing in the postseason, Hildeby sets Marlies record: Leafs Prospect Roundup

Photo credit:twitter.com/bladeshockey
Nick Richard
12 days ago
Easton Cowan has been one of the biggest stories in the prospect world this season, from being a late first-round pick who turned heads in his first NHL training camp to a record-setting point streak that spanned the final 36 games he played in the regular season. Cowan established himself as one of the top young players outside the NHL, and he has carried his high level of play – as well as his point streak – into the OHL postseason.
Cowan scored a point in each game of London’s first-round sweep of the Flint Firebirds, finishing with two goals and three assists in four games. The Knights have kept rolling to start the second round, with Cowan notching an assist in each of the first two games as London has gotten out to a 2-0 series lead.
Between the regular season and playoffs, Cowan has now recorded at least a point in 42 consecutive games for London. It has all come together for Toronto’s top prospect over the last few months, but his ascension really started in last year’s OHL playoffs, where he took on a prominent role, tallying 21 points in 20 games after putting up 53 in 68 regular season contests.
The Knights ultimately fell to Peterborough in last year’s OHL final, but Cowan was a big part of their run, and he’ll need to take it a step further if London is to claim the league’s biggest prize this time around.
2021 undrafted free agent signing Braeden Kressler and his Ottawa 67s have their sights set on an OHL title as well, but they’ll have to deal with the Oshawa Generals first. Kressler scored a goal in game one of their second-round series, but the Generals came away with a 4-3 win to grab an early lead in the series before taking game two by a score of 6-1. After putting up 28 goals and 46 assists in 65 games between Flint and Ottawa, Kressler has notched four goals and a pair of helpers in eight playoff games with the 67s.
Elsewhere, Fraser Minten and Brandon Lisowsky are in pursuit of a WHL championship with the juggernaut Saskatoon Blades. After disposing of Prince Albert in five games to open the postseason, the Blades kicked off their second-round matchup with Red Deer on Friday, with both Minten and Lisowsky playing big roles in the game one victory.
Lisowsky helped set up Minten to open the scoring, Minten assisted on the game-winner before extending the lead on the powerplay, and Lisowsky sealed the victory with a late empty-netter.
The Blades took game two in overtime to head back to Red Deer with a 2-0 series lead, and Minten got in on the action again as he opened the scoring midway through the second period. Through seven postseason contests, Minten has registered four goals and four assists, while Lisowsky has scored twice and added three assists.
Unfortunately, Noah Chadwick’s breakout season in the WHL came to an end as Lethbridge was swept by Swift Current in the first round. Chadwick registered just a single assist after tallying 56 points in 66 games on the Hurricanes’ blue line during the regular season, but his offseason work won’t begin just yet. Chadwick was assigned to the Marlies after Lethbridge was eliminated, and he has been practicing with the club in hopes of making his professional debut as the AHL regular season winds down. He’ll be in tough to carve out a regular role on a deep blue line in such short order, but with the Marlies clinching a playoff spot over the weekend, the coaching staff should be more inclined to get a look at some of their younger players.

Notes from the rest of the prospect pool:

  • Topi Niemelä had his six-game point streak snapped in the Marlies’ 5-1 loss to Utica last Sunday but got back on the board with his eighth goal of the season the next time out. He has been one of the most productive rookie blueliners in the AHL with 38 points in 66 games, and he has continued to adjust to the physicality of the North American game as the season has progressed, logging his first AHL fight against Syracuse on Saturday.
  • Dennis Hildeby has put together a fantastic first season with the Marlies as well, and he got his name into the franchise record books last weekend. He stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced in a 5-1 victory over Utica, setting a new Marlies rookie record with his 20th win of the season. Hildeby has been solid all season, but he has been particularly good of late, owning a .948 SV% in his last three starts. He is heating up at the right time and the expectation is that he will carry the load for the Marlies when the playoffs get underway.
  • It has been a tough playoff run for Nikita Grebyonkin in the KHL, but his team has continued to find a way, and they are now just a win away from the Gagarin Cup final. Grebyonkin broke an eight-game pointless drought with a goal in game four of their semifinal matchup with Avtomobilist, and the two clubs have traded wins to force a game seven on Monday, but his ice time has continued to decrease. That is likely due mostly to his dip in production from the regular season, but there could be other elements at play as well. Grebyonkin has yet to sign a contract extension with Metallurg for next season, and rumours continue to swirl that his intention is to sign an entry-level contract with the Leafs whenever Metallurg’s playoff run comes to an end.
  • Roni Hirvonen is in the midst of his most productive stretch in the AHL, and it is coming at just the right time with the playoffs around the corner. The 2020 second-round pick has four points in his last five games, including the first two-goal game of his AHL career against Utica last weekend. It has taken Hirvonen a while to work his way back and get up to speed after a horrible eye injury derailed his season and nearly his career, but his style of play should make him an important piece of John Gruden’s lineup heading into the postseason.
  • It has been a remarkable couple of seasons for Artur Akhtyamov, and he will have an opportunity to cap it off with a VHL championship before beginning his North American career. Akhtyamov made 37 saves in a 3-2 victory in game seven of Neftyanik’s semifinal series against Rubin on Sunday to send his team to the finals, where they will face off against AKM. Through 17 postseason appearances, Akhtyamov has 12 wins to go along with a 2.15 GAA and .928 SV%.
  • Nick Moldenhauer’s freshman season came to an end on Thursday as Michigan was eliminated from the Frozen Four in a 4-0 loss to Boston College. It was an underwhelming campaign for the 2022 third-rounder, but he still managed to put up 21 points in 41 games while bouncing around a loaded Wolverines lineup. With a couple of key contributors expected to turn pro, look for Moldenhauer to take on a more prominent role in his sophomore year.
  • Cade Webber also had his season come to an end after falling to eventual national champions Denver in their Frozen Four matchup. There have already been reports of an entry-level contract in place for Webber, and the expectation is that the hulking defenceman will begin his professional career in the coming weeks – either as a black ace for the Leafs or with the Marlies on an ATO.
  • Veeti Miettinen has also announced that he will be turning pro after four years at St. Cloud State, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be with the Leafs. Miettinen showed promise with an impressive freshman season but struggled to take that next step toward being a legitimate NHL prospect over the last few seasons. There is still a chance that he could join the Marlies on an AHL contract, but it appears likely that his days as a Leafs prospect are numbered.
Statistics from EliteProspects.com & CHL.ca

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