TSP: Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects

Rasmus Sandin
LAVAL, QC - NOVEMBER 13: Look on Toronto Marlies defenceman Rasmus Sandin (8) at warm-up before the Toronto Marlies versus the Laval Rocket game on November 13, 2018, at Place Bell in Laval, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here.  Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects.

What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.

Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects

After signing the gem of the free-agent market, John Tavares, last summer, things were supposed to be different for the Maple Leafs. He was the superstar that was going to put the Leafs over the top. When the Leafs also traded for Jake Muzzin in January, it looked like they had the piece needed to improve their blueline. Unfortunately, the results just weren’t there. The final numbers looked a lot like 2017-18, 100 points, third in the Atlantic Division, and a Game 7 first-round loss to the Boston Bruins.

This led to changes in the off-season. Third line centre Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen were traded to the Colorado Avalanche in a move that brought back defenceman Tyson Barrie and centre Alexander Kerfoot. Another trade saw winger Connor Brown and defenceman Nikita Zaitsev went to Ottawa in a move that sent Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur to Toronto. Goalie Garret Sparks and defenceman Andreas Borgman were also traded in separate moves. In return, the Leafs re-added David Clarkson‘s contract and defenceman Jordan Schmaltz. Meanwhile, free agents Igor Ozhiganov, Ron Hainsey, and Tyler Ennis found new homes. The Leafs brought in Jason Spezza, Nick Shore, Pontus Aberg, Kevin Gravel, and Kenny Agostino joined the team as free agents.

2019 NHL Draft Picks (Grade B): Nicholas RobertsonMikko KokkonenMikhail AbramovNicholas AbruzzeseMichael KosterKalle Loponen
Graduations: Travis Dermott, Andreas Johnsson, Jordan Schmaltz (age), Kasimir Kaskisuo (age),

 

Top Prospect: Rasmus Sandin

Defence — shoots Left
Born March 7th, 2000 — Uppsala, Sweden
Height 5’11” — Weight 187 lbs [180 cm/85 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1st round, #29 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft

After being drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, Sandin joined the Marlies as one of the youngest players in the AHL. Despite missing some time due to injuries, and playing for Sweden at the World Juniors, Sandin had an excellent season. He scored six goals and 28 points in 44 regular-season games. He also added 10 assists in 13 AHL Playoff Games. Sandin scored two goals and four points in his five games for Sweden at the World Juniors.

Skating

Sandin is a good but not great skater. His speed is slightly above average, and he keeps up with the play, but he is not a speedster by any means. He is a better backwards skater than forward (comparative to his opposition of course), which is obviously a good tool for a defender. With good cross-overs and agility, he is able to retreat quickly and keep the play in front of him. Sandin has very good lower-body strength, especially when you consider there is probably some room to add even more muscle on his frame. His balance and low centre of gravity help him to win battles for loose pucks and clear the front of the net. He is tough to knock off the puck.

Offensive Game

Sandin is an extremely intelligent player. He is poised with the puck on his stick and makes smart plays. Sandin has great vision and the ability to thread the needle to the open man with good passing skills. He can make the long stretch pass to create a breakaway or odd-man rush when it is available. When the home-run type play is not there, he does not try to force it, instead, finding a quicker, shorter pass to start the transition game. Sandin also has the vision and skills to set up plays on the power play.

He also has a good arsenal of shots, which he has a knack for getting on the net. Sandin is much more likely to use a wrist shot or snapshot than he is to load up for a slap shot, even from the point. He likes to sneak down to the circles, get the puck and unload a quick shot without giving the goalie time to set up. Both his wrist and snapshot generate decent power, and he has a quick release. When there is traffic, he keeps his shots low giving his teammates the opportunity for tip-ins and rebounds. Sandin always seems to be in the right place. He does a very good job of finding open ice and picks good spots to pinch in from the point.

Defensive Game

Sandin’s strong positioning and understanding of the game extends to the defensive zone as well. He is a physical player, willing to throw hits on the rush, battle in the corners, and clear the front of the net. However, he picks his spots well, not getting himself out of position to chase the physical play. Sandin maintains good gap control and funnels attackers to the outside. He anticipates plays well and cuts down passing and shooting lanes.

Outlook

With Travis Dermott set to miss the start of the season due to injury, there appears to be a spot on the Leafs blueline open in training camp. Sandin’s main opposition for that spot looks to be Harpur, Gravel, and Martin Marincin. With a solid camp, Sandin could make his debut with the Leafs in October. Even if sent back to the AHL, he could be one of the team’s first call-ups in case of injury.

