Toronto Maple Leafs reserve list check-in: Which players will the team sign in 2023-24?

Photo credit:Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Ellis
14 days ago
There are two important prospect signing deadlines coming up for the Toronto Maple Leafs: June 1, 2024 for CHLers taken two years ago, and Aug. 15, 2024 for college players with no more NCAA eligibility left.
The reserve list requirements differ by league: European players have a longer leash, while Russian players on KHL deals stay on the list indefinitely. College players are held onto until their senior year is over. For CHLers, they have two years before they’re entered back into the NHL Draft. Otherwise, they’ll be free to sign wherever once the free agent market opens up.
After three players were let go last year, the Leafs have four players with expiring deals on the table right now: Brandon Lisowsky (June 1), Mike Koster, Veeti Miettinen and Cade Webber (all Aug. 15). Lisowsky is the only player still actively playing, with the three other college players done for the season.
The fact that all of them – minus Webber, who had his season end on Thursday – haven’t signed at this point given the long runway to make that happen is probably a good sign that they won’t be signed to an NHL deal, at least. But here’s a look at all four players and a prediction of whether they’ll be signed before their rights expire in the near future:

Mike Koster, LHD, 22

Prediction: Won’t Sign
Mike Koster (Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
A respected leader at the University of Minnesota, Koster had a somewhat disappointing senior season. The Gophers didn’t make it out of the regionals, and Koster’s numbers were almost half of what he produced last year—albeit in seven fewer games.
At 5-foot-10, Koster lacks NHL size and the offense to back it up. He’s a competent two-way player who improved his overall defensive game this year, but he still gets caught pinching too much or making a move too early and gets beat by a faster skater.
There are other NHL teams that are interested in Koster as a potential depth add, but it doesn’t seem like many believe he’s more than just an AHLer at best at this point. And that’s fine, you still need guys like that to add stability to your minor club. But, realistically, there doesn’t seem to be a path for Koster to make the Maple Leafs, and it’s easy to just pass him up at this point.

Brandon Lisowsky, LW, 20

Prediction: Won’t Sign
Brandon Lisowsky (Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Lisowsky is the most intriguing name on this list. He had his best WHL season to date, putting up 42 goals and 80 points with the Saskatoon Blades. Playing alongside Fraser Minten didn’t hurt, but he showed potential with a great shot, good skating and improved hockey sense.
But at 5-foot-9, that’s a concern. He’s not physical at all, and is weak defensively. If he’s not scoring, he’s not overly effective. It kind of reminds you of Ty Voit, who put up incredible numbers in the OHL but seems to lack the overall physical traits needed to be a legitimate NHL threat.
With Lisowsky, it seems like the real value here is sticking him in with the Marlies and having him play a middle-six support rule, most likely as a set-up guy. The reality is, he’s not a complete enough player to make the step up to the NHL, at least as things stand. But Lisowsky is a skilled winger who competes hard and could perhaps put up 15-20 goals in the AHL one day. But it’s not worth taking up a contract spot for him at this point.

Veeti Miettinen, RW, 22

Prediction: Won’t Sign
Veeti Miettinen (Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Miettinen finished his senior year with a career-high 20 goals and 35 points, just one shy of his 36 a year ago in four more games. The St. Cloud State University winger was a consistent contributor for the school, scoring at least 10 goals in each of his four seasons. The craziest thing? He didn’t take a single penalty in 146 games.
Miettinen was an intriguing sixth-round pick in 2020 by Toronto because he found so many ways to be productive in the Finnish U-20 league while also contributing to Finland’s junior national team programs. With a release like his, it’s no wonder how Miettinen was so effective with the puck.
But – not to beat a dead horse – his 5-foot-9 frame left a lot to be desired. There was the hope he’d add more muscle to his frame during college, and that really never happened in any meaningful way. And while you don’t want your guys taking penalties, Miettinen really struggled to win battles along the boards and always shied away from the physical side of things.
It feels like he’ll head back to Finland and figure out things instead.

Cade Webber, LHD, 23

Prediction: Will Sign
Cade Webber (Rich Gagnon/Boston University)
This is the one most people are curious about, given the Leafs traded a draft pick for the 23-year-old to bring him into the system. Webber’s Boston University team was eliminated in the semifinal of the NCAA’s Frozen Four earlier this week, with the winning goal unfortunately getting shot right past Webber’s hand and through goaltender Mathieu Caron’s five-hole.
Webber’s game is well-defined. He’s a 6-foot-7 defensive defender who doesn’t deliver much offense – he had one goal and 16 points in 123 college games over four years – but blocks shots, can take space away and lay guys out. He’s not an overly physical player, but he can be when he needs to.
The fact that the Leafs traded an asset for someone who was set to become a UFA this summer means they clearly have an interest in him. There are plenty of scouts who don’t see him ever becoming a full-time NHLer, with many others confused as to why the Leafs would bother throwing a pick away, but the fact is that he can be a huge boost to the Toronto Marlies’ blueline as quickly as next year. He’s got solid shutdown potential, having been named Hockey East’s best defensive defenseman for this season. One-dimensional defenders are a rarity in the NHL these days, but you also just don’t find guys with his build often, either.

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