Petruzzelli’s ascent to the NHL, big weekend for Knies, Voit setting the pace: Leafs Prospect Roundup
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Nick Richard6 months ago
The Leafs’ goaltending depth chart was already looking thin with Matt Murray and Joseph Woll on the injured list, and an injury to Ilya Samsonov in Saturday’s win over the Boston Bruins only compounded matters. With Samsonov being the latest addition to the infirmary, that left Erik Källgren as the organization’s only healthy goaltender under contract, aside from 2022 fourth-round pick Dennis Hildeby who is on loan to Färjestad in the SHL.
Enter Keith Petruzzelli.
A third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2017, Petruzzelli is in his second season with the Leafs organization after opting to sign an AHL deal with the Marlies rather than signing with Detroit following his collegiate career, and on Sunday, he officially entered the Leafs’ prospect ranks when he signed a two-year entry level contract with the club.
It was a signing born out of immediate necessity, and Petruzzelli was immediately recalled by the Leafs to back up Källgren against Carolina on Sunday, but he is a legitimate NHL prospect and someone the Leafs likely would have looked to get under contract eventually, anyway. In fact, you could make the argument that the 6’6″ Petruzzelli instantly becomes Toronto’s top goaltending prospect now that he is signed to an NHL deal.
Now 23, Petruzzelli has shown steady improvement year over year dating back to his freshman season in the NCAA. After posting mediocre numbers in his first two seasons at Quinnipiac, he finished with a .920 SV% in 34 games as a junior and followed that up with a .926 SV% in 29 games as a senior, earning ECAC Goaltender of the Year honors. He was a player the Red Wings had real hopes for but the wealth of resources available to him in Toronto was enough for him to bet on himself on an AHL deal as he continued to develop, and the bet has already paid off.
Petruzzelli got into five games for the Marlies in 2021-22 but was mostly relegated to the ECHL in his first pro season. In 23 games with the Newfoundland Growlers, he went 16-6-1 with a 2.01 GAA and .927 SV%, earning a selection to the ECHL’s All-Rookie Team as well being named an ECHL Second Team All-Star.
With all the injuries to Leafs goaltenders, the starting job with the Marlies was ripe for the taking and Petruzzelli has delivered early on this season. He has started just six games, but he is 6-0-0 with a .922 SV% so when the need arose for another netminder with the big club, the choice was clear. Now, the next game he plays in could be for the Leafs in the NHL.
It remains to be seen how long Samsonov will be out of action, and Matt Murray’s return appears to be on the horizon, but it stands to reason that the Leafs will need both Källgren and Petruzzelli in the short term. Petruzzelli has taken advantage of every opportunity he has received to date, and his next one could be the biggest of his career.
Matthew Knies | W | Minnesota (NCAA)
Knies had a big weekend for the third-ranked Gophers in their two game set with number 12 Notre Dame, helping to lead his team to back-to-back victories. He skated on a line with 2022 third-overall pick Logan Cooley and 23rd-overall pick Jimmy Snuggerud and the trio led the charge for Minnesota all weekend.
With the Gophers up 1-0 in the second period of Friday night’s game, Knies made a great play to chip the puck around the point man before darting up the ice and scoring a slick shorthanded goal for his sixth of the season.
Knies was just getting started, however, and he was instrumental in creating two more goals before the night was out. First, he got in on the forecheck and separated his man from the puck, regaining possession before firing a perfect backhand pass to Snuggerud in the slot.
Later, Knies would bust loose for another breakaway but got slashed on the play. Rather than taking the penalty shot, the Gophers opted for the powerplay, and Knies would once again come up with a loose puck and quickly find Snuggerud for their second hook-up of the night in what ended up being a 4-1 win for Minnesota.
Knies wasn’t quite as prolific in Saturday’s rematch, but he scored another goal after coming up with a contested puck in a net-front battle, bringing him to seven goals and four assists in 10 games so far this season. He is now just one goal and one point shy of the team lead in both categories and is on pace to eclipse the 15 goals he scored in his stellar freshman season.
There is plenty of season left, but Knies is trending in the right direction to turn pro next spring.