 

Prospect #2: Timothy Liljegren

Defence — shoots Right
Born April 30th, 1999 — Kristianstad, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 190 lbs [183 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1st round, #17 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft

Liljegren also had some injury issues during his second season in the AHL, causing him to miss time and the World Juniors. He put up three goals and 15 points in 43 games played. He also played 13 playoff games, putting up five assists.

Skating

Liljegren is an elite skater. He moves well both forwards and backwards, with excellent speed and acceleration. He also has very good edgework and pivots. As such he can cover a ton of ice. Liljegren can make offensive plays rushing the puck, or pinching in at the blue line; but still has the speed to get back defensively. He also has good balance and lower-body strength. This helps him to win his battles along the boards and in front of the net. When carrying the puck, he is tough to knock off of it.

Offensive Game

Liljegren has shown the poise and smarts to quarterback a power play over his time in Sweden. He has shown flashes of this ability in the AHL but needs to be more consistent at producing offensive opportunities. At his best, Liljegren has very good vision and makes good passes to set things up from the line. Liljegren finds the open man and makes tape-to-tape passes through tight areas. He can also make the long breakout pass to hit a teammate streaking through the neutral zone.

Liljegren is a very good stick handler. He can move the puck out of danger and avoid forecheckers when starting the transition game. He also has the ability to make plays leading the rush or to join the rush as a trailer. Liljegren has a high hockey IQ, as he makes almost always makes the smart play with the puck. As he becomes more

Liljegren also has an excellent shot. His slap shot has great power, and he has the ability to get it through traffic and on the net. He can really hammer a laser when he is given a good pass for a one-timer. He also can vary things up with a quick release and accurate wrist shot. Liljegren usually keeps his shot low, looking for teammates to get deflections and rebounds.

Defensive Game

Liljegren’s defensive game is very advanced for a teenager, however, there is still plenty of room to improve. He uses his strong skating ability and quick feet to contain his opponent and maintains good gap control. His stick is quick and he can create turnovers by poking a puck away from an opponent or through intercepting a pass. Liljegren could stand to be a bit more physical though. He’s He already has decent muscle mass but could add a little more.

Outlook

The Leafs would love Liljegren to take a big step forward over the off-season and be NHL ready for the fall. A high-potential right-handed defenceman, he could be the answer to helping fill one of their biggest needs. The Leafs are likely to start Barrie and Ceci on the right side, but the third pairing remains up for grabs. Justin Holl, and Justin Schmaltz.

 

Prospect #3: Jeremy Bracco

Right Wing — shoots Right
Born March 17th, 1997 — Freeport, New York
Height 5’9” — Weight 181 lbs [175 cm/82 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2nd round, #61 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft

Bracco broke out in his second season with the Marlies, scoring 22 goals and 57 assists and 79 points in 75 games. He also put up four goals and 16 points in 13 AHL playoff games. Bracco took the reigns as the key offensive force for the Marlies and delivered on the promise of his junior scoring exploits. He was named to the league’s First All-Star Team.

Skating

The biggest knock on Jeremy Bracco is his size, as he’s just 5-foot-9. For an undersized player to succeed in the NHL today, he must be a great skater. Bracco meets that requirement. He has very good top-end speed and excellent acceleration to go along with it. Bracco also has outstanding edgework and the agility to avoid defenders both on the rush and when working in the zone. His balance and power are good. He has added lower body strength and this helps him to be strong on the puck and compete against bigger, stronger opponents in the pros. A low centre of gravity works to his advantage in working the boards and the front of the net.

Offensive Game

Bracco also has great hands and this combined with his skating makes him extremely dangerous off the rush. He sees the ice very well and has strong passing skills, making him an ideal playmaker. Defenders must respect his ability to take them wide and cut to the net, and when they back off he can use the increased time and space to create passing lanes and find open teammates. Bracco also has excellent hockey sense.  He makes smart plays with the puck on his stick and is able to find open areas without it.

Bracco has a decent wrist shot and a good release but sometimes seems a little too hesitant to shoot. He has the good hands necessary to finish in close and get deflections and rebounds. Overall he must get stronger to win more battles on the boards and to be able to succeed with his frame, though he is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice. He might get knocked down by bigger defencemen but you will find Bracco right back in the corners or in front of the net later on the very same shift. He has relentless energy in the offensive zone.

Defensive Game

Bracco’s defensive game has improved over the past year but could still use a bit more work going forward. He has worked to be more consistent in his effort on the backcheck and to keep his feet moving. He still can fly the zone a little early at times, trying to get things started in the transition game at the expense of defensive responsibilities but did a bit better job of picking his spots this year. This is something that should continue to improve with some maturity and experience.

