Prospects make us feel good, right? Let’s see how they are doing… – TheLeafsNation

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So the first quarter of the season definitely could have gone a lot better. I don’t feel I’m too bold by saying that. And you know, the fact that the Leafs likely won’t even have a first round draft pick to show for this season if they don’t make the playoffs, well, that’s not lost on me either (of course the pick they sent to Carolina is top 10 protected, so if they do really bad they’ll have something.)

Yeah, that will be two years without a first round pick, and that isn’t ideal, but what we can enjoy is a quick trip around the world to check in on the prospects the Leafs do have that aren’t currently playing on the Marlies or Growlers…

Mikko Kokkonen-D

I’m starting with Mikko because I really like him. A lot of the things that went right with drafting Rasmus Sandin I feel could go right with Kokkonen, although maybe not on as skilled a scale. Kokkonen isn’t either a offensive dynamo or a shutdown guy. He’s the guy you happily trot out in a Carl Gunnarsson fashion and enjoy a stable defenseman who you don’t get panic attacks from. In short, he’s what the Leafs system needs.

That kind of boring play doesn’t translate into a lot on the statistic front, so really the story with Kokkonen is that his time has been a bit more split this year between the Finnish Jr. League and Liiga. After spending the entire year in Liiga last season, this may look like a step backward, but I remain hopeful that a strong World Juniors may turn things around and we can go back to being super high on Mikko.

Eemeli Rasanen-D

Including Rasanen in updates isn’t something that seems like it will inspire the feel good feelings we’re hoping for in a prospect update. Rasanen is continuing down the long path of development and struggling to get time in the KHL.

The upside is that when he’s played in Mestis he’s done well, and at 20 there is probably more time for him than I’m giving him credit for, and two years from now we might experience a Pierre Engvall style breakthrough.

Pontus Holmberg-C/W

Pontus has established himself as a regular in the SHL at 20, and is on pace to set a number of career bests in what is probably the 4th best league in the world. There isn’t anything that will blow you away about 2 goals and 3 assists in 17 games, but steady progress is the name of the game, and Holmberg isn’t a player you should write off just yet, although you probably shouldn’t count on seeing him in North America in the near future either.

Fabrice Herzog- W

Herzog still has his NHL rights owned by the Leafs, and I don’t think there is any danger of a contract occurring. I just like mentioning him because his name is Fabrice.

Nikilai Chebykin- W

Chebykin is 22 and has struggled to make it to the KHL. He hasn’t played a single game in the KHL this year, and is a .5ppg player in the VHL. He is however 6’4 and that’s not something you can teach.

Vladimir Bobylyov-W

Everything said about Chebykin applies exactly to Bobylyov, although Vladimir is only 6’3, and only a .44 ppg pace.

Martins Dzierkals- W

After an underwhelming year in the KHL in 2018-19, Dzierkals is trying his luck in Liiga this season. He’s picked up 5 assists in 13 games, and isn’t likely to come back to North America.

Semyon Kizimov- W

Kizimov has an extra year on his side, but with 2 points in 21 games in the VHL this year, I think we can safely lump him in with Chebykin and Bobylyov as Mark Hunter era Russian draft misses unless something drastically changes.

Vladislav Kara- W

You’ve probably been a little depressed reading through this list, and trying to find some silver lining in any player not named Kokkonen. Well, here he is. The 4th round pick from the 2017 draft might have yielded a talent, as Kara had 17 points in 18 games in the VHL before joining Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL and putting up 5 points in 7 games, including 3 goals.

Kara has already matched his KHL output from last season which took 41 games to achieve, and at 21 still has plenty of time to make his case for a NHL career. Heck if you want to feel better about some of the other Russian players on this list, Kara’s production wasn’t stellar before he started breaking out this year, and while 7 games is an incredibly small sample, wouldn’t it be nice if the Leafs had another cheap, talented Russian winger to bring over in a couple years?

if anyone knows why they are tagging Elon Musk in that tweet please let me know

Nick Abruzzese-C

Drafting an over-aged USHL player in the 4th round of the 2019 draft seemed like a bit of a risk. Especially a 5’9 one. That said, it looks like that risk has been paying off as Abruzzese has 6 points in 3 games this year for Harvard continuing to build off of his 80 point season last year for the Chicago Steel.

Ryan O’Connell-D

O’Connell was another one of those Mark Hunter knows better than everyone else type of draft picks, but given that he was selected 203rd overall, I guess I can keep my complaining to a minimum here. O’Connell is in his sophomore year at Ohio State now, and has 3 assists in 6 games, already exceeded the 2 points he put up in 31 games last year.

While he might not be an exciting prospect at this point, O’Connell getting in a full 4 years at a Division I school and playing the whole time and steadily improving might make him a player we care about a few years down the road and progress is always encouraging.

