Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
World Juniors debrief, Tverberg making an impact, Voit out for the year: Leafs Prospect Roundup
By Nick Richard1 month ago
A disappointing showing for Canada at the World Juniors came to a fitting end when a fortuitous bounce in the dying seconds of their quarterfinal matchup with Czechia led to their demise. After coming back from a 2-0 deficit and controlling play for most of the final two periods of the game, a pass attempt into the slot caught the skate off Oliver Bonk, leaving netminder Mathis Rousseau helpless as he watched the puck cross the goal line.
Fraser Minten was held off the scoresheet in Canada’s final game of the tournament, and his disappointment in the end result was palpable. Minten finished the tournament with a goal and two assists over five games, and the team could have used more from their captain, but he certainly wasn’t alone in that regard.
In hindsight, the Canadian coaching staff may feel that Minten was miscast – not as captain, but in the role he was asked to play. Known more for his mature and responsible two-way game, Minten was used on the wing in a top six role and never really found his footing in an offensive role. Given his strengths and style of play, never mind the fact that he played NHL games at centre this season, it’s reasonable to wonder if Minten could have been deployed more efficiently at the World Juniors.
Despite an underwhelming performance on the big stage, this tournament won’t define Minten’s career, and it shouldn’t materially change his NHL projection. He was never likely to become a consistent offensive driver, but the traits that landed him on the Canadian roster and earned him the honour of wearing the C still project well to the NHL, where he could fill a third line role as early as next season. For now, Minten will return to Saskatoon in hopes of leading the Blades on a deep run in the WHL playoffs.
Easton Cowan has already returned to play with the London Knights, and he has picked up where he left off before the World Juniors. Following a rocky start, the quarterfinal loss to the Czechs was his best game of the tournament. He played with energy and physicality, had a couple of quality looks, made a great one-touch pass to spring Nashville prospect Matthew Wood for Canada’s first goal of the contest, and set up three or four more dangerous chances for his teammates with Canada pushing for a go-ahead goal in the final frame.
Cowan carried that momentum back to London, notching a goal and two assists in his first game back before tallying another goal in a 5-3 win over Mississauga on Saturday. Cowan now has 14 goals and 29 assists in just 25 games for the Knights so far this season – good enough for fourth in team scoring despite playing at least 11 fewer games than the three players ahead of him.
Unlike Minten, Cowan could have a shot at World Junior redemption a year from now. Aside from 2024 draft-eligible Macklin Celebrini, Cowan was the youngest player on the team this time around, and he should return in a leadership role on next year’s squad, assuming he doesn’t make the Leafs out of camp.
Notes from the rest of the prospect pool:
- The Marlies have hit a rough patch as of late, losing each of their last seven games, and Topi Niemelä went cold in the process. After five games without a point, Niemelä registered an assist in each of the two games over the weekend, but it wasn’t enough to help the Marlies end their losing streak. The 2020 third-rounder has been one of the Marlies’ better players all season as he has continued to adjust to the North American game, but their goaltending and lack of scoring talent has landed them near the bottom of the AHL’s North Division at the midway point of the season. There is still plenty of room for growth from Niemelä, but 19 points in 29 games for a rookie defender on a bad team is nothing to sneeze at.
- Ryan Tverberg continued his impressive rookie season with the Marlies this past week. He has been productive since returning from an injury that forced him to miss close to a month and a half of action, and he added three more assists over three games last week. Tverberg has moved around the lineup, playing both centre and wing, but has found a way to make an impact no matter where head coach John Gruden has slotted him in. He has only found the back of the net twice, but he is now up to 13 points in just 16 games for the Marlies this season.
- Last week, I speculated on the severity of Ty Voit’s latest injury, but it is now official, and the 2021 fifth-rounder will miss the rest of his first professional season as he recovers from a shoulder injury suffered in his first AHL game. It is a significant setback for the diminutive Voit, but he showed off his offensive skill in a brief audition with the Newfoundland Growlers, notching eight points in just five games, and he will be looking to stay healthy and replicate that success over a full AHL schedule next season.
- Noah Chadwick has had a breakout year for Lethbridge after being selected by the Leafs in the sixth round last summer, and he had his most productive game of the season when the Hurricanes defeated Swift Current by a score of 6-3 on Wednesday. He picked up four assists in the contest and now has seven goals and 24 assists in just 35 games this season. Chadwick now sits ninth in scoring among WHL defencemen and continues to trend upward.
- Playing time has been tough to come by for Vyacheslav Peksa in his first season in North America, and he has struggled mightily when called upon, but he had his best outing to date when the Growlers defeated the Utah Grizzlies on Friday. Peksa stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced to pick up his first win since his ECHL debut back in October and now owns a 4.38 GAA and a .865 SV% through six appearances for Newfoundland.
- Mike Koster missed the first bit of his senior season with Minnesota, but his game is rounding into shape in recent weeks. He is playing in a top four role with some time on the power play, and with two assists in a losing effort to Colorado on Sunday, he has registered seven assists through 13 games thus far. Whether or not he will earn an entry-level deal with the Leafs remains to be seen, but a strong second half with the Gophers could tip the scales in his favour.
Statistics from EliteProspects.com & theAHL.com
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