Outlook

Bracco has the shown the ability to dominate the AHL offensively. He certainly looks NHL ready, but the question remains as to where the Leafs will fit him in the lineup. On most other NHL squads, Bracco would be heading to training camp as a favourite to make the team. However, the offensive depth in Toronto makes that difficult. If the Mitch Marner contract holdout continues into the regular season, there may be a spot for Bracco in the top-nine. However, it seems more likely that he is in the AHL, waiting for an injury to give him an opportunity.

 

Prospect #4: Ilya Mikheyev

Left Wing — shoots Left
Born October 10th, 1994 — Omsk, Russia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 190 lbs [188 cm / 86 kg]
Signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent, May 2019

After putting up 23 goals and 45 points in 62 games with Avangard Omsk, as well as adding four goals and 11 points in 13 KHL playoff games, Ilya Mikheyev was one of the most intriguing free agents available from Russia this year. The KHL First Team All-Star opted to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Skating

Mikheyev is a good skater for his size. His speed and acceleration are above average. While he is not a speedster, he also does not have any problem in keeping up with the play. His agility and edgework are also good. They allow him to maneuver through traffic both with and without the puck. The best part of his skating though is his balance. It is tough to knock Mikheyev off the puck and he is strong along the boards.

Offensive Game

Mikheyev uses his size to his advantage in the offensive zone. While he is not a big hitter, he is still able to play a powerful game. He is good at digging for loose pucks in the corners. Once he gets the puck, he uses his body to shield it and control the puck down low in the cycle game. He is also able to get to the net, where he uses his hand-eye coordination to get deflections and bang in rebounds. Mikheyev also has a powerful shot and a deceptive release that can fool goaltenders from further out.

Mikheyev is much more of a goal scorer than a playmaker. His assists come from his hard work, and not from his passing skills. He keeps the puck moving in the cycle by taking the safe and easy pass. He is not really a creative player though and his vision has been questioned at times.

Defensive Game

Mikheyev is willing to work in the defensive zone. He backchecks effectively and uses his size to help the defence in containing opponents down low. He is also willing to use his body to block shots. Mikheyev does a good job of cutting down passing lanes as well. He’s been used as a penalty killer and has been effective in the role in the KHL.

Outlook

With Zach Hyman scheduled to start the season on IR, there is room in the Leafs top-six for a winger with Mikheyev’s skill set. His size and ability to dig pucks out of corners and get to the front of the net will be a good fit for the position. His hard work in the defensive end of the ice will also put him in Mike Babcock’s good books. Expect to see him on the main roster when the Leafs open their season on October 2nd. How well he transitions to North America will be a determining factor to see if he stays there.

 

Prospect #5: Nicholas Robertson

The Maple Leafs drafted Robertson with the 53rd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Robertson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.

 

Prospect #6: Mikko Kokkonen

The Maple Leafs drafted Kokkonen with the 84th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Kokkonen. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.

 

Prospect #7: Trevor Moore

Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 31st, 1995 — Thousand Oaks, California
Height 5’10” — Weight 182 lbs [178 cm / 83 kg]
Signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in July 2016

Moore had an excellent third pro season with the Marlies. He scored 23 goals and 39 points in 46 regular-season games. It was enough to earn him time with the Leafs, where he put up two goals and eight points in 25 games. He also scored a goal and played in all seven Leafs playoff games. Once he went back down to the AHL, he scored five goals and eight points in 10 playoff games with the Marlies.

Skating

Moore is a strong skater. He has a very good first step and quick acceleration. This helps him to reach his top-end speed in just a few strides. His speed helps him to get in quickly on the forecheck as well as to get back defensively and play a 200-foot game. His agility also allows Moore to manoeuvre through traffic, especially without the puck. He is strong on his skates and has good balance for his height.

Offensive Game

Moore plays a north-south style of game. He is a hard worker who gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring opposing defenders and forcing turnovers. Despite his smaller size, he is not afraid to get involved physically or to hit a defender who is retrieving a loose puck. Moore is also very good at battling along the boards and at creating havoc in front of the net. He is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice.

While Moore is not the most skilled player, he can play a complementary role on a line. Moore creates screens in front of the net and can be a distracting presence that gets under an opponent’s skin. He has some skill including the ability to protect the puck and strong stickhandling ability. His shot is decent but is not overpowering. Most of Moore’s plays with the puck are all about keeping the puck moving and maintaining possession. He is not the most creative player though.

