Welcome to the September 2022 edition of the DobberProspects 32-in-32 Series. This month, we are diving into the depth of each organization, looking at their recent graduates, risers, fallers and top-20 prospects.
The result of some poor drafting by the previous regime combined with the current regime trading away some high picks has led to a shortage of young talent being injected into the Leafs’ lineup over the last couple of years. It finally appears, however, that the tide is ready to turn, and the wave of young contributors will be knocking on the door to the NHL in the next couple of seasons.
The club’s first-rounders from the 2017 and 2018 drafts – Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin – broke through as regulars for the NHL club last season and are expected to take on more prominent roles moving forward. Their first pick from the 2019 draft, Nicholas Robertson, lit up the AHL last season when he was healthy and is pushing for an NHL job out of camp. Rodion Amirov, selected 15th overall in 2020, was dealt a devastating and life altering blow when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in February, but he has undergone treatment and is miraculously nearing a return to the ice. Their first pick from the 2021 draft, Matthew Knies, had an enormous freshman season at Minnesota and he is expected to begin his pro career at the conclusion of his college season next spring.
The Leafs have done well with the early picks that they have had in recent years, and they’ve managed to supplement that group with other projectable prospects who were either selected later in their respective drafts or signed as free agents.
The Leafs may not grade out as having one of the league’s most high-end prospect pools, but they do feature a number of prospects in their system with the potential to be NHL contributors in some capacity. With the wealth of elite talent already present on the NHL roster, getting contributions from young players on cheap contracts will be key to the club’s success in the coming years.
Rasmus Sandin, D
Sandin made the Leafs out of camp last season and played a regular role on their blue line for most of the season. A knee injury forced him to miss the last few weeks of the season, and he didn’t get back into the playoff lineup, but his underlying numbers in a sheltered role were fantastic. His offensive production of five goals and 11 assists in 51 games was modest, but he proved capable of handling a regular NHL role and he will look to take another step forward after signing a two-year deal with the Leafs partway through training camp.
Timothy Liljegren, D
Liljegren toiled with the Marlies for parts of four seasons before finally breaking through and establishing himself as an NHL regular last season. He got into 61 games for the Leafs in 2021-22, tallying five goals and 18 assists, and was held without a point in two playoff appearances. Liljegren seemed to find chemistry with trade deadline acquisition Mark Giordano down the stretch and that could be a pairing the Leafs revisit in 2022-23. Fresh off a two-year, $1.4 million AAV contract of his own, Liljegren will miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from sports hernia surgery, but he has staked his claim to a place on the NHL roster.
Denis Malgin, W
After an uninspiring eight game stint with the Leafs back in 2019-20, Malgin has spent the last couple of seasons lighting up the Swiss National League. He signed a one-year, league-minimum deal with the Leafs again this past offseason in an attempt to reboot his NHL career. Through the early part of training camp and the preseason, Malgin has been afforded ample opportunity with some of Toronto’s better players and he has been productive thus far. It seems likely that he will crack the opening night roster but if he can’t hold onto a spot with the Leafs, Malgin is a prime candidate for mutual contract termination to facilitate a move back to the Swiss league.
Matthew Knies, W
Selected in the second round of the 2021 draft, Knies had a stellar freshman season with Minnesota in the NCAA. Almost immediately, he established himself as one of the most important players on one of the top teams in college hockey, eventually earning a place on Team USA’s Olympic roster. He finished the season with 15 goals and 18 assists in 33 games, nearly leading Minnesota to a National Title, and had the opportunity to turn pro after just one season of college hockey. Instead, he opted to return and continue his development for another season. Knies will have to build off of last season but he has propelled himself up the organizational depth chart in short order and should begin his pro career this spring.
Topi Niemelä, D
Already a highly touted prospect for the Leafs, Niemelä improved his stock with an incredible season for Kärpät. He led Liiga blueliners in scoring for much of the season, and when all was said and done, his 10 goals and 22 assists in 48 games was one of the most productive seasons for a U20 defenseman in league history. Niemelä signed his entry level contract with the Leafs this past spring but will spend another season playing in Finland before making the jump to North America.
Alex Steeves, W
An undrafted free agent signing out of Notre Dame, Steeves was something of an unknown quantity heading into his first season of pro hockey. All he did was pile up 23 goals and 23 assists through 58 games with the Marlies, finishing third in team scoring. He even earned a brief audition with the big club, picking up an assist over three games for the Leafs. Steeves, set to turn 23 in December, has performed well through the early part of training camp, and while he might be in tough to crack the Leafs’ initial roster, he has put the organization on notice and should be a primary call-up option this season.
Pontus Holmberg, C
Holmberg has been on a steady upward trajectory for a while, beginning with his playoff MVP run in 2020-21 that saw him lead Växjö to an SHL Championship. He followed that up this past season by blowing his previous career-highs out of the water, finishing with 41 points in 46 games. Holmberg joined the Marlies late last season and picked up four points through six games, and he is set for his first full season in North America in 2022-23. He has created some buzz during the preseason, skating primarily on a line with William Nylander, and looks like a viable NHL option. Holmberg is projected to begin the year as the Marlies’ first line center, but his strong two-way game and added offensive contributions could have him knocking on the door to the NHL sooner rather than later.
