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The Leafs didn’t end up selecting a player on the opening night of the NHL draft after trading their 2021 first-round pick to Columbus in the @Nick Foligno trade – a pick the Blue Jackets used to select defenseman Corson Ceulemans – but there are still plenty of intriguing names on the board heading into day two. The Leafs currently own the 57th overall selection which will be the 25th pick in the second round.
Last week, I identified 10 potential options for the Leafs with their second-round pick but a few of those players ended up being selected in the first round.
Though the big names are off the board, there is still plenty of value to be found in the second round of the draft. You don’t have to look around the NHL for very long to see that plenty of high-end talent comes from beyond the first round of the NHL draft and the Leafs have a chance to add a significant piece to their prospect pipeline at 57th overall.
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With the Leafs on the clock with the 25th pick in the second round, here are the top 25 prospects left on my board heading into the second day of the NHL Draft:
Be sure to check out TLN’s consolidated draft rankings compiled by Jon Steitzer:
Aatu Räty | My rank: 13 | TLN consolidated rank: 23
C | 6’2″ | 185 lbs | Kärpät (Liiga)
It was a tough year for Räty after entering the year in contention to be the first overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft. He was sent down to Kärpät’s U20 squad for a stint and was cut from the Finnish World Junior team after playing in the tournament the prior season.
Despite his dramatic fall in the draft, Räty still has the potential to be a solid middle-six center in the NHL. He skates well and impacts the game in transition, he plays with some physicality, and he has a heavy shot. There are still a lot of questions about his overall ceiling but he could end up being the steal of the draft.
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Simon Robertsson | My rank: 17 | TLN consolidated rank: 25
W | 6’0″ | 190 lbs | Skellefteå (SHL)
Robertsson struggled to produce at the men’s level but he racked up nine goals and 11 assists in just 15 J20 Nationell games. He also suited up for Sweden at the recent U18 World Championships, tallying four points in seven games.
A pure shooter, Robertsson can beat goaltenders in a variety of ways. His release is quick and his one-timer is heavy, but he still needs to improve his off-puck reads to create better opportunities for himself. He has decent straight-line speed but he isn’t overly agile, limiting his effectiveness as a puck carrier. If he can continue to round out his game, he has potential as a two-way scoring winger.
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Nikita Chibrikov | My rank: 20 | TLN consolidated rank: 21
W | 5’10” | 170 lbs | SKA (MHL)
Chibrikov’s regular season production left something to be desired but he was a force at the U18s, finishing fourth in tournament scoring with 13 points in seven games.
Chibrikov’s game is all about skill. He is a smooth skater that can elude defenders with quick changes of direction and slick dekes. He has good vision, and can manipulate passing lanes with his hands and head fakes before firing a pass to a teammate. He does still have a tendency to play on the outside a bit too much, however, and improving that part of his game will unlock his offensive potential at the next level.
Francesco Pinelli | My rank: 21 | TLN consolidated rank: 20
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C | 6’0″ | 185 lbs | Kitchener (OHL)
With the OHL season on hold, Pinelli joined HDD Jesenice of the Slovenian professional league. He put up 11 points in 13 games and wrapped up his season by recording 11 points in seven games on his way to a gold medal with Canada at the U18s.
Pinelli’s game is a bit understated but he is a very intelligent player who reads the game well. He is a strong passer and has a bit of gravitational pull with defenders, drawing them in before dishing to a teammate in space. He is a capable finisher as well but his skating is just average and I would like to see him be more engaged defensively. Even with his flaws, there is no doubt that he has the hockey sense to succeed at the next level.
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Logan Stankoven | My rank: 25 | TLN consolidated rank: 24
W | 5’8″ | 170 lbs | Kamploops (WHL)
Stankoven got into just six games in the shortened WHL season but he played a large role for Canada’s gold medal winning team at the U18 Worlds, picking up four goals and four assists in seven games.
Despite being undersized, Stankoven plays a tenacious game and his motor never stops running. He has one of the better shots in the draft class, able to beat goaltenders cleanly, and his playmaking ability showed improvement in limited action this season. Stankoven’s aggressiveness, heavy shot, and responsible defensive game are enticing but he will need to become a little more explosive to make up for his small stature.
Ville Koivunen | My rank: 26 | TLN consolidated rank: 34
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W | 5’11” | 161lbs | Kärpät (U20 SM-sarja)
Koivunen was an absolute force at Finland’s U20 level, scoring 23 goals and 26 assists in just 38 games. He also finished second in scoring for Finland at the U18s with four goals and six assists in seven contests.
