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Recapping the 2018 Top 20 Maple Leafs Prospects

The deed is done, and now you are ready to watch the junior Leafs in the rookie tournament armed with expert knowledge on many of the players. Of course, wouldn’t it be so much easier if you had all the articles in one list, bookmarkable for easy use.

I’ve got your back, fam. Here’s the full list of prospects for your reading pleasure.

The List:

The players who went unranked by all of us (Chebykin, Kara, Joshua, O’Connell, Holmberg, Kizimov)

The name to watch here would probably be Pontus Holmberg, since he was a 2018 pick with generally promising numbers. I’d assume he has the best chance of climbing the list, while Joshua might not even be a Leafs prospect next August when we do this all again.

On Holmberg:

Pontus Holmbergis probably the player on this list that is least likely to make a repeat appearance next year. A smallish forward, with skill and playmaking abilities as strengths, his numbers in his rookie SHL campaign will likely have us praising him as the next Andreas Johnsson. I’m starting to rethink not putting him on my list.

The Honourable Mentions (McGregor, Greenway, Dzierkals, Bouthillier, Marchment, Scott, Stotts, Gordeev, Kaskisuo)

It appears we’ve seen the end of the Dzierkals era, and I suspect the Greenway era is coming to close as well. The bulk of the Leafs goaltending prospects ended up here, which seems fine considering they are voodoo and all. Kaskisuo did finish just behind Andrew Nielsen in our rankings, though admittedly I feel I was wrong-ish to rank him since his upside seems to be AHL starter.

I also want to mention that those who liked Stotts, Gordeev, and Marchment liked them a lot, and I suspect those who didn’t rank them consider them near misses for their lists.

On Stotts:

Riley Stotts some of us were excited about a new playmaking center being drafted (5 of us), but the majority think it’s too soon to be excited about Stotts who has a chance to take on a bigger role with the Calgary Hitmen this year. Potential middle six centers always have value and I’d expect his stock to rise. The highest ranking this year for Stotts was 14th.

#20: Andrew Nielsen

Nielsen’s stock dropped fast this year among our voters. The previous year we (not me, the TLN team at large) considered him the 6th best prospect in the organization. The addition of other AHL defensemen, and improvement of other prospects slide Nielsen down the depth chart in 2017-18, and 2018-19 will be a fight for him to get back on track. Personally I wouldn’t doubt that an AHLer for AHLer trade is in his future, and now the Leafs just need to wait for John Chayka to call.

Adam Laskaris on Nielsen:

Currently, on the left side of the defence, the Leafs are running Gardiner-Rielly-Dermott at the NHL level, with Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman both having NHL experience on the Marlies. Martin Marincin’s full-time NHL career is probably a moot point in this organization, so at best, he’s slotting in as the Leafs’ sixth best option there, but with the addition of Rasmus Sandin in this year’s draft, Nielsen’s fighting an uphill battle.

#19: Mac Hollowell

Never underestimate bloggers ability to get excited about undersized defensemen that put up offensive numbers. Hollowell might be the case and point, as the 2018 draft pick sneaked into the Top 20 on the strength of a lot faith in the Soo system, a right shot, and some pretty good underlying numbers.

Ziggy on Hollowell:

Hollowell’s scoring exploded last season. His 0.89 points per game was good for 9th overall amongst OHL defenders. This is pretty similar to his teammate and fellow Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin, who scored 0.88 P/GP. Furthermore, if we only look at primary points per game, Hollowell was 6th overall amongst OHL defenders.

#18: Jordan Subban

That name carries a lot of weight, so much weight that every single one of our writers had Subban in their top 20, although apparently not that high since, he’s clocking in at 18. Subban shares a lot of the same characteristics as Hollowell, but is a bit further along in his development. There’s probably a bit of a buyer beware since the Canucks thought it was time to cut him loose, but giving Subban a fresh start isn’t a terrible idea. Worst case scenario is that he’s a good RD for the Marlies in the years to come, and Toronto can use that too.

That’s Kappy on Subban:

Despite a disappointing season, Subban has shown his potential, and there remains reason to believe that a bounceback season could be on the horizon. Should Kyle Dubas’ bet on Subban as a reclamation project succeed, Subban’s progression as a decent mid-level prospect could be right back on track before we know it. While Subban’s progression has taken a strange turn downward, there’s nothing here to suggest this trend cannot be reversed with even a different stroke of luck.

