Leafs Prospect Update: October 11, 2015

Now that the NHL regular season is underway and all of the organization’s prospects have returned to their respective junior and club teams, it’s about that time we kick off another year of weekly prospects updates.

When I joined TLN, this was my gig – prospect reports. Looking back, I spent my first year fawning over Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors and not a whole lot else. In my first ever TLN article, I wrote about Rielly, Joshua Leivo, Stuart Percy and Garret Sparks – not because they were doing anything remarkable, but because they were the best prospects in the organization. 

Fast track to today, and we can see just how far this group has come. Rielly is on his way to becoming a legitimate top pairing talent, while Leivo, Percy, and Sparks are all pro hockey players with the Toronto Marlies. The good news is that none of the latter three are considered top prospects any longer, having been passed over by a number of extremely talented kids that the Leafs have since drafted or acquired by trade. The organization has as good a prospect pool as it has ever had, and that’s why following them closely this year will be such a blast.

Let’s get started…

QMJHL Prospects Off to Hot Start

Two of Toronto’s three QMJHL prospects, Rouyn-Noranda’s Martins Dzierkals and Dmytro Timashov, have kicked off their respective seasons with strong offensive showings.

Dzierkals especially has looked good. Drafted by the Leafs in the third round of June’s Draft out of the Russia’s MHL junior league, Dzierkals was drafted by the Huskies in the CHL Import Draft and has put up 13 points in eight games so far. In October alone, Dzierkals is enjoying a five-game point streak with five goals and five assists. 

Of course, this is the QMJHL we’re talking about, so Dzierkals’ 13-in-8 stat line is only good for 17th in league scoring (14th if you calculate points-per-game). Still, the 5’11 winger was a relative unknown when he showed up to begin his North American hockey career. If he keeps these numbers up all year, Dzierkals’ stock could rise dramatically from fringe player to legit prospect.

With the Quebec Remparts, fellow 2015 draftee Timashov has also gotten off to a quick start. In six games, Timashov has scored three goals and nine points. That’s good for only 58th in the QMJHL, but that jumps to 20th if you calculate by points-per-game. Point is, at the end of the season we’re going to see both Dzierkals and Timashov cementing themselves as two of the best forwards in the league.

What’s up in the O?

While the Leafs’ Quebec-based prospects are scoring at will, Toronto’s OHL prospects are off to a noticeably slower start.

In London, J.J. Piccinich appears to be acclimatizing to Canadian junior hockey quite well after leaving Boston University and the NCAA behind this past summer. In four games, Piccinich has two goals and six points – likely having to do with the fact that Piccinich was enjoying some increased opportunity while the Knights waited on several of their top players to return from NHL camps. 

Speaking of, Mitch Marner has scored ‘only’ four points in his four games since returning to London. It’s not characteristic of Marner to not score a bazillion points, but it’s hardly time to panic (it’ll probably never be time to panic). Marner should compete for the OHL scoring title the year, but catching up to Erie’s Alex DeBrincat (10 goals, 13 points in five games) should be quite the challenge in itself.

For the Sarnia Sting, Nikita Korostelev has six points in eight games. Respectable, but Korostelev will need to pick up the pace if he wants to comfortably improve on last season’s stat line of 53 points in 55 games. With New Jersey prospect Pavel Zacha and 2016 top prospect Jakob Chychrun to help out, it would be pretty shocking if Korostelev doesn’t easily break a point-per-game pace.

Travis Dermott in Erie is off to a similarly slow start, with only three assists in six games (and two of those coming in the season opener). This is a bit of a surprise, considering the Otters are the league’s best offensive team so far in this young season. But again, you can’t be too worried about the production yet – Dermott figures to be one of the top offensive defenders in the OHL this season.

And elsewhere…

  • Stephen Desrocher (Oshawa) has seven points in seven games. All of last season, the 2015 sixth round pick only scored 23 points in 66 games – so, that’s a great start.
  • Andreas Johnson has four goals and seven points in eight games. Johnson, 21, scored 35 points in 55 games last season. If he can show even more growth this season, it’s not unrealistic to think that Johnson could step into the NHL as soon as next season.
  • The NCAA season kicked off for Tony Cameranesi, Dominic Toninato, Jeremy Bracco and Nolan Vesey this weekend. Cameranesi was the only one to find the scoresheet, picking up a single assist.
  • Gary Empey

    Andrew Nielsen
    Defense — shoots R
    Born Nov 13 1996 — Red Deer, ALTA
    [18 yrs. ago]
    Height 6.03 — Weight 207

    Playing six games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes he has 3 goals two assists for a plus 4. With 18 minutes in penalties.

    • giproc

      Nielsen is often overlooked in most comparisons of the prospects since he’s not the flashy type but he’s big, strong and better on his skates than I expected. He reads the play well, makes good decisions and even Babcock named him as one of the rookies who impressed him with a fine prospect/rookie camp.

      I can easily seem him rising through the depth chart once he completes his stint in the juniors and a year or two with the Marlies.

  • giproc

    Watching Leafs prospects this season and having them excite us may be our avenue to get through this season.I agree that this is perhaps their largest talent pool knocking on the door to break into the big league.I can envision Bibeau,Dermott,Loov,Percey,Nylander,Kapanen,Brown,Gauthier,Marner and others playing in the NHL soon. As far as the big club, watching and hoping that Riley,Gardiner,Bernier,JVR,Kadri and Harrington improve under Babcock and take their game to the next level.If anything with the offseason changes and direction the organization is heading, we are getting more respect from media. There appears to be a light at the end of that tunnel.

  • giproc

    Dzierkals is not at all the way described, ‘fringe’, etc. I would compare him to him to Kopitar in this sense: they had no one to play with in their home country, yet were the best in Europe the first time they played outside their country.
    Since the Draft is first and foremost about ‘potential’, these two are the epitome of players with high floors and untapped potential to reach much higher ceiling.
    He may never become first line, but he will become top-six on a playoff team.

    • Dzierkals did not crack our Top 20 prospects, so I’m comfortable considering him a fringe prospect for now.

      And it’s not like Dzierkals played hockey in Latvia up until now. He was in Russia, and not on a KHL team.

      That’s pretty optimistic to say he’ll certainly become a top-six on a playoff team.