This upcoming season for the Leafs will no doubt be one of the most exciting we have seen in decades. And that excitement should trickle down throughout the system to all of our young prospects that were drafted this past June.
During the draft weekend in June, the Leafs selected nine young players to add to their prospect pool. Nine players that will be playing all over the globe, in various levels and leagues. Hopefully that Dubas magic can make every one of them have stellar 2018-19 seasons.
Most of the attention will be paid towards the NHL level for the Leafs, but let’s see where these nine players will be playing and what their role could be within their club.
After trading down from the 25th-overall pick, Dubas and the Leafs management selected Swedish defenceman Rasmus Sandin out of the Soo Greyhounds.
There is an obvious connection between Dubas and the Greyhounds, so the pick was probably the most predictable of them all. But there is also a side connection that not many people have thought of. Sandin’s club in Sweden that he was able to play five games for last season, is Rogle BK. The same organization that Leafs prospect Timothy Liljegren played for three seasons before his draft year.
Sandin will be attending training camp with the Leafs next month – after that, there is still a lot up in the air right now.
One thing is for sure though, it was reported earlier that Sandin will not be going back to the Greyhounds. Therefore, it’s between going back to Sweden and playing in the SHL for Rogle BK, or coming to North America and playing with the Marlies as an 18-year-old.
If he plays for Rogle BK, I am sure that the front office will be keeping a close eye on his development and usage throughout the SHL season. But if he will make the jump to the Marlies, all of that will be much easier and they will have a direct hand on his development.
Either way, Sandin is going to be playing professional hockey next season and can potentially have a big influence on either club.
Taken as an overage defenceman, Sean Durzi has one of the more interesting options among his draft peers. Since his birthday is in between the September 15th draft cutoff and the December 31st AHL eligibility cutoff, Durzi has his choices.
He can play his fourth year with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL – surely playing tons of minutes for a contending team and racking up the points – or he can play in the AHL. He has not signed an NHL contract yet, so it is still very uncertain.
On the Marlies, he will be behind Liljegren and Subban on the right-side and will most likely not play very important minutes. So the question is if the Leafs really want him to forego his overage year in the OHL and play on the Marlies, to have a limited role.
Either be “The Guy” with Owen Sound and potentially lead scoring by defenceman in the OHL, or be a 19-year-old defenceman in the AHL most likely not getting powerplay time and on the third pair.
The youngest player taken in the 2018 NHL Draft and the best-sounding, center Semyon Der-Arguchintsev will hopefully see a lot of ice-time with the Peterborough Petes this season.
“SDA” is the first player that his destination is no mystery. He will be playing for the Petes in the 2018-19 season, and Peterborough fans should be so excited. Extremely talented with the puck on his stick and one of the most elusive skaters in the OHL, Der-Arguchintsev has the potential to have a giant year.
Although he did only have 12 goals and 51 points in 68 games last year, considering that if he was born a day later he would have to be in the 2019 NHL Draft, that is pretty damn good for such a young skater.
Most likely playing with undrafted winger Pavel Gogolev, SDA can have a deadly sniper on his wing that scored 27 even-strength goals last season.
Just watch this, please:
He is basically the Russian Mitch Marner that can actually play center in the OHL.
An interesting pick in the draft, Riley Stotts was selected in the third round at 83rd overall from the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Making him the fourth-in-a-row pick taken from a CHL system and the first from a non-OHL team.
Stotts was traded mid-season last year from the Swift Current Broncos to the Calgary Hitmen. Fortunately for Stotts and the Hitmen, he absolutely caught fire when he arrived in Calgary. This was most likely because he was stuck too far down the depth chart in Swift Current – sitting behind 100+ point centers like Glenn Gawdin and Aleksi Heponiemi can do that.
He was only able to score two goals and one assist in his 22 games with the Broncos, simply abysmal. But with the Hitmen, Stotts was able to score 17 goals and 24 assists in 47 games; a massive improvement for the centerman.
If Stotts is able to continue this success with Calgary next season, he may have a little bit of a breakout year if he gets the right amount of opportunity. There are a lot of “ifs” with him in Calgary, but we should all be excited for the Leafs prospect.
Another pick that Dubas was more familiar with from the Soo Greyhounds is Mac Hollowell. The 5’9″ right-handed defenceman was able to play down the depth chart on the powerhouse Greyhounds in the OHL this year.