#17: Eemeli Räsänen

He’s really big, and a really raw talent, but there is no ignoring what his upside could be. The same way that people are excited about Gordeev, there seems to be an excitement about Eemeli Räsänen. Personally, I’m much more willing to believe that Gordeev will be our friendly giant.

Hayley Hendren on Räsänen:

Räsänen is obviously not without skill, but his skating leaves something to be desired, and he can be outmaneuvered by smaller players. However, he has continued to improve after 2 years in the OHL, and time competing at a higher level in the KHL can only do him good, assuming he’s able to stick on Jokerit’s regular roster.

#16: Jesper Lindgren 

Lindgren is the first climber on our list, and that’s probably on the strength of the Leafs track record with Swedes, and in particular, Swedish defensemen. Lindgren is coming off a decent season in Finland, and is probably a year away from the Marlies.

The best comparable is probably sitting in the Leafs organization right now, and that’s Jordan Subban. Both are undersized with offensive flair, who need a bit more time to see if they can be NHL players, but with the very real acknowledgement that it will be a longshot for them to become NHL regulars.

#15: Filip Kral 

As someone living in Western Canada I’m always thrilled when the Leafs bless me with a WHL prospect to watch, and that may be part of my personal fast buy-in on Kral. Another reason for that buy-in, and what I suspect influenced others on our panel, was the fact that Kral’s numbers support the notion that he can bring some defensive responsibility to the organization while being very competent in transitioning to moving the puck up the ice.

Thomas Williams on Kral:

Being able to enter the zone with control of the puck as a defenceman, is a very important skill to have in the modern hockey landscape. Kral was in the 91st-percentile in controlled entries per hour, then again he did not have a very preferable success rate. This is telling that Kral attempted a ton of zone entries in control – which is also something nice to see. Even if he was not very successful, being able to try this and potentially getting better at doing so, is something to look for in a prospect.

#14: Yegor Korshkov

Korshkov took a bit of heat from our panel by not coming over to North America this season, because with the fact that he’s steadily improved from year to year, it seems he’s ready to take the next step, but probably won’t until a Leafs roster spot is there for him or at least a very good chance to challenge for one. The fact that he was selected 31st overall with names like DeBrincat and Girard still available will haunt many of us for a long time, though it shouldn’t impact our valuation of Korshkov.

My thoughts on Korshkov:

His speed, reach, and hockey sense have always been good, but as his icetime goes up, he’s shown that he can produce more offensively as well. I know getting excited about a 3rd line winger seems like a challenge, but I do believe that Korshkov is well on his way to being the exact kind of 3rd line winger you’d want to see.

#13: Calle Rosén

I’m kind of surprised that I’m excited about what Rosén could bring this year. After being thrown to the wolves in his early days with the Leafs last year, Rosén made the most of his time with the Marlies and looks to be capable of challenging for a Leafs roster position again.

Scott Maxwell on Rosén:

I’d argue that we might have got a bit more out of him than we were expecting going into the season. He made the Leafs right out of training camp, even though it was short-lived, and had arguably his best season to date with the Marlies. Starting the season at 23, he’s beginning to reach the age where what we get from him is about what we should expect from him in the future, so a defenseman with a chance to add a bit of depth to the Leafs certainly isn’t a bad thing, especially since we got him for free.

#12: Adam Brooks 

The WHL overager point total shine wore off Brooks a bit this year as dropped out of the top five prospects, and in fact right out of the top 10. It seems like with Brooks there’s a “I want to believe” mentality about him, but the reality is on a team with not a lot going on at center in the AHL, Brooks struggled to hold down 4th line duty, although he improved in the second half of the season.

Ryan Hobart on Brooks:

Things took a step back, hype-wise, for Brooks this year. With only 19 points in the regular season, he hasn’t made much of his limited opportunity. There’s obviously still hope, as this was only his first season in the AHL. However, there’s definitely a lot of ground to make up before he can crack an NHL roster.