Koivunen is a creative offensive player who processes the game well and has the skill to pull off difficult plays under pressure. He can take the puck to the net himself or he can draw in the defense before hitting a teammate for a scoring chance. His skating ability isn’t anything special for a player his size and his defensive game still needs work, but Koivunen has high-end offensive skill.
Tristan Broz | My rank: 29 | TLN consolidated rank: 37
C/W | 6’0″ 178 lbs | Fargo (USHL)
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Broz led the Fargo Force with 51 points in 54 games during the regular season before adding another 11 points in nine playoff contests.
Playing a cerebral offensive game, Broz lurks around the offensive zone hunting for pockets of space to make himself available for passes. He supports the play well in all three zones and is able to create advantages for his team in small area situations as a result. Broz is a strong passer, both in the offensive zone and off the rush. He sees his options early and moves the puck with efficiency, forcing defenders into rushed decisions. Broz’s shot is a plus tool as well and if he can add a bit more pace to his game, he could be an effective middle-six NHL forward.
Stanislav Svozil | My rank: 31 | TLN consolidated rank: 31
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LHD | 6’1″ | 182 lbs | Kometa Brno (Czech)
Svozil played most of his draft year in the Czech men’s league and wrapped up his campaign by representing his country at the U18 World Championships.
Svozil is a smooth-skating, defensive-minded defenseman that has some untapped puck-moving ability. He scans the play on retrievals and is able to elude forecheckers before uncorking a strong first pass. He reads the play well in the defensive zone and maintains good gaps in transition, disrupting rush chances with an active stick. There isn’t a ton of projectable offense in his game but he is a pretty safe bet to be a solid defensive blueliner at the NHL level.
Evan Nause | My rank: 32 | TLN consolidated rank: 35
LHD | 6’2″ | 186 lbs | Québec (QMJHL)
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Nause is a player who had a steady climb up draft boards through the course of the season, finishing with 22 points in 38 games with Québec of the QMJHL.
Possessing good size and defensive instincts, Nause is a strong skater that can quickly get play pointed in the right direction for his team. He uses his body well on puck retrievals and identifies his options before freeing up contested pucks for his teammates. His offensive game showed growth towards the end of the season but Nause’s calling card in the NHL will be his defensive game and puck-moving ability.
Samu Tuomaala | My rank: 34 | TLN consolidated rank: 39
W | 5’10” | 174 lbs | Kärpät (U20 SM-sarja)
Tuomaala was productive at Finland’s U20 level, piling up 26 points in just 17 games. He added seven goals and two assists over seven games in an impressive showing at the U18s.
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Tuomaala is an electrifying offensive talent with incredible skating ability and an even better shot. His speed was enough to overwhelm defenders at the junior level and he created plenty of chances off the rush as a result but he will have to diversify his attack in order to be successful at the next level. His development path could be a bit longer, but Tuomaala’s raw skills are undeniable.
Ayrton Martino | My rank: 35 | TLN consolidated rank: 42
W | 5’11” | 160 lbs | Omaha (USHL)
Martino had a monster season in the USHL, putting up 18 goals and 38 assists in just 38 games for Omaha.
He is an awkward skater but it hasn’t hindered him from putting his offensive skills on display to this point in his career. That is due in large part to how well he reads the play as he consistently finds himself in the right place at the right time to receive the puck with space in front of him. Martino is an outstanding passer and can finish off opportunities himself as well, but he could struggle to make an impact at the next level if he doesn’t improve his explosiveness and mobility.
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Peter Reynolds | My rank: 36 | TLN consolidated rank: 64
C | 5’10” | 167 lbs | Saint John (QMJHL)
Reynolds was a strong contributor for the Sea Dogs in his draft year, finishing the season with 15 goals and 16 assists in 33 games.
Reynolds is a smooth skater that just seems to make smart play after smart play. He scans the ice well both offensively and defensively with a good work rate away from the puck and supports the play all over the ice as well. He distributes the puck creatively and with intelligence, deceiving defenders to create lanes and find teammates through layers. His speed is a strength but he knows when to slow the game down and create more time and space off the rush. I’m a lot higher on Reynolds than many people are but I really believe in his hockey sense – something this Leafs regime puts a premium on at draft time.
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Aleksi Heimosalmi | My rank: 37 | TLN consolidated rank: 36
RHD | 5’11” | 170 lbs | Ässät (U20 SM-sarja)
Heimosalmi was a late riser this year and he really put himself on the map at the U18s where he finished with eight points in seven games.
The young Finnish defender is a strong skater with plenty of offensive upside yet to be realized. He likes to activate and join the rush and his skating ability has allowed him to create some highlight-reel plays against his peers. While he is active offensively, too often it looks as though he has no plan in the offensive end of the ice and he will need to improve his processing speed in that regard. Heimosalmi is still working to marry his strong skating with his ability to defend in transition but he has the tools to figure it all out in time.