Another overage pick, Hollowell’s path is a little more certain than Durzi’s. He was stuck behind top prospect Conor Timmins on the right-side of the blueline all year with the Greyhounds and now that Timmins has graduated out of the OHL, it is Hollowell’s time to get that icetime and have a massive impact on the continued success of the Greyhounds.
Hollowell was already top-10 in primary points for both even-strength and the powerplay last season – he can simply make plays happen by himself.
Here is a beautiful play as an example:
— william nylander's burner account (@DylanFremlin) June 29, 2018
If Hollowell was able to score at the rate he did last year on the second pairing, imagine what he could do with that extra five-or-so minutes on the ice. He is someone to look out for.
Another late-round CHL blueliner pickup from Dubas and co. – Filip Kral had an excellent year in the WHL for the Spokane Chiefs last season. His raw point totals don’t exactly back that notion up (9 goals and 26 assists in 54 games), but when it came to some zone tracking, Kral excelled.
Leafs take Filip Kral, yet another one of my favourites. Above-average offence and transition numbers. He was one of the very best NZ defenders I tracked all season — and he did it playing on his off side. pic.twitter.com/yF31TnOuaH
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) June 23, 2018
Seen here, in the eight games that Mitch Brown tracked, Kral was in the higher-percentile for most of the zone entry numbers. Having a defenceman like that is becoming much more important in the NHL.
I don’t think there is any reason to not stay with the Spokane Chiefs for the 2018-19 season. Last year, he was mostly on his off-side next to top prospect Ty Smith and there is no reason to break up that excellent pairing. With them, the Chiefs certainly have the potential to battle for the playoffs next season. Although, without Kailer Yamamoto those chances decrease slightly from the roster they had last year.
Kral just finished his first season playing in North America, so why not continue that development for him? There is always the surprise option that Kral will go back to the Czech Republic and continue his professional career there, but that might be unlikely.
The first non-CHL prospect the Leafs took in the draft was overage Swedish winger Pontus Holmberg. A little off the board, but this young player will most likely be playing fully-professional hockey for the 2018-19 season.
With the now Elias Pettersson-less Vaxjo Lakers, Holmberg might have an opportunity to earn a top-6 forward role on the team this season. But considering that this will be his first full season in the SHL, he will most likely start in a depth role and (hopefully) work up from there.
Last season, Holmberg played in the third tier of Swedish hockey, the HockeyEttan, with Vasteras HK. He was able to score 7 goals and 13 assists in 36 games for the club. Technically, this was still professional men’s hockey, but it would be the Swedish equivalent of a player moving from the ECHL all the way to the NHL.
With Vaxjo, Holmberg might see some bumps along the road, but the 19-year-old winger might be a surprise to every Lakers and Leafs fan.
In the seventh round, the Leafs selected their goalie for the draft. 18-year-old Zachary Bouthillier of Chambly, Quebec, is that goalie.
He is already on his second QMJHL team after an offseason trade last year between the Shawinigan Cataractes and the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, that saw Bouthillier as the new goaltender for the latter team.
After playing in 38 games for the Saguenéens last season, Bouthillier finished the season with a .894 sv% – even for the QMJHL that is not a very good save percentage. But he was able to turn around his play in the playoffs this season; with an excellent .931 sv% after starting six games in the first round against the QMJHL and Memorial Cup Champions Acadie-Bathurst Titans. So not so bad against the best team in the CHL.
For 2018-19, Bouthillier hopefully continues his playoff success for a QMJHL that severely lacks some offense. Goalies are weird anyways.
From now on known as The Second Semyon, Kizimov spent last year in the Russian junior league, the MHL with Lada Togliatti. This season, he will most likely see split time between two leagues with the same club.
The Supreme Hockey League (VHL) is the second-highest league in Russia; basically the AHL of Russia. Like many young Russian players, Kizimov will be loaned back and forth between the MHL and VHL as he gets older.
Within Lada Togliatti, there is talented 20-year-old undrafted winger Vladimir Zhuravlyov that scored 14 goals and 23 assists in 48 games playing on the same roster Kizimov did last year. Zhuravlyov even got nine games up in the KHL with the senior club.
Hopefully, Zhuravlyov’s path is a potential mirror to the one that Kizimov will be taking. He has a long road ahead of him through the various Russian leagues, but if Kizimov is able to impress in the MHL or even the VHL this year, we will no doubt see him make his KHL debut before he turns 20.