#11: Semyon Der-Arguchintsev 

You better believe every time you see “Semyon Der-Arguchintsev” I’ve just copied and pasted his name. Thankfully SDA seems to have caught on, and we can go with that until he inevitably makes the Leafs roster and I can commit his name to memory.

SDA is an exciting offensive center who gives us all a later pick to be excited about. Between Der-Arguchintsev and Stotts the Leafs have addressed their center prospect shortcomings, and while both aren’t expected to be in the Leafs or Marlies lineups anytime soon, they certainly are players to get excited about, especially SDA.

Dylan Fremlin on SDA:

His numbers may not jump off the page at you, but when you look at the context of him being a pass-first player on a terrible Peterborough Petes team which didn’t score much while also considering the kid turned 17 right before the season started, your hopes should rise a bit. I’m already trying to find somewhere I can consistently stream Petes games because I think he could really break out in his D+1 and also because he’s just a blast to watch.

#10: Trevor Moore

It’s a safe bet that we’ll see Moore at least get a cup of coffee with the Leafs this season. He’s been working hard, doing the little things, and playing the game the right way and deserves some NHL time. While none of that is celebrating his skill, it is celebrating the traits that Babcock wants to reward, and Trevor Moore could be an ideal candidate for a 13th/14th forward role with the Leafs.

Mike Stephens on Moore:

Moore falls closest into the archetype of a Zach Hyman.

The pair share a swiss army knife ability to perform any role asked of them, primarily resulting in heavy minutes on the penalty kill along with a generous dose of matchups against top competition. Both Moore and Hyman are terrific defensive players in their own right as well, ones who are rarely, if ever, get caught out of position. They seamlessly fit the Babcockian mould, their playing styles equal parts responsible and earnest enough to force their coach to shed heavy Saskatchewan tears.

#9: Pierre Engvall

When I wrote about Engvall last month I did so while eating a lot of crow. Engvall was drafted as a project player, but that project always seemed to be behind schedule. Engvall made a solid push last season, and gave us a lot to be excited about in his Marlie debut.

Thoughts on Engvall:

Engvall proved himself to be an all situations player who could be trotted out on the power play, but also one that you can rely on in the final minutes of protecting the lead in a close game. The fact that Engvall was able to be so effective so fast for the Marlies, and inspire confidence that figuring out the smaller ice surface wouldn’t be an issue.

#8: Joseph Woll

I always get mad about how we rank goaltenders in our top 20. As a solid netminder, Woll has a very real potential to develop into a starter for the Leafs somewhere down the line and should probably carry more weight that players we are projecting as 3rd line wingers. Anyway, I like Woll and even a less than ideal year isn’t going to stop me from thinking he’s a great addition to the Leafs system.

Cat Silverman on Woll:

If Leafs fans want a decent comparable style-wise, Woll likely projects to play a similar game to Martin Jones out in San Jose. He’s not overly flexible (what the youths like to call “athletic”, as if there are still goaltenders out there shaped like Turk Broda) but has a good sense of awareness within the blue paint, so you’ll rarely catch him wildly out of position.

He’s not the most prolific of puck-handlers, either, much like Jones – but in case you’ve missed the Western Conference games over the last few years, the San Jose starter’s minimalist movements have served him pretty well. If that’s the ceiling for Woll, it’s a pretty decent one to hope for.

#7: Dmytro Timashov

Timashov is one of the last offensive weapons that will be left on the Marlies this season, and one that there is still some hope attached to. He’s shown solid skill at the AHL level, but nothing to make us consider him for the Leafs yet.

Thoughts on Timashov:

Since we’ve already made not of Timashov being one of the top scorers on the Marlies throughout the regular season, and hinted at the marked improvement over his AHL rookie season, we’ll use this space to mention that Timashov was a .6 PPG player in the AHL playoffs, including six goals. Playing a key role on a Calder Cup team is probably something that was very much noted by Kyle Dubas, and as well as the trust that Sheldon Keefe showed in him throughout the year, as he was one of the few guys to not be rotating in and out of the lineup.

#6: Sean Durzi

Generally when the Leafs draft overagers in the first three rounds my immediate instinct is to kick rocks. I kicked a few rocks over Durzi, but have landed on him being a solid defensive prospect that might be a bit further along than younger players, and that’s not a bad thing.

