This past week was another rough one for the Leafs, and with Sheldon Keefe searching for anything that could help get his club going, we saw the NHL debut of another Leafs prospect.
Filip Král, drafted in the fifth round back in 2018, was recalled to the Leafs and made his NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. He skated on a pair alongside steadying veteran presence Mark Giordano, seeing just under 12 minutes of ice time and finishing with a +1 rating. He was back in the same spot on Sunday night against the Ducks but played just over eight minutes in another game that ended up slipping through the Leafs’ collective hands.
There were promising flashes from Král in the first two games of his NHL career. He showed an ability to quickly retrieve pucks below his own goal line and make the proper read in a timely fashion in order to start the breakout – something that the Leafs’ defenders have struggled with so far this season. But there were also a few instances where Král bobbled the puck or telegraphed passes that were easy to disrupt, leading to turnovers.
All in all, the young Czech blueliner held his own in his first taste of NHL action and showed potential as a serviceable puck-mover on the back end. Král is still a ways down the depth chart when everyone is healthy, but through stints in the Czech pro league as well as the AHL with the Marlies, he has grown into a depth option for the Leafs at the NHL level.
Ryan Tverberg | C/W | UConn (NCAA)
Tverberg earned his fair share of accolades in what was a breakout season for him in 2021-22. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2020 draft, his big season with UConn helped to establish him as a prospect with legitimate NHL potential. His 14 goals led the Huskies, and he finished just one point back of the team scoring lead with 32 points in 36 games.
Thrust into an even more prominent role in his junior season, Tverberg has responded in a big way through the early part of the season. He picked up a pair of goals to go along with an assist in UConn’s only game last week and now has six goals in his last four games. For the season, he is already halfway to last season’s total of 14 goals in just nine games.
Tverberg now leads the Huskies in scoring and sits inside the top 15 in points among all NCAA players so far this season. The continued offensive growth is an encouraging sign for a player who already possessed a style of play that offered a relatively safe floor. An energetic, hard-hitting forward who competes all over the ice, Tverberg does a lot of little things well and has found a way to generate more offense as he continues to develop.
Now in his junior season, Tverberg is a prime candidate to turn pro and sign an entry level contract with the Leafs next spring. Regardless of when he signs, he will be a welcomed addition to the system as a player who can create energy and offense, even in a lesser role.
Dennis Hildeby | G | Färjestad (SHL)
Hildeby came into the season slotted behind Matt Tomkins on Färjestad’s goaltending depth chart but started in two of their first five games of the SHL season as the club looked to have their two goaltenders sharing the crease. Unfortunately for Hildeby, both of those starts went poorly as he allowed a combined eight goals against on just 51 shots.
He did get back into the net for a handful of Champions League contests and fared well but went six SHL games without a start before Tomkins went down with an injury. Hildeby went on to play each of Färjestad’s next three games, including two this past week, stopping 92 of 96 shots on his way to three straight victories, bringing his season numbers to 3-2-0 with a 2.33 GAA and a .918 SV%.
Tomkins returned from injury and got the start on Saturday, giving up three goals on 29 shots in a losing effort, perhaps opening the door further for Hildeby to claim more of the starter’s workload moving forward. Hildeby has started just five SHL games this season compared to Tomkins’ 10, but Hildeby now owns the better numbers, both in the SHL and in Champions League play.
Already under contract with the Leafs, Hildeby was loaned back to Färjestad to continue his development and receive ample playing time – something that wouldn’t have been a guarantee in a crowded Marlies’ crease. Now, it appears he has played his way back into a regular rotation at the very least, and continuing his strong play over the next few months could set him up to join the Marlies and make his North American debut later this spring if all goes well.
