July 31-in-31: Toronto Maple Leafs
Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
The Leafs traded their 1st-round pick away in the Jake Muzzin deal last season, meaning their draft started on Day 2. They had also traded away their 2019 6th-rounder at last year’s draft for a 2018 pick, and chose to trade away their 7th-round 2019 pick in exchange for a 7th-rounder in 2020. They did however have an extra 4th-round pick in their pocket from the Nikita Soshnikov trade in early 2018, and an extra 7th-rounder thanks to the Connor Carrick deal in 2018. Giving them a total of six new additions to the prospect pool.
Round 2, 53rd overall: Nicholas Robertson, C/LW
Selecting a high-skill forward who generates highlight reel plays almost makes up for the fact that the Leafs didn’t get to select in the first round. He can pass well and has an accurate shot, so he has the chance to make his mark in a variety of ways as he continues to develop. Currently listed at 5’9” (but with lots of time to grow still), he’s quick and agile but not flat-out speedster. As one of the younger players in the draft, Robertson is not close to pro-ready, let alone NHL-ready, so if you draft Robertson expect a long development period before seeing dividends on your investment. That being said, being a Leafs prospect, the hype is going to be enormous as he ages and starts tearing up the OHL, so he has the opportunity to be a great fantasy-value investment.
Round 3, 85th overall: Mikko Kokkonen, LD
The Leafs opted for less flash with their 3rd-rounder, selecting the reliable Kokkonen. Playing a full Liiga season is impressive for a 17-year-old, as is scoring 19 points against men. He’s already 200 pounds but despite a ready frame he needs skating work before jumping to the NHL any time soon. He is a low-ceiling, high-floor real-life defenseman based on his hockey IQ but his lack of outstanding skills in any particular category mean he likely won’t see the kind of fantasy production that would warrant being drafted in most pools. Hold off until he moves to North America before taking a flyer in your leagues.
Round 4, 115 overall: Mikhail Abramov, C/RW
Back to the sexy picks – Abramov is today’s stereotypical small and speedy scorer. In his first ever North American season, he put up 54 points in 62 QMJHL contests, good for 3rd on his squad as a 17/18-year-old. His playmaking ability is his greatest strength, but he still has the talent to develop his shooting game and become a double-threat. He certainly won’t bring you multi-category value; he tends to shy away from contact and use his wheels to blow by the opposing d-men. Another young player with lots of development ahead of him, Abramov won’t be seeing the NHL or even the AHL in the near future, so he is a long-term investment in fantasy. He also seems likely to transition to the wing eventually unless his two-way game improves. That being said, his upside is enormous.
Round 4, 124th overall: Nicholas Abruzzese, C
The USHL may be a weaker league than most for drafting prospects out of, but its hard to go too wrong drafting a league’s top scorer. 80 points in 62 games is good enough to demonstrate some legit upside from the centerman, but with a grain of salt since he did so as a 19-year-old. One of the older players in the draft (previously undrafted), he might not be hitting another growth spurt, leaving him at 5’9”. He’s heading to the NCAA for 2019-20 so we will get a better look at what he can do against bigger and tougher competition. Seems like a great candidate to start climbing the ECHL-AHL ladder soon if he succeeds in college hockey.
Round 5, 146th overall: Mike Koster, RD
Koster is a modern offensive defenseman, aka small, quick, and can run a powerplay like nobody’s business. He lacks top-end speed for his size though, and his strong production so far hasn’t come against top competition, so there is reason to be hesitant. HE has committed to the NCAA where he will likely see a significant decrease in ice time, so let’s see what he can do with more realistic use before jumping on the bandwagon. Good upside, and thanks to the NCAA we will learn sooner rather than later if he is a real fantasy-worthy prospect.
Round 7, 204th overall: Kalle Loponen, RD
Small d-man that put up just-ok point totals in Finland. Hopefully he can make the jump to the top-tier league in 2019-20 but its not likely. Average at most things but not outstanding in any way, don’t be digging this deep for fantasy value. Would be a nice surprise in a few years if his game rounds out enough to earn a shot in North America.
Lots of undrafted and unsigned players attended Leafs dev camp this season, with a few big names to entertain fans. One of the biggest storylies headling into the season will be the goaltending battle between Joseph Woll and Ian Scott, both of whom had strong 2018-19 campaigns and will want to be the Marlies starter (this battle was not won or lost in dev camp).
Third-time attendee Mac Hollowell has become a delight to watch thanks to his smooth skating and high confidence. Undrafted invite Gunnarwolfe Fontaine wins the award for best name and should be signed just to sell jerseys.
Newcomer Nick Robertson is full of energy and didn’t disappoint in that regard. I was hoping for dynamite showings from d-men Filip Kral and Joey Duszak but they were just fine.
The main takeaway here is the massive logjam of bodies available to the Leafs, Marlies, and Growlers. Competition for roster spots will be fierce in the fall, and seeing where the organization thinks each player is best suited will provide some valuable insight into the fantasy hockey futures. A season in the ECHL is not the end of the world, but earning a coveted Marlies spot will boost the stock of those who succeed.
Alex Kerfoot (NHL)
Jason Spezza (NHL)
Cody Ceci (NHL)
Tyson Barrie (NHL)
Pontus Aberg (bubble)
Kevin Gravel (bubble)
Jordan Schmaltz (bubble)
Nick Shore (bubble)
Kenny Agostino (bubble)
Garrett Wilson (bubble)
Kalle Kossila (AHL)
Tyler Gaudet (AHL)
Michael Kapla (AHL)
Nazem Kadri (NHL)
Nikita Zaitsev (NHL)
Ron Hainsey (NHL)
Jake Gardiner (NHL) (TBD)
Calle Rosen (AHL)
Andreas Borgman (AHL)
Michael Carcone (AHL)
Nic Baptiste (AHL)
Colin Greening (AHL)
Chris Mueller (AHL)
Vincent LoVerde (AHL)
Lots of turnover is happening on the Leafs and the Marlies. For the big club, bringing in Shore from the KHL means that Freddy Gauthier will have to earn his 4th-line center spot once again. Both Spezza and Kerfoot can play either center or wing, meaning that full-time winger Trevor Moore will have competition for a 3rd-line spot.
The RD depth is still weak (after Barrie of course), meaning that this could be another chance for Justin Holl or newcomer Jordan Schmaltz to get more games in. Timothy Liljegren would need a big camp to claim a role but it’s not completely out of the question.
Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott will be injured to start the year, which bodes well for Moore and Kerfoot on the wing, who will both likely see a bump up the depth chart. Similarly, there’s a chance we see Rasmus Sandin in Dermott’s 3LD spot…but it’s more likely that we just see more Martin Marincin.
I included a few AHL names on the “Out” list because they were big minute-munchers on the Marlies. There are big shoes to fill for names such as Dmytro Timashov, Pierre Engvall, Mason Marchment who will play bigger roles up front. The addition of Garrett Wilson adds some sandpaper to the lineup and along with Kenny Agostino and Pontus Aberg is a slight roadblock to Engvall or Marchment seeing call-up time with the big squad. On the back end, the Schmaltz-for-Borgman deal swaps a bubble lefty for a bubble righty. The departure of LoVerde and Jordan Subban still doesn’t appease the logjam accumulating on the back end. Lots of good names will have to settle for the press box or the ECHL. It will be very interesting to see if Mac Hollowell can earn a full-time spot after a strong audition. Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren go in as the pairing expected to do it all with big minutes.
Check back next month as our 31-in-31 series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts. You can check out the latest updates on all fantasy-relevant Leafs prospects here:
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