Defensive Game

Moore’s hard work and willingness to be involved in the physical game extend to all three zones. This work in supporting the defence down low and on playing a strong positional game endeared himself to the Leafs coaching staff last season. Moore is also able to take on a role as a penalty killer.

Outlook

Given the responsibility that Moore was given down the stretch with the Leafs, there is a very good chance that he could be part of the main roster this season. However, his ultimate upside is limited. Moore seems likely to be a bottom-six forward throughout his NHL career.

 

Prospect #8: Joseph Woll

Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born July 12th, 1998 — Dardenne Prairie, Missouri
Height 6’4″ — Weight 202 lbs [193 cm/92 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 3rd round, #62 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft

Woll played 37 games for Boston College in his junior season. He put up a 2.41 goals-against-average and .919 save percentage, both of which were career-best marks for the 21-year-old goaltender. Following the completion of the NCAA season, Woll signed his first pro contract. While he reported to the Marlies, he did not get in a game down the stretch.

Skating and Talent Analysis

At 6-foot-4, Woll has the type of size that teams are looking for in a modern goaltending prospect. Strong and powerful legs allow Woll to get out of the net and challenge shooters. This, combined with his size, gives shooters very little net to shoot at. He also has a good lateral push, allowing him to get across the crease quickly. Woll gets in and out of his butterfly quickly, effectively taking away the bottom of the net. He also tracks the puck well, which helps him to make these types of saves. His glove hand and blocker are also well above average.

Like many young goaltenders, Woll still needs work on his rebound control. He can do a better job of smothering shots or deflecting them out of play. Now facing better shooters at the pro level, it will be important for Woll to improve quickly in this area. Woll is athletic and quick to recover though. He can often get himself back into position for the next stop, even when he does give up a rebound.

Mental Makeup

Over his college career, Woll emerged as a leader for Boston College. He came in as a young goaltender who needed to gain confidence playing at the college level. By the time he was done his college career, he was a leader for a young B.C. team. Woll was the calm and cool presence that led his defence and helped to keep them poised under pressure. While he faced a lot of shots he didn’t ever seem to get rattled. When goals were scored, Woll recovered quickly, getting himself ready to make the next save.

Outlook

Woll heads to the Marlies this season. He is a bit of a long-term project and will need time to play and develop. There are some areas of his game that need to be cleaned up but he has the potential to be a starter for the Leafs down the road.

 

Prospect #9: Yegor Korshkov

Right Wing — shoots Left
Born July 10th, 1996 — Novosibirsk, Russia
Height 6’4″ — Weight 180 lbs [193 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2nd round, #31 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft

Korshkov had an injury-ravaged season, putting up three goals and five points in 19 KHL games for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He also added three assists in nine KHL playoff games. Following the season, Korshkov signed his entry-level deal with the Leafs. He joined the Marlies in the AHL playoffs, scoring one goal in nine games.

Skating

Korshkov has decent speed and good acceleration. He is strong on his skates. Korshkov has good balance. He uses that to win battles in the corners, to establish his position in front of the net, and to fight through checks. He has the agility to go with his stick-handling and beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Korshkov is dangerous off the rush, as he can go wide on a defender and drive the net even if being checked.

Offensive Game

Korshkov has excellent size but will need to add some muscle to his frame. He is a strong playmaker, as he uses excellent stickhandling skills to slow down the play and wait for teammates to get open. With his speed as a threat, defenders are forced to back off and Korshkov can make passes through the open passing lanes. He uses his body to win battles on the boards and to protect the puck in the cycle game. This should get even better as he grows into his body and gets stronger. He has high-end hockey IQ and almost always seems to make the smart play with the puck on his stick.

Korshkov has a decent wrist shot. He could still improve its power and get a quicker release though. He scores most of his goals in tight to the net, where his size helps him establish his position and he can use his quick hands to finish plays. Korshkov can score on rebounds, tip-ins, and by quickly one-timing a teammate’s pass into the net.

Defensive Game

Korshkov brings his gritty game to the defensive end. He can support the defence down low and help protect against the cycle. He is also a young player, and still makes some mistakes in positioning and in being too aggressive in going after the puck at times. This is coachable though, as he shows effort. His long stick is effective in cutting down passing lanes.

Outlook

Korshkov is not quite NHL ready. He will need to work to reach his offensive potential and to adjust to the North American game. Expect him to start the season with the Marlies. He could be called up if injuries hit, but its more likely that he spends the full year in the AHL, getting ready for bigger usage down the road.

