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Scorching hot Steeves, Moldenhauer settling in, Chadwick’s breakout: Leafs Prospect Roundup

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Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Nick Richard
3 months ago
Alex Steeves isn’t the first name that usually comes to mind when discussing the Leafs’ prospect pipeline, but he has inserted himself into the conversation with his play for the Marlies this season. The 23-year-old undrafted free agent signing has been a productive player since he stepped foot into the AHL at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, but he has taken his game to a different level so far in 2023-24.
The Marlies had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Manitoba Moose on Sunday, but Steeves kept his own streak intact, scoring the Marlies’ first goal of the contest to make it 11 straight games with at least a point. The tally didn’t go into the books as a shorthanded goal, but it was the result of a strong play by Steeves at the end of the penalty kill and a slick move on the breakaway.
Steeves tallied a pair of assists in the Marlies’s second game for his first points of the campaign, was held off the scoresheet the next time out, and hasn’t been shut down since. During that 11-game stretch, the Notre Dame product has put up an eye-popping 11 goals and five assists, bringing him to a total of 18 points in 14 games for the season. Those 18 points are six more than the Marlies’ next leading scorer and good enough for second-most in the AHL, while his 11 goals are more than twice as many as any other Marlie.
Already with a handful of NHL games under his belt in his first two pro seasons, Steeves is making a strong case for another look with the big club. Bobby McMann has been given the first opportunity to seize a spot in the Leafs’ bottom six after Sheldon Keefe opted to replace the struggling Ryan Reaves, notching a couple of assists in his first game of the season. While the bar was low, McMann has done an admirable job stepping into the lineup and helping to make the fourth line a viable option for Keefe, but Steeves is nipping at his heels.
Steeves has certainly raised his stock within the Leafs organization in the early part of the season, but you can be sure that other clubs have taken notice as well. That’s not to say teams will be lining up for a soon-to-be 24-year-old who has played a total of six NHL games, but he could be an enticing piece of a trade return for a rebuilding team that can provide him with a greater opportunity.
Whether he eventually makes his way to the Leafs or is part of a trade that helps fill a need for the big club, Steeves is proving he is worthy of another crack at the NHL.

Notes from the rest of the prospect pool:

  • It was a light week for Fraser Minten and the Kamloops Blazers. They played their first game in over a week on Sunday night, falling in a shootout at the hands of the Spokane Chiefs. Minten picked up a secondary assist on the power play early in the game, and he was a key cog in a penalty killing unit that killed off all four opposing power plays. It wasn’t a perfect showing for him, however, as he committed a turnover on the power play in the third period that led to the tying goal for Spokane. The play was an uncharacteristic one for the defensively responsible forward, but he was put in a tough spot by his defenceman. Minten hasn’t had much shooting luck thus far, but he is now up to a goal and six assists in six games.
  • Easton Cowan had a productive outing against Guelph on Wednesday, notching three assists in a 5-2 win, but had his eight-game point streak snapped against Flint on Friday. Despite being held without a point again in Saturday’s contest, Cowan is sitting at eight goals and 19 assists in just 16 games – good enough for the fifth-highest points per game mark in the OHL. The Knights have also been using him at centre more frequently as of late after he spent the entirety of training camp playing in the middle for the Leafs. It’s still very early, but the 2023 first-rounder is looking like a player the Leafs can pencil into their centre depth chart moving forward.
  • Pontus Holmberg has found the scoresheet in each of the two games he’s played since being sent down by the Leafs last week. He notched his second goal of the season in a blowout win on Saturday and added an assist in a losing effort on Sunday. Holmberg has played in just four games for the Marlies so far this season, but he has tallied four points in the process.
  • 2022 third-round pick Nick Moldenhauer has bounced around Michigan’s lineup in his freshman season, and found himself lining up on the first line alongside Gavin Brindley and Josh Ernisse this past weekend. He registered an assist in Friday’s 6-4 victory over Penn State and scored his third goal of the season to extend his point streak to three games in a losing effort in Saturday’s rematch. It’s been an up-and-down start for Moldenhauer, but he is now sporting a respectable eight points through his first 14 games in the NCAA.
  • There was little fanfare when the Leafs selected defenceman Noah Chadwick in the sixth round last summer, but he has been making noise in the WHL so far this season. He scored in consecutive games for the first time this season, notching his fifth and sixth goals of the season this past week, and is currently tied for the third-most goals by a blueliner in the WHL this season. Chadwick’s marker against Vancouver on Saturday was also the OT winner. He has already exceeded his goal output from a season ago and is just three points shy of last season’s total in 47 fewer games. The hulking defender has taken a significant step forward this season, layering his offensive skills onto an already solid defensive foundation. Like any late-round pick, Chadwick is a long-term project, but his combination of physical gifts and offensive ability make him a player to keep an eye on.
  • Brandon Lisowsky continued his scoring ways this past week, recording a goal and an assist against Moose Jaw on Tuesday before adding another goal and two more assists against Swift Current on Saturday. He now has 13 goals and 12 assists in 21 games for Saskatoon so far this season, on pace to surpass the 38 goals and 71 points he put up in 2022-23. Lisowsky’s lack of size and average straight-line speed are still hurdles he will have to clear, but the 2022 seventh-rounder could earn an ELC on the back of his high-end finishing ability.
  • Mike Koster is still playing catch-up after missing the first month of the season, but he had a strong game in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Notre Dame. The smooth-skating defenceman notched a pair of assists, bringing him to three points in six games, and he fired a season-high four shots on goal. Koster is looking to earn an entry-level contract with the Leafs before his exclusive rights expire next summer, and I like his chances, given the lack of blue line depth in the Leafs’ prospect pool.
  • Another player making a late push for an entry-level contract, Veeti Miettinen had his six-game goal streak broken against Minnesota-Duluth on Friday before getting back in on the action with a pair of goals in the rematch on Saturday. Already with nine goals and four helpers in 12 games this season, Miettinen is well on his way to his most productive NCAA season. Miettinen looked like a lock to earn an NHL deal after a freshman campaign that saw him rack up numerous awards and accolades, but his play stagnated a bit in his second season. He showed progress as a junior last season, registering a career-high 12 goals and 24 assists in 41 games. If he is able to maintain this level of production all season, he will put himself in a good position to begin his pro career with the Marlies in 2024-25.
 
Statistics from EliteProspects.com & CHL.ca

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