It’s a special Sunday edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect roundup as we are just one day away from the trade deadline. Over the past week, there have been numerous rumours and rumblings involving various Leafs prospects in addition to what is a busy time of the year on the ice.
With so much to get to in today’s roundup, let’s just get right into things.
The Rumour Mill
Most trade deadline coverage for the Leafs revolves around the potential incoming players to help bolster the roster for the playoffs, but here on the prospect roundup, we look at the other side.
It has been repeatedly said that GM Kyle Dubas does not want to trade Toronto’s first-round pick this year OR their top prospects. It has been suggested that this group would include @Nicholas Robertson, Topi Niemela, and Matt Knies, with Harvard standout Nick Abruzzese potentially in that group as well.
So far, we’ve seen high prices for deadline pieces, with the likes of @Brandon Hagel and @Hampus Lindholm costing multiple assets. If Dubas wants to land a big fish, he may have to pony up that coveted first-round pick.
I will say that if Dubas were to move one of the aforementioned assets, I would imagine it would be the first-round pick. The likes of Robertson, Niemela, Knies, and Abruzzese are all much closer to contributing to the NHL roster than a late 2022 first-round selection. For a team that will be needing entry-level players to make an impact in the coming years, that’s an important distinction.
Darren Dreger put a fascinating report out suggesting the Chicago Blackhawks and Leafs were discussing a trade that would include @Marc-Andre Fleury and Brandon Hagel heading to Toronto. This offer was reportedly turned down by Toronto due to the enormous asking price: top prospect Matt Knies and multiple first-round picks (@Petr Mrazek would have also been included).
It remains to be seen what will happen by the deadline, but at this point, I would be quite surprised to see one of the Leafs top futures moved.
While I believe Knies should return to Minnesota next year, Abruzzese is a perfect candidate to try out come the end of Harvard’s season. Despite being grouped in with the likes of 19-year-olds Matt Knies and Topi Niemela when discussing the Leafs top prospects, Abruzzese was drafted as an overage prospect and is already 22 years old, turning 23 this summer.
Dominating the ECAC for another season seems redundant to me for Abruzzese, so turning pro and having a go on the Leafs fourth line before the end of the season seems like a reasonable experiment to try. At the very least, spending time with the Marlies to end this season would be a big benefit. He had some very nice moments at the Olympics and could be a nice fit on an offensive unit with someone like Jason Spezza.
Players to Watch
There are a few moves we could see prior to the deadline both for the Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies.
For starters, Kyle Dubas mentioned a few weeks ago that there are multiple players on AHL contracts that could be upgraded to NHL deals to provide depth down the stretch. The Leafs currently sit at 47 of 50 contract slots, so they will have to be cognizant of this if they plan to sign someone like Abruzzese or Knies to a contract for this season after the deadline.
Players must be signed to NHL contracts prior to the deadline to be playoffs eligible (unless they are on a reserve list like Abruzzese or Knies). We will likely see a flurry of waiver assignments and signings prior to the deadline as a result, and Toronto could be involved.
The likes of Josh Ho-Sang, Antti Suomela, and Joe Blandisi are all candidates to be upgraded to NHL contracts be insurance policies the rest of the season. As it stands, Toronto has just three genuine recall options at forward with the Marlies in @Brett Seney, @Alex Steeves, and @Joey Anderson. I could see them looking to sign another forward just to be safe. Note that any of those players would not need entry waivers to the NHL, but would require regular waivers to return to the Marlies roster.
It was reported by Elliotte Friedman in 32 Thoughts
that 24-year-old Marlies defenceman @Joseph Duszak is looking for a fresh start. After spending parts of the past two weeks at forward and now back on defence, he’s someone we could see moved at the deadline or included in a deadline acquisition.
The other Marlies defenceman looking for a fresh start is @Brennan Menell. It was reported by Steve Dangle last night that the Leafs are looking to move Menell, a promising offseason addition from the Minnesota Wild with strong AHL and KHL production, whose season was derailed early due to injury. Turning 25 in May, Menell could be someone moved to free up a contract slot for a conditional late-round pick.
Let’s get to the busy world that is the NCAA hockey scene right now.
The NCAA tournament begins next week, with seeding and regional matchups confirmed later on Sunday. We’ll have a full preview of the tournament coming later this week here on The Leafs Nation. Here’s how all of the Leafs prospects faired in their conference playoffs:
- Matt Knies and Mikey Koster were defeated in the Big Ten championship game as #1 Minnesota fell to #2 Michigan 4-3. Knies scored two goals in the final minute of the championship game, while Koster was on the end of a rough own goal against. They’ll look for redemption in the NCAA tournament.
- Nick Abruzzese and John Fusco were crowned ECAC champions on Saturday as #3 Harvard prevailed in overtime against #1 Quinnipiac. Abruzzese was a beast for the Crimson in the playoffs, seven points in five games. His four-primary point night in the semis against #2 Clarkson is probably the best game of his season. With the victory, Harvard will head to the NCAA tournament.
- UConn and Ryan Tverberg made it all the way to the Hockey East final, losing to UMass in overtime on Saturday night. As a result, they will not play in the NCAA tournament and Tverberg’s 2021/22 season has come to an end. It was a phenomenal breakout year for Tverberg, scoring 32 points in 35 games and earning a look at Team Canada’s camp at the World Juniors. Not bad for a seventh-round pick out of the OJHL less than two years ago.
- As noted in last week’s roundup, Veeti Miettinen and St. Cloud State were upset in the quarterfinals against Minnesota Duluth. They will still be heading to the NCAA tournament.