Nikita Grebyonkin | W | Amur Khabarovsk (KHL)
It has been already been an interesting season for Grebyonkin after he was selected by the Leafs in the fifth round of last summer’s draft. He began the year on Magnitogorsk’s KHL roster, but their wealth of talent and forward depth made it difficult for him to earn significant ice time. Grebyonkin was on Magnitogorsk’s roster for 12 games but only saw action in seven of those contests, and he played fewer than three minutes in six of those games.
With no place for Grebyonkin in their KHL lineup, Magnitogorsk loaned him to Amur in early October in an effort to get him more playing time. After registering a goal and two assists in four games with Amur’s VHL club, he was recalled to the KHL and has played a prominent role through four games with his new team.
Following his debut in which he was held off the scoresheet in just under 15 minutes of ice time, Grebyonkin registered his first two KHL assists while playing over 21 minutes in a 4-3 overtime loss. He would tack on the first goal of his KHL career the next time out and currently has three points in his first four games with Amur.
Grebyonkin’s three points currently have him just two shy of the top-scoring U20 player in the KHL, but it is worth noting that each player ahead of him on the list has seen significantly more action at Russia’s top level. It was a bit of a disjointed start to the season for Grebyonkin, but he has taken advantage of his new opportunity with Amur early on and looks to be settling into a key role with his new club.
Notes from the rest of the prospect pool
- Fraser Minten picked up where he left off last week and continues to get his name on the scoresheet for Kamloops. He tallied a pair of assists on Friday night in a 5-1 win over Spokane and followed that up with a goal and two assists the next night, once again in a winning effort over the Chiefs. Minten now has at least a point in each game so far this season, totaling three goals and seven assists through five contests.
- Matt Knies scored his fifth goal of the season in a weekend split against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He now has seven points in eight games to start the season.
- Roni Hirvonen scored his third goal of the season this past week, but he has been in a bit of a slump as of late, now with just that single point in his last seven games.
- The Chicago Steel had just one game last week, but it was a good one for 2022 third-rounder Nick Moldenhauer. He scored a goal and two assists, bringing him to 10 goals and six assists through 11 games – good enough for a share of the USHL scoring lead with teammate Jayden Perron.
- Ty Voit was held without a point for the first time all season on Friday night but responded with three assists against Hamilton on Saturday to maintain his lead in the OHL scoring race. He’s got 24 points in just 12 games.
- Semyon Der-Arguchintsev had a great week for the Marlies. He had two points, including his first goal of the season on Wednesday, and added an assist in each of the next two games, all of which were victories for the Marlies. SDA currently has five points in seven games on the season.
- Nick Abruzzese had just one point in three games last week, but it just so happened to an OT winner for his second goal of the campaign.
- Mikhail Abramov missed training camp and the beginning of the AHL season while recovering from an injury but returned to the lineup last week and registered a pair of assists in Friday’s overtime win against Syracuse.
- Joey Anderson is barely clinging to “prospect” status but he had a strong week as well, scoring two goals on Wednesday before adding two more on Friday. It capped off a span of six goals in three games for Anderson.
- Veeti Miettinen hasn’t been finding the net as often as he would like but he has been productive, and scored his second goal of the season last week to give him seven points in eight games.
- Braeden Kressler has been on fire since returning from injury and had a career-high four points in a big win over Saginaw last week. He followed that up with another two goal effort and now has six goals and three assists through just four games.
- Axel Rindell has been out with an injury but was assigned to Newfoundland of the ECHL on a conditioning stint last week. He scored two goals and an assist in two games and should rejoin the Marlies sometime this week.
- Artur Akhtyamov started three games this past week, bookended by a 29 save shutout last Tuesday and a 29 save effort in a 2-1 OT loss on Sunday. He now owns a .932 SV% through 14 games with Neftyanik this season.
- Joe Miller has started his NCAA career in a favourable situation, lining up on the right side of Harvard’s top line alongside fellow Chicago Steel alumni Matt Coronato and Sean Farrell. He went scoreless in his debut but scored his first collegiate goal and added a pair of assists against Princeton on Saturday.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)