Ty Voit | C/W | Sarnia (OHL)
Another week, another pile of points for Ty Voit. Coming off a three assist game the weekend prior, Voit got his week started with a four assist effort in an OT loss to Guelph on Wednesday night – his third four point game of the young season.
Voit would add two more assists the next night against Windsor, and set up the overtime winner against Flint on Sunday. The Leafs’ fifth-rounder from the 2021 draft is now six points clear of the OHL’s second-leading scorer, already with six goals and 24 assists in just 15 games. He has been held without a point just once so far this season and is currently on pace for over 135 points.
No matter how you slice it, Voit’s production has been elite, and he is looking more and more like a player with legitimate NHL upside. Dominating the OHL isn’t a guarantee of NHL success but the way that Voit has been racking up those points is encouraging. He will never be an overpowering player, but he has done a better job of playing through contact and protecting the puck, and he has the processing speed to make plays that most junior players simply don’t see.
It is still early in the 2022-23 season, but it would be impossible for Team USA brass not to take notice of what Voit is doing in the lead-up to the 2023 World Juniors. Look for him to be squarely in the running for a spot on their roster come Christmas time, especially if he keeps tearing the OHL to shreds.
Notes from the rest of the prospect pool:
- Nick Robertson found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch for two straight games last week but got back into the lineup against Carolina on Sunday night. He started on a line with Pierre Engvall and Calle Järnkrok but with Leafs in need of a jolt, Sheldon Keefe got the blender out and Robertson ended up on a line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. The trio would connect on what ended up being the winner in a big game for the club, and Robertson was around it offensively throughout the game. The assist was Robertson’s fifth point in just seven games as he continues to establish himself as an NHL regular.
- Pontus Holmberg has also been working to break through to the NHL, and following a strong preseason and seven games with the Marlies in which he performed much better than his stat line, he was recalled by the Leafs and made his NHL debut last Wednesday against Philadelphia. Holmberg gives the Leafs another much-needed natural center option in their bottom-six, and Sheldon Keefe liked what he saw from the 2018 sixth-rounder.
- Topi Niemelä hasn’t produced offense like he did a year ago, but he did manage his third goal of the season this past week. He now has five points in 20 games so far this season but part of that has been poor shooting luck by both him and his teammates. Last year’s point totals were always going to be tough to replicate, but it has been an underwhelming season on the stat sheet for Niemelä so far.
- Alex Steeves continues to build his case for earning the next call-up to the Leafs, whenever that may be. He registered two points in each of the Marlies’ three games last week and now has five goals and eight assists in just 10 games so far this season. With Nicolas Aubé-Kubel scooped up off waivers by the Washington Capitals, Steeves’ path to the NHL got a little clearer.
- Nick Abruzzese had a big three point game on Saturday, picking up a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win over Belleville. After a bit of a slow start, he now has four goals and four assists in his first 10 games with the Marlies.
- Ryan Tverberg has been one of the biggest stories in the Leafs’ prospect pool through the early part of the season, and he was rewarded by being named the Hockey East Player of the Month for October. He has been held without a point through UConn’s first two games in November but still has seven goals and four assists in 11 games on the season.
- The Leafs’ third-round pick from the 2022 draft, Nick Moldenhauer, announced his commitment to the University of Michigan this past week. Michigan is arguably the top hockey program in the NCAA, and they have produced a number of quality NHLers over the years, so it is a great place for him to continue his development. Moldenhauer has 10 goals and eight assists in 13 games for the Chicago Steel so far this season.
- Mikko Kokkonen has struggled to earn consistent minutes with the Marlies so far and was loaned Newfoundland in the ECHL this past week. He has gotten into three games for the Growlers so far, registering an assist, and will likely be back with the Marlies before long.
- Brandon Lisowsky keeps heating up, and he went three straight games with a goal and an assist last week. He has now been held off the scoresheet just once in his last ten games and has 18 points in 16 games for Saskatoon so far.
- Just eight games into his third season in the OHL, Braeden Kressler is just one goal shy of his career high. He scored two more on Saturday to bring his season totals to eight goals and four assists in eight games, and he is well on his way to a big season for the Firebirds if he can stay healthy.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)
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