 

Prospect #10: Ian Scott

Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born January 11th, 1999 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 6’4″ — Weight 183 lbs [192 cm/83 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 4th round, #110 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft

Scott had a remarkable season in his final year of junior hockey. He led Prince Albert to become one of the best teams in the entire CHL. In 49 games, he put up a 1.83 goals-against-average and .932 save percentage. The numbers saw him win both the WHL and CHL Goalie of the Year awards. He was also brilliant in the playoffs, with a 1.96 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage. Scott led the Raiders to a WHL Championship and a spot in the Memorial Cup. He also made Team Canada for the World Juniors but played just one game.

Skating and Talent Analysis

At 6-foot-4, Scott has the type of size that NHL teams look for. He also has quick legs that take away the bottom of the net. He gets up and down in his butterfly extremely quickly. His technique is solid and he does not give up many goals through his five-hole or between his arms and torso. Scott also has a strong blocker and a good glove hand, taking away the top of the net.

Scott also tracks the puck well for his age. He has very good lateral movement as he gets side-to-side quickly without over sliding. He keeps himself square to the puck and in position to make the next save. Like many young goalies, Scott will need to work on his rebound control over the next few years.

Mental Makeup

During his junior career, Scott faced a number of situations. The Raiders grew and moved up the standings with him in their net. He showed that he can cope with being under siege behind a weaker defence earlier in his career, maintaining his composure despite heavy pressure. Over the last two years, he’s faced fewer shots as he’s played behind a stronger defence. Scott has proven that he can maintain his focus no matter what the situation, as he has been ready to make the big save.

Outlook

Scott will battle with Woll for ice-time on the Marlies. Both goalies need to play considerable minutes at this point in their careers. Expect that if Woll takes the Marlies starting goalie job that Scott will get a prime role in the ECHL. With these two promising young goalies, it is important that they both get a heavy workload.

 

Sleeper Prospect: Pierre Engvall

Left Wing — shoots Left
Born May 31st, 1996 — Ljungby, Sweden
Height 6’4″ — Weight 192 lbs [194 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 7th round, #188 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft

A former seventh-round pick, Engvall had 19 goals and 32 points in his first full pro season with the Toronto Marlies. He also added one goal and seven points in 13 playoff games.

Skating

Engvall is not the fastest skater, but he is not slow by any means either. Given his height, 6-foot-4, he skates better than one might expect. He also has good agility and edgework, making quick cuts with and without the puck. Engvall needs to improve his strength though. This will give him better balance as well as making him tougher to knock off the puck.

Offensive Game

Engvall protects the puck well with his long stick. He can work the cycle game and make creative passes to his teammates. He sees the ice well and anticipates his teammate’s movements. Engvall is a playmaker off the wing who can pass the puck through tight areas. He opens up passing lanes with quick changes of direction. Envall can also score goals with a good wrist shot and quick release. He also has a decent slap shot.

At 6-foot-4, many assume that Engvall will be a physical presence. However, he needs to get better in battles along the boards. He is not a really physical player and his lack of strength can be an issue. This will be the biggest area he needs to improve to adjust to the North American game.

Defensive Game

Engvall is responsible and effective in his own end of the rink. He is willing to get involved in the backcheck but this is another area where he can improve with more muscle on his frame. His long stick helps to cut down passing lanes and can create turnovers. He has good positioning and is not afraid to block shots.

Outlook

With a deep forward group on the Maple Leafs, it is likely that Engvall will start with the Marlies. The 23-year-old will need to dominate in the AHL before he gets his NHL opportunity.

 

System Outlook

The Leafs have graduated a ton of high-quality prospects in recent years. They also moved some picks and prospects in recent trades. As a result, the team is no longer atop our organizational rankings. However, there is still some quality in the system, as well as depth. Starting from the back, the Leafs also have Zachary Bouthillier in goal. On the blueline, Mac Hollowell, Jesper Lindgren, Mason Marchment, Joseph Duszak, Mike Koster, Filip Kral, Eemeli Rasanen, and Teemu Kivihalme as prospects worth watching. Upfront Adam Brooks, Dmytro Timashov, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Pontus Holmberg, Riley Stotts, Justin Brazeau, Nicholas Abruzzese, and Mikhail Abramov are worth keeping an eye on.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects Main Photo:

LAVAL, QC – NOVEMBER 13: Look on Toronto Marlies defenceman Rasmus Sandin (8) at warm-up before the Toronto Marlies versus the Laval Rocket game on November 13, 2018, at Place Bell in Laval, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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