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Daniil Chayka | My rank: 38 | TLN consolidated rank: 38
LHD | 6’3″ | 187 lbs | CSKA (KHL)
Chayka spent his draft year playing against men in the KHL with some time spent in the VHL. He didn’t produce much offensively but that isn’t where the value lies with the young Russian defender.
A defense-first blueliner, Chayka has a refined understanding of how to suppress offense. He skates well and engages physically, but doesn’t over-extend himself in the defensive zone. There are concerns about his vision and puck-moving ability and he can sometimes be too slow to identify his outlets. Chayka is never going to put up many points but the fact that he was able to hold his own in the second-best league in the world as a draft-eligible defenseman makes him a pretty safe pick.
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Samu Salminen | My rank: 40 | TLN consolidated rank: 54
C | 6’2″ | 186 lbs | Jokerit (U20 SM-sarja)
Salminen led Jokerit’s U20 squad with 26 points in just 17 games before adding another seven goals and two assists in seven games representing Finland at the recent U18 World Championships.
Salminen is a well-rounded offensive threat who possesses a good shot and the ability to get open in high-danger areas with consistency. He is equally as dangerous as a passer, manipulating coverages with quick fakes before finding a teammate in space. Though his defensive game requires some improvement, I don’t think it’s for lack of effort on his part and he clearly has the hockey IQ to grow in that area. Another player that might take a bit longer to develop, Salminen’s offensive toolkit could be worth the wait.
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Jack Bar | My rank: 41 | TLN consolidated rank: 67
RHD | 6’2″ | 193 lbs | Chicago (USHL)
Bar joined the Chicago Steel in the middle of the season and played a key role in their Clark Cup winning season, notching five goals and 10 assists in 34 games.
Bar has an enticing package of size and skating ability. He is elusive for his size and can shake defenders on the breakout before firing a quick pass or jumping into the rush to create an odd-man situation. He excels on puck retrievals, shaking off forecheckers before quickly advancing the play forward. He is a solid defender in transition, maintaining a tight gap and utilizing his reach, but needs to improve his lateral mobility as he continues his development. If it all clicks for Bar, he could turn into a low-end top-four defenseman but his floor feels pretty safe either way.
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Jack Peart | My rank: 42 | TLN consolidated rank: 33
LHD | 5’11” | 186 lbs | Fargo (USHL)
Peart tore up the Minnesota high school ranks to the tune of 11 goals and 24 assists in just 18 games but he was unable to make the same offensive impact in the USHL, finishing with just one goal and 14 assists in 24 games for Fargo.
Peart is a strong skater who puts his quick feet to use to generate speed through crossovers. He defends well, using his stick and body positioning to keep attackers at bay while scanning for threats in the defensive zone. He is strong on puck retrievals, utilizing shoulder checks to identify his options on the breakout before hitting a teammate with a quick and accurate feed. There is a lot to like about Peart’s game and he has all the makings of a modern-day, two-way defender in the NHL.
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Dylan Duke | My rank: 43 | TLN consolidated rank: 50
C/W | 5’10” | 175 lbs | U.S. U18 (USNTDP)
Duke had a big season with the USNTDP, scoring 29 goals and 20 assists in 50 games with the U18 squad. He added another five points in four games at the U18 World Championships.
Duke is a menace down low in the offensive zone and in front of the opposing net. He uses his body well to box out defenders to win puck battles and he has the quick hands to bury the puck in tight or find a teammate on the doorstep. Duke is a responsible defensive player and won’t cheat you on effort, but adding a bit more speed to his game would emphasize his skills on the forecheck and at the net front.
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Scott Morrow | My rank: 44 | TLN consolidated rank: 48
RHD | 6’2″ | 195 lbs | Shattuck (USHS-Prep)
Morrow was one of the more difficult players to get a read on this season as he piled up 48 points in 30 games against inferior competition at the US Prep level.
Morrow’s raw tools are evident. He is a great skater with good size and a nose for offense from the back end. His mobility shines in the offensive zone and defenders were often overmatched when trying to contain the Shattuck rearguard. There is some boom or bust potential with Morrow and he will have to prove that his game translates against more difficult competition, but his package of raw skills could prove difficult to pass up at this point in the draft.
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Olen Zellweger | My rank: 46 | TLN consolidated rank: 40
LHD | 5’9″ | 175 lbs | Everett (WHL)
Zellweger was a star in the shortened WHL campaign, racking up 13 points in 11 contests with the Everett Silvertips, but his real breakout came at the U18 World Championships where he put up eight points in seven games on the way to a gold medal with Canada.