Ryan Tverberg, W
The Leafs traded back into the seventh round of the 2020 NHL Draft to select Tverberg out of the OJHL, and the organization has to be pleased with the early returns on that investment. Originally committed to Harvard, Tverberg made the move to UConn with Harvard’s winter sports programs shut down due to the pandemic and has quickly grown into a legitimate NHL prospect with the Huskies. His strong start to the season earned him an invitation to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp, and he led UConn with 14 goals in 32 games. He is headed back for his junior season, and his hard-hitting, energetic style could help him earn an ELC with the Leafs next spring.
Ty Voit, C/W
Voit had a spectacular season for Sarnia in the OHL, leading the club in scoring by a wide margin with 26 goals and 54 assists in 67 games. Despite being selected in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, his 80 points were more than all but four OHLers selected in the same year. A slick playmaker, Voit shifted back to playing center for most of the season but still projects as more of a winger at the NHL level, mainly because of his small stature. Already signed to an NHL contract, he will look to build upon last season’s strong performance in 2022-23.
Curtis Douglas, C
Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars, the 22-year-old Douglas parlayed an AHL contract into a two-year entry level contract with the Leafs last season. Standing at 6-9 and weighing over 240 pounds, Douglas is a unique physical specimen who is still growing into his frame. He notched 34 points in 67 games for the Marlies last season, playing mostly in a bottom-six role, and possesses some intriguing offensive tools to go along with his physical gifts. He still has to clean up his skating and learn to take better advantage of his size, but Douglas is an interesting prospect as a potential bottom-six center in the NHL.
Filip Král, D
In his first season with the Marlies, Král grew into a prominent role for head coach Greg Moore. Outside of a hot streak that saw him earn AHL Player of the Week honors, his offensive production from the back end was modest, but his defensive game took strides over the course of the season and he ended up playing around 19 minutes per game as a rookie. Král will return to the Marlies in 2022-23 but he has started to inch his way up the organizational depth chart and another step forward this season could put him in contention for a potential call-up if injuries begin to mount on the Leafs’ blue line.
Vyacheslav Peksa, G
Peksa was one of the best goaltenders in the Russian junior league last season, putting up a sparkling .936 SV% and 1.79 GAA through 56 regular season games. He has carried that strong play to the next level this season, and through the first six starts of his VHL career, he has registered a .929 SV% to go along with a 2.21 GAA. Peksa is still years away from potentially contributing at the NHL level but his numbers since being drafted have been encouraging and he has put himself on the radar for an entry level contract with the Leafs at some point.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, C
Looking at the numbers, SDA had a fine first season with the Marlies, tallying 13 goals and 19 assists in 51 games. Watching his game, however, left many unanswered questions in regard to his ultimate NHL upside. There is no questioning Der-Arguchintsev’s puck skills or playmaking vision, but he is still an undersized player who struggles away from the puck. 2022-23 will be a big season for him as he looks to prove that he can be relied upon enough without the puck on his stick to earn an audition in the NHL.
Mikhail Abramov, C
Abramov’s first AHL season was similar to that of Der-Arguchintsev, only with lesser offensive production. He put up seven goals and 29 assists in 66 games but often appeared overmatched as he was thrust into a prominent role in the Marlies’ lineup due to injuries and players being lost on waivers. Abramov wasn’t the same dynamic force that he showed to be in junior, and he was often exposed in difficult AHL minutes. There is still plenty of time for him to work out the kinks in his game, but Abramov’s first AHL season was underwhelming.
Mac Hollowell, D
Hollowell had a decent season for the Marlies in 2021-22 but now 24 years of age, it appears his time as a legitimate NHL prospect is running short. With plenty of depth options ahead of him on the depth chart, and an influx of younger prospects now nipping at his heels, he is looking more and more like a career AHLer. Hollowell is a fantastic skater with good puck-moving abilities from the back end, but he is small and doesn’t defend at an NHL level.
Pavel Gogolev, W
Gogolev burst onto the scene with 12 points in 13 games with the Marlies during the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign, earning an entry level contract with the Leafs. The 2021-22 season didn’t go his way, however, and he ended up spending significant time with Newfoundland in the ECHL. To his credit, he was productive there, but he was unable to find his scoring touch with the Marlies and will be in tough to earn prominent minutes once again this season.
Veeti Miettinen, W
After a great freshman season with St. Cloud State, Miettinen took a bit of a step back in his sophomore year. He produced fewer points in more games played, despite increasing his shot output and wasn’t the same kind of consistent offensive threat that he was as a freshman. Miettinen should be in line for a top-six role as a junior, giving him the opportunity to have a bounce-back season.
Prospect Depth Chart
(Combination of NHL readiness and upside)
Top 20 Fantasy Prospects
This section is intended to paint a picture of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospects whose current trajectory projects them making the most positive fantasy impact at the time that they reach the NHL. Arrival date and NHL certainty have been taken into consideration. However, a player’s potential upside is the most important factor in determining this list.
- Matthew Knies
- Nicholas Robertson
- Rodion Amirov
- Topi Niemelä
- Roni Hirvonen
- Fraser Minten
- Nicholas Moldenhauer
- Nick Abruzzese
- Alex Steeves
- Ty Voit
- Pontus Holmberg
- Semyon Der-Arguchintsev
- Mikhail Abramov
- Dmitry Ovchinnikov
- Ryan Tverberg
- Brandon Lisowsky
- Dennis Hildeby
- Veeti Miettinen
- Joey Anderson
- William Villeneuve