Adam Laskaris on Durzi:

Durzi needed to have a big year to remain on NHL draft radars, and deliver he did. He put up 49 points in 40 games and followed it up with 16 points in 11 playoff games, which put him second in the OHL in points per game behind 10th overall pick Evan Bouchard.

#5: Jeremy Bracco

I’m getting dangerously close to admitting I was wrong on Bracco. When I hastily threw together my 2015 draft list, I had Bracco listed as a first rounder, and the Leafs “stealing” him in the late second round seemed like a dream. Bracco has done pretty well for himself, but I think I’ve attached some high expectations to him and he’s struggling to meet those. By reasonable expectations, he’s progressed nicely, and could be a key offensive threat for the Marlies this season.

Megan Kim on Bracco:

Remember, it’s hard to make that transition from junior to pros. Bracco went from playing on the top line with lots of ice time against players his age or younger to playing more of a bottom-six role against tougher competition. He did pretty well under those circumstances, and this next year is going to be a telling one in terms of Bracco’s overall development.

#4: Rasmus Sandin

By most reasonable assessments of the Leafs organization, Sandin is the exact type of player the Leafs need more of, and they selected him at a great spot at the end of the first round while accumulating picks in the process. Sandin was not a flashy pick, but a smart one, and by trading down Dubas has balanced the “draft for need” philosophy with the “best player available” one.

Ryan Fancey on Sandin:

This upcoming season he’s set to make a jump competition-wise, playing against grown men through either the Swedish league or the AHL. For that reason, we’ll expect his production and usage to take a substantial hit, but if he’s on this side of the pond at least we’ll be able to see more of his talent on display, much like with Liljegren last year, One thing Sandin has in his pocket is that he’s already adapted to smaller ice, whereas Liljegren specifically pointed to that adjustment taking a while last season.

#3: Carl Grundstrom

I think I turned my post into a bit of a love letter to Carl Grundstrom, who seems like a pleasant blend of skill and grit. If there was one player on this list (with the exception of the next guy) who could make a case for himself as a Leaf out of camp, it’s Grundstrom.

Thoughts on Grundstrom:

Grundstrom has shown that he knows how to make things happen in the offensive areas of the ice, and he’s no slouch defensively either. If the young winger log jam didn’t exist, we’d all probably be penciling Carl in next to Kadri in our lineups.

#2: Andreas Johnsson

Johnsson will be a Leaf this season, that much is certain (*waits to be inevitably proven wrong*) and we should all be excited about that. I don’t know what else to say here, the Leafs adding a talented young winger to what is already a murders row of talent is fun.

Ryan Fancey on Johnsson:

I really don’t expect Johnsson to fill the offensive shoes of JVR, which is sort of unfair in the first place. But he does seem stronger on the other side of the puck, so maybe his ability to tilt the ice in the run of play will present a net positive.

#1: Timothy Liljegren

We all knew it was ending this way. Liljegren is definitely the top prospect in the system, but we’ll probably have another round of these rankings before we get to officially graduate him to the Leafs. He’s spent the year getting back to where he was before mono, and getting used to the AHL. Those are good things. This is the year we start demanding he gets called up seconds after we see a Leafs defenseman hobble to the bench after blocking a shot.

Thoughts on Liljegren:

If the Leafs feel that the way to make Liljegren the best possible defenseman he can be is by throwing him into a learn on the job situation on the Leafs, let’s get going on that, but I suspect that Babcock, Keefe, and Dubas want to see more in the AHL before testing the NHL waters.

That’s the List

Now that another season of ranking prospects has come to a close, we can immediately look forward to be proven wrong by what we see in training camp. It’s an interesting process asking a dozen or so writers to put together their list, and we wind up something very different, and not really showing much of theme beyond our universal love of Swedes.

A number of these players were ranked higher at times because they seem to be more NHL ready, but for the most part, especially in the top 10 we seem to be chasing upside beyond anything else. Some of us are suckers for the development of Marlies, while others prefer shiny new prospects out of junior and the ridiculous numbers they’ve been able to put up in their respective leagues.

Anyway, have your say. Drop your lists in the comments below and give us a chance to judge your opinions on this.

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