James Greenway- D

After leaving the University of Wisconsin and spending a year in the USHL, Greenway is back in the NCAA at the University of Maine. He’s put up 5 points in 10 games so far and I’m pleased to announce that he is still 6’4. To say it has been a bumpy road for Greenway might be an understatement, but if things stay on track for him it should would be nice to see what the Leafs can do with a physical defender.

I wanted to believe that Greenway was a good pick three years ago, and I’m happy that I’ll get the opportunity to wait longer before admitting I was wrong.

Mike Koster- D

I’m not going spend a lot of time here and say I know about a player with limited time in the USHL and has primarily played in High School for his hockey career, but I will show you a damn pretty goal by the 5’9 defenseman who is heading to the University of Minnesota next season.

Filip Kral- D

If there is a drum I will continually beat as a Leafs fan living in Western Canada, it’s that we simply don’t pay enough attention to how good Filip Kral is. At the time Kral was selected, he looked to be a safe pick who didn’t particularly excel in any one area, but could be developed.

Over time it seems that Kral has been getting more confidence in his game, and is capable of reading plays a bit better. He’s now a player with 8 goals and 20 points in 17 games in his Draft+2 year and should be ready for a jump to the Marlies next season.

Some skating improvement will likely need to happen before getting too excited about Kral, and how he defends at the pro level might be his biggest challenge, but it would be a shock if there isn’t a contract in the future for Kral especially with Sandin and Liljegren likely to graduate to the Leafs next season and a number of veterans seeing their contracts expire.

Riley Stotts- C

Stotts’ future likely depends on whether he’s convinced the Leafs that he’s worth developing as a bottom six forward. In his Draft+2 year he’s not at a point per game pace with just 15 points in 17 games, only 6 of which were goals.

The Leafs organizational center depth might give Stotts his shot, but his future seems more likely to be Marlies based than Leafs based if that’s the case.

Zachary Bouthillier- G

Bouthillier is the last Leafs goaltending prospect not playing in their system and I’m not going to pretend I have any ideal how to assess a sub .900 save percentage goaltender with 4.38 goals against average.

The numbers on Bouthillier have never been good, and he’s certainly not playing on a good team, but still wonder if the Leafs see some raw abilities in him that they want to work with. Is he getting an AHL deal in the future? Will he be a Newfoundland Growler next year? Possibly, but at this point there isn’t a lot to be excited about.

Mikhail Abramov- C/W

Ohhhhh we are in for a treat with this kid. Abramov was a steal of a pick in the fourth round last year and he’s already playing like he’s wanting to prove to everyone that sitting on him was a mistake.

Abramov has 14 goals in his 22 games this season, nearly matching his 16 total last year. His 24 points have him above a point per game pace, and he’s coming off player of the week honours.

This is our reminder that the Leafs might be able to survive without a first round pick for two consecutive years.

Kalle Loponen- D

Before getting to the duo on the Petes, let’s stop to appreciate Kalle Loponen putting up 12 points in 21 games in his first year in North America. The 204th overall pick from last year’s draft looks like he might be worth keeping an eye on and while he’s still a bottom pairing guy in Sudbury, my guess is that it will be shortlived if this continues…

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev- C

Perhaps the biggest shock about SDA is that he’s listed at 5’11 now. The nicest thing about SDA though is that it looks like last season was blip, and he’s back on track. It’s his Draft+2 year so it’s okay to set the bar high, and with 31 points in 17 games, it’s probably safe to say he’s meeting the expectations put on him. He’s presently the OHL leader in assists, the Petes leading scorer, and 7th in the league in scoring.

Goal scoring will never be a signature part of Semyon’s repertoire, so as long as he stumbles his way back to the double digits this season there shouldn’t be much of a worry. Instead we should embrace the fact that the Marlies will have a center prospect worth caring about next season and the Leafs may have a potential 3C option in the years beyond that.

Nick Robertson- W

Yeah, this guy is pretty good. If you were wondering where all of SDA’s assists come from, look no further. Robertson has 19 goals in 17 games, good enough for 2nd in the OHL, and his 28 points are good enough for 11th in the OHL, and 2nd on the Petes behind Der-Arguchintsev.

I truly want to believe that Nick Robertson can be the Leafs answer to Brendan Gallagher or Brad Marchand some day, as he brings a good balance skill and attitude, although he seems to stay within the letter of the law slightly better than those I’ve compared him to.

Robertson should be a lock for Team USA at the World Juniors, and while it’s too early to say anything I wonder if his success continues like this I wonder how long it will be before we all start mocking up 2020-21 Leafs lineups with Robertson on them.

Unfortunately the biggest challenge to his race for the goal title, his World Juniors appearance, and case for going pro are all being hindered at the moment by a broken finger, which probably won’t keep him out too long, but and is certainly unlikely to impact anything other than chasing down the goal scoring title, as he is expected to return before the end of the month.

 

Prospect statistics sourced from HockeyDB.com