Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Tverberg tees off on Belleville, Cowan keeps cruising, Grebyonkin stays hot: Leafs Prospect Roundup
By Nick Richard1 month ago
Ryan Tverberg’s stock has been rising with regular appearances in the Leafs Prospect Roundup over the last few weeks, and he stole the show with a career night against the Belleville Senators on Friday.
The Marlies have struggled mightily as of late, and with players like Nick Robertson and Pontus Holmberg vying for ice time with the big club, Tverberg has been thrust into a top six role alongside Kieffer Bellows, who has been scorching hot since joining the team. The Leafs’ 2020 seventh-rounder has taken advantage of the opportunity, showcasing his hardworking style of play and getting rewarded for it on the scoresheet. He entered Friday’s contest with seven points in his previous eight games but was still looking to break through in the goal column, and he certainly did that.
The game finished as a lopsided 8-0 victory for the Marlies, but it was only 3-0 after 40 minutes, and it was Tverberg who blew it open in the third period after tallying an assist on the game’s opening goal. His first goal came on the power play less than two minutes into the final frame to extend the lead to 4-0. He added his second on another power play near the midway point of the period, finishing off a nice feed from Max Ellis on an odd-man rush. He completed the natural hat trick of power play markers a few minutes later, hammering home a cross-ice pass from Kieffer Bellows. Tverberg wasn’t done there, however, and finished off his four-goal outing in the dying minutes of the third period, once again converting a slick dish from Bellows.
Scoring four goals in a game is a rare accomplishment all on its own, but the fact that every goal was a one-timer from the left faceoff circle made it even more remarkable.
Tverberg flashed impressive shooting ability in college, but it wasn’t a defining attribute for him. He typically found success by doing the same things that have endeared him to the Marlies’ coaching staff early in his pro career: playing a strong straight-line game, being tenacious on the forecheck, using his speed to put pressure on opposing defenders, getting to the dirty areas, and making high-percentage plays with the puck on his stick. If you’ve followed my coverage of the Leafs’ prospect pipeline over the last few years, you know that I’ve long believed those traits would make him a candidate for NHL minutes in the future, and his offensive surge in his rookie AHL season could elevate his place on the organizational depth chart sooner than anyone expected.
It’s still early in his career, and further seasoning is still in order for Tverberg, but he has been trending up ever since his freshman season at UConn, and it’s looking more and more like the Leafs nabbed an NHLer when they traded back into the seventh round to make the Richmond Hill native their 12th selection of the 2020 draft.
Notes from the rest of the prospect pool:
- It’s been a tough go for the Marlies, but Tverberg wasn’t the only one who got to pad the stat sheet in Friday’s eventful blowout win. Max Ellis had three points, Topi Niemelä added an assist to his ledger and now has points in four straight, William Villeneuve notched four helpers of his own, and Dennis Hildeby stopped 20 shots for his third shutout of the season after being reassigned by the Leafs on Wednesday. It was a rollercoaster week for the Leafs’ top goaltending prospect, going from the NHL to the AHL, being named to the AHL All-Star game alongside teammate Alex Steeves, and then picking up a shutout on Friday before getting chased in the first period after allowing three goals on 11 shots of Sunday’s rematch with Belleville. With rampant speculation that he could have been starting for the Leafs rather than the Marlies on Sunday, the timing of a rare poor outing for Hildeby was perhaps a bit fortuitous.
- A disappointing World Juniors was seemingly nothing more than a bump in the road in what has been an incredible season for Easton Cowan, and he kept piling up the points this past week as his London Knights kept piling up blowout wins. Cowan came away with a lone assist in a 9-2 win over Sarnia on Wednesday but followed that up with back-to-back three-point games against Saginaw and Owen Sound over the weekend. He now has four goals and seven assists in just five games since returning from his tour of duty with Team Canada and is up to 16 goals and 34 assists in 28 games for the season – good enough for the second-best points per game mark in the OHL behind Kraken prospect Carson Rehkopf.
- Fraser Minten has been paired with with fellow Leafs prospect Brandon Lisowsky since being traded to the Saskatoon Blades, and they’ve been a productive duo in the early going. In three games since returning from the World Juniors, Minten has registered five assists and now has 10 points through nine games with his new club. While Minten is still getting his feet wet with the Blades, Lisowsky has been a big part of their offensive attack for a long time, and he has been on fire in recent weeks. Lisowsky scored in all three games last week, adding two assists in the process, and now has 15 points in his last 10 games. Lisowsky’s exclusive signing rights expire this summer, but his play this season should earn him an ELC with the Leafs in the coming months. Continuing to establish chemistry with Minten won’t hurt, either.
- Nikita Grebyonkin put together back-to-back multi-point outings for Magnitogorsk last week, tallying a goal and two assists in a 5-3 win over Lokomotiv before adding two more goals in a victory over Sochi. The Leafs’ fifth-rounder from the 2022 draft has gone through cold stretches this season, and he has had to adjust to a different role on a better team than he played with as a rookie in the KHL, but he has been hot as of late with nine points in his last ten games. Grebyonkin’s skating could use some work, and he isn’t a defensive stalwart at this stage of his career, but he has smooth hands in tight, protects the puck well coming off the wall, and displays good vision in the offensive zone. With his KHL contract set to expire at the end of this season, he’s a player to watch for Leafs fans.
- Michigan was back in action after more than a month-long break in their schedule over the holidays, and Nick Moldenhauer hit the ground running with an impressive showing in a weekend series against Stonehill College. Stonehill was significantly overmatched as the Wolverines exploded for 19 goals in the two games, and Moldenhauer potted a goal and three assists in the offensive outburst. After a bit of a slow start, he has started to gain traction and is now up to four goals and nine assists in 20 games as a freshman.
- Regular readers of the Leafs Prospect Roundup are familiar with Noah Chadwick by now, but he keeps forcing his way into the conversation. He scored his eighth goal of the season to win Tuesday’s matchup with Spokane in overtime and notched an assist in a losing effort against Medicine Hat on Saturday. Chadwick is up to 33 points in 38 games so far this season, fourth-most among WHL defenders drafted in 2023.
- Braeden Kressler was traded to the Ottawa 67s back on January 6th, and he got off to a strong start with his new team. He tallied a pair of assists in his debut as Ottawa downed the Brantford Bulldogs in overtime on Friday and scored two goals in a win over Owen Sound on Saturday. In 36 games between Flint and Ottawa this season, the undrafted free agent signing has put up 17 goals and 24 assists. Look for him to join the Marlies whenever his OHL season comes to an end.
- Mike Koster has been playing catch up after missing the first part of the season with an injury, but he scored his first goal of the season for Minnesota on Saturday. Now in his senior year with the Gophers, Koster has registered eight points in 16 games while playing top four minutes on the back end. Like Lisowsky, his exclusive signing rights expire this summer, but his trek toward an entry-level contract might be more of an uphill battle.
- Joe Miller has flown under the radar since the Leafs selected him in the sixth round of the 2020 draft, but he has been productive over the last few seasons and has had a solid first half with Harvard in his sophomore season. With a goal and an assist over the weekend, the undersized forward is up to 12 points in 15 games. His pace is nearly identical to that of his freshman season, but Miller has been more of a focal point this season after Harvard lost a lot of firepower from last year’s team. Miller might never become an NHL player but there could be a path to a solid AHL career with his offensive skillset.
Statistics from EliteProspects.com, CHL.ca, & theAHL.com
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