Moldenhauer at Michigan, Akhtyamov’s 1st KHL win: Leafs Prospect Roundup
Photo credit:(Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
By Nick Richard2 months ago
With the NHL regular season less than two weeks away and plenty of other leagues around the hockey world already underway, it’s time to fire up the Leafs Prospect Roundup for another season.
It has been a while, but it finally appears the next wave of potential Leafs is on the way, with young players like Matthew Knies, Nick Robertson, Fraser Minten, and Easton Cowan stealing most of the headlines at camp. Fans have gotten a good look at some of the organization’s most prized prospects so far in the preseason, but there are other Leafs youngsters who have been putting in work away from the bright lights of Toronto.
Let’s get to it.
Nick Moldenhauer | C/W | Michigan (NCAA)
The Leafs’ third-round pick from the 2022 draft is getting set for his freshman year at the University of Michigan, and he just might have the inside track on a prominent role to begin his first season. Moldenhauer lined up at left wing on the Wolverines’ second line during their exhibition game against Simon Fraser on Saturday and notched his first goal in a Michigan uniform.
The game ended in an 8-1 blowout victory for the Wolverines and the competition is sure to ramp up in short order, but playing a prime role and finding a way to contribute on the scoreboard should earn Moldenhauer some favour with his new coaches. His style of play should continue to help in that regard and aid in his transition to college hockey.
Not only is Moldenhauer a well-rounded offensive threat, but he makes life difficult on the opposition with his tenacity and intelligence away from the puck. He is a diligent forechecker with good hands to pry pucks off of opposing players, and he shows good contact balance getting into the dirty areas of the ice.
There are likely to be peaks and valleys in his first NCAA season, but Moldenhauer’s overall game should help minimize the lows while accentuating the highs.
Nikita Grebyonkin | W | Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Grebyonkin began last season with Magnitogorsk but was loaned to Amur when it became clear early on that playing time would be tough to come by. He took full advantage of the opportunity, securing a top-six role with Amur on his way to earning the KHL’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Back with Magnitogorsk for the 2023-24 season, the offensive production hasn’t come quite as easily as it did in his rookie campaign. He scored twice and fired seven shots on goal in the third game of the season but has tallied just one goal and one assist in the nine games since.
Grebyonkin has been playing mostly third-line minutes thus far, so he is adjusting to a different role and different usage on a deeper team, and he will have to play his way up the lineup as the season progresses.
Artur Akhtyamov | G | Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)
With a logjam on Kazan’s goaltending depth chart a year ago, Akhtyamov was loaned to Neftyanik in the VHL and had a spectacular season. He led the league with a .943 SV% in 39 regular season games, then put together a .952 SV% in six postseason contests. His stellar play earned him an entry-level contract with the Leafs, but facing another logjam in Toronto, he was loaned back to Kazan for the 2023-24 season.
Kazan promptly sent him to Neftyanik again to begin the season, but he was recalled after just three games when injuries mounted for his KHL club. Akhtyamov has started each of Kazan’s last three games, stopping 30 of 31 shots to pick up his first KHL win against Amur and posting an impressive .933 SV% and 2.00 GAA over that stretch.
Akhtyamov just continues to perform at every level. The sample size is small, and he might not have the net for long, but he has built upon last season’s success in the VHL and carried it to Russia’s top level. The KHL is the only box Akhtyamov has left to check off before presumably beginning his North American career next season, and he’s off to a good start.
Brandon Lisowsky | W | Saskatoon (WHL)
Lisowsky had a strong showing for the Leafs at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, notching four goals in just three games, but was sent back to Saskatoon for the beginning of the WHL season. An undersized, seventh-round pick from just a year ago, the Leafs felt he was better served taking that momentum back home and preparing to be a go-to-guy for the Blades in his fourth season with the club.
Saskatoon has played four games, and Lisowsky was held off the scoresheet for the first time in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Calgary Hitmen. After notching assists in each of his first two games, he scored his first goal of the season and added another helper in Saturday’s OT win against Medicine Hat.
Lisowsky had a big year for the Blades last season, piling up 38 goals and 33 assists in just 65 games. If he is able to improve upon those totals, he’ll put himself in a good spot to earn an ELC at the end of the season.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev | C/W | Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Rather than signing with the Leafs as a restricted free agent, SDA opted to return to Russia and try his hand at the KHL once again. He was moved to Traktor prior to the season, and he has been quite productive through the early part of the season. In 13 games, he has potted six goals and two assists.
For a player who has shown an outright disdain for shooting the puck at times, the goal-scoring numbers are impressive. Exactly why SDA chose to return to Russia remains unknown, but he has stepped into a prime role with Traktor and made good on it so far. Whether or not he ever returns to North America and plays for the Leafs organization remains to be seen, but his play has been encouraging nonetheless.
Noah Chadwick | LHD | Lethbridge (WHL)
Drafted by the Leafs in the sixth round of the 2023 draft, Chadwick presents an intriguing set of tools. Already listed at 6’4″ and 187 pounds, he has the ability to dominate physically at the junior level, but his raw offensive skill could eventually be his ticket to the pros.
The five goals and 15 assists he registered in 67 games during his draft year don’t exactly scream “offensive dynamo,” but he has shown some translatable traits with the puck on his stick. Chadwick knows how to manipulate the opposition when in control, utilizing quick fakes and delays to open up passing lanes in transition. In the offensive zone, he is an efficient distributor who moves the puck quickly and skates off his passes into open space in order to keep the defence spread out.
It’s only been two games thus far, but those skills have been on display already. Chadwick tallied an assist in his season debut on Friday and found the back of the net for the first time in Sunday’s loss to Edmonton. He might not maintain that point-per-game pace as the sample size grows, but he has the tools to at least double his output from last season. With his combination of size and skill, Chadwick is a player to monitor over the next couple of seasons despite his billing as a sixth-round pick.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)
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