Zellweger’s game is built on his exceptional skating ability. His stride is clean and efficient, his four-way mobility is elite, and he loves to activate on the rush. He recognizes lanes on the weak side and makes himself available in transition to push play in a positive direction for his team, but his in-zone offensive game still needs refinement. His skating allows him to maintain tight gaps in defensive transition and he can recover if an attacking forward gets a step on him. Zellweger is a fine puck-mover but improving his processing speed on retrievals and breakouts will really unlock his full potential as a top-four NHL defenseman.
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Matthew Knies | My rank: 47 | TLN consolidated rank: 41
W | 6’2″ | 210 lbs | Tri-City (USHL)
Knies was quite productive at the USHL level in 2020-21, registering 17 goals and 25 assists in 44 games with Tri-City.
The big-bodied forward plays a refined game, hunting pucks on the forecheck and displaying strong puck protection skills along the boards. Knies is a fine skater for his size and he plays a high-energy game, generating second chance opportunities through tireless effort but lacks the high-end puck skills to execute in tight spaces. He will chip in with a bit of offense at the next level but the strength of his game will be his ability to wreak havoc and retrieve pucks for his linemates.
Sean Behrens | My rank: 48 | TLN consolidated rank: 44
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LHD | 5’10” | 177 lbs | U.S. U18 (USNTDP)
Behrens was a big part of a strong USNTDP U18 team and finished the season with 35 points in 46 games before tacking on another four points in five games at the U18 World Championships.
Behrens is an elite puck-mover who holds off forecheckers with his eyes like a quarterback does while dissecting pass coverages. He has a good feel for drawing in the opposition before changing the angle on his pass to feed the puck through an open lane on the breakout. Behrens controls the play well at the offensive blue line with good footwork and lateral movement, all the while scanning the play for his best option. His intelligence, skating ability, and offensive vision could see him blossom into a top-four defenseman in the NHL.
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William Strömgren | My rank: 49 | TLN consolidated rank: 46
W | 6’3″ | 175 lbs | MODO (Allsvenskan)
Strömgren struggled to produce in HockeyAllsvenskan with just nine points in 27 games but he scored at a good clip in Sweden’s lower levels. He tallied 18 points in 14 games with MODO’s J20 team and added 12 points in 11 contests with Örnsköldsvik of HockeyEttan.
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Strömgren’s hands are lightning quick and he often seems to be a step ahead in one on one situations, routinely dancing around defenders with creative dekes. He does suffer from a bit of tunnel vision at times, however, and can try to do too much on his own. When he takes the time to scan the ice, he is a capable distributor who can find teammates in space with slick feeds. He has a decent shot and can finish off opportunities he creates for himself but improved off-puck reads will lead to a wider variety of scoring chances for him. He is a fine skater but the overall pace of his game needs to improve as he often looks disengaged without the puck on his stick. The lack of consistency and the flaws in his game are concerning, but Strömgren’s upside as a scoring winger in the NHL make him worthy of a swing early on the second day of the NHL draft.
Benjamin Gaudreau | My rank: 50 | TLN consolidated rank: 49
G | 6’2″ | 175 lbs | Sarnia (OHL)
Gaudreau missed out on a regular season as the OHL never got going, but he made up for lost time with a strong performance at the U18 World Championships. His 2.20 goals against average and .919 save percentage through five games helped lead Canada to a gold medal and earned him Top Goaltender honors for the tournament.
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Gaudreau is an athletic goalie with great quickness in his movements. He is a strong skater for the position and has the ability to react in short order to make desperation saves. There is a fine line between being athletic and being overactive in the crease, however, and Gaudreau is still working to find that balance. He manages his angles well but can sometimes be too aggressive, leaving him vulnerable to back door plays. Goaltenders can be difficult to get a read on at the best of times, and it is only made more challenging by the fact that Gaudreau’s season consisted of five games at the U18s, but the potential he has displayed over a small sample size will make him an enticing prospect early on the second day of the draft.
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Ryder Korczak | My rank: 51 | TLN consolidated rank: 58
C | 5’11” | 174 lbs | Moose Jaw (WHL)
Korczak entered the season as a potential first-round pick but his play didn’t take a significant step forward in the abbreviated WHL season. He scored just three goals but managed to add 13 assists in 17 games with Moose Jaw.
Korczak is a skilled puck handler and creative passer with good skating ability. He has a clean stride with quick feet and can execute plays with pace. He strings moves together to create passing lanes and he has the passing ability to find teammates through layers, making him especially effective on the powerplay. Korczak struggles to play through traffic, however, and will need to become less reliant on playing on the perimeter as he progresses to the professional ranks.
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(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)