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McKeen’s 2020-21 Hockey Yearbook: Toronto Maple Leaves Top 20 Prospects

McKeen's Top 20 New York Rangers prospects for the 2020-21 season. You can read an organizational assessment prior to the draft in Ryan Wagman's article found here. Following the draft we provided a review on each teams performance based on our rankings found here.

  1. Nick Robertson, LW (53rd overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 1)

As a draft eligible player, the physically immature Robertson had a tough time being a consistent contributor. This was especially true about his engagement level without the puck. Last year, with improved strength and conditioning, he was able to maintain that high intensity level through every shift. He has become one of the better forecheckers in the OHL, who seemed to force multiple turnovers per game due to his energy and IQ. Stronger on the puck, he also took his goal scoring ability to new heights. His shot is a weapon that can score in so many different ways. He can create his own shooting lanes with deceptive hands cutting through the middle. He can be a triggerman near the dot. His wrist shot release allows him to score from practically anywhere. Kyle Dubas has already stated that Robertson will be given every opportunity to make the Maple Leafs roster next year. However, he will need to improve his top end speed and his strength both on and off the puck in order to be able to play his game at the NHL level. He has the potential to be an impact top 6 player within a few years. – BO

  1. Rodion Amirov, LW (15th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Amirov split his draft year between four distinct levels. The plurality of his games played were in the KHL, although his ice time there was very limited, and he had more ice time in fewer games in the MHL, Russia’s junior league, where he dominated. He demonstrates excellent skating prowess, in terms of power, lateral movement and shiftiness. He also has high end finishing ability. More than a mere offensive force, he has spent time on the penalty kill and uses his stick well defensively. Between his various levels of competition, he has played against strong competition for long enough to have a pretty good picture of who he is and what he can do. Amirov’s puck skills suggest an easy top six outcome in his prime. His hands are quick and soft. He reads the game at an advanced level, enabling him to spot avenues for scoring chances better than most. He doesn’t force plays and tries to keep things simple. He skates well, too, keeping up a healthy pace. The main concern is his underdeveloped frame. Additional muscle would give his skating stride more power while improving his stamina and assist him for puck battles. – RW

  1. Roni Hirvonen, C (59th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

2018-19’s top U17 scorer in Finland’s top junior league and last year’s top scorer among U18 players in Liiga, where he received ample ice time, we know that Hirvonen can produce against older players. He is also a fascinating player to watch. A natural center who has spent extensive time on the wing, he is very comfortable playing up the middle in all three zones. His skating stride is inefficient, yet he gets from A-to-B quickly and plays a dynamic East-West game, spurred on by excellent edge work. On the other hand, there are no concerns about Hirvonen’s puck skills. He can cut slaloms through multiple layers of the defense with ease. Despite being undersized, he drives hard to the net when he has the puck, and when the puck is with a linemate, he installs himself on the lip of the crease creating a nuisance for the netminder. In fact, he has done well at making his presence felt in all facets of the game. I would be surprised if he does not make the Finnish WJC roster as an 18-year-old this year. He isn’t too far away from a productive middle six NHL role. – RW

  1. Topi Niemela, D (64th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

The only 17-year-old blueliner to spend all of last season in Liiga, Niemela earned the trust of his coaches with his mature ability to read the play and his reliability off the puck. While his decision making sometimes betrayed his inexperience, he kept his head up, his feet active, and his gaps tight. A right-handed shot, his hockey IQ trails only his skating ability among his assets. He has great mobility, with a smooth and strong skating stride. He is balanced and moves very well laterally and backwards as well as his straight-ahead speed. His feet keep him in the right place at the right time. Niemela has never been a big goalscorer, but he loves to shoot the puck. He tends to sacrifice some power in order to quicken his release, but the shot are accurate and he generally gets the puck past the initial point coverage. Niemela is also a plus puck mover. His hands are quick and secure, and he is a precise passer. He has a lot of physical maturing in front of him, but projects as an all-situations middle pairing defender who can eat up a lot of minutes. – RW

  1. Filip Hallander, LW (58th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 2)

Hallander, acquired as part of the Kasperi Kapanen trade with Pittsburgh, is coming off a season shortened due to a leg injury. He may not be that flashy, but he has good hands and is incredibly competitiveness and plays with great awareness. He can be creative on the rush, but he still needs to work on his approach when the game is standing still, as he can play impatient. Even so, he is a smart player who reads the forecheck well and seem to know where to position himself to stop an attack. Hallander is useful on both the power play and the penalty kill. On the power play, he is strong around the crease and in the slot and has been compared to Patric Hornqvist in that sense, earning significant minutes on one of the top teams in the SHL last season as a result. He is expected to spend one more season with Lulea before stepping over in 2021-22, by which time, he should be ready. He lacks elite tools but with strong poise, competitiveness, and awareness on the ice combined with the ability to play various roles he is a good bet to be impactful. – JH

  1. Nick Abruzzese, C (124th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 3)

Abruzzese led all freshmen in scoring nationally last season. For his efforts, he was named both the ECAC and the Ivy league Rookie of the Year. He seems set to give the Maple Leafs far more value than they expended with the 2019 fourth-round pick. He has an incredibly calm demeanor, be it on the forecheck or the backcheck. He has excellent vision and can make clean passes without too many turnovers. He was often the player leading the rush although he tended to hang out around the blue line in his defensive zone and trailing on the back check, suggesting he still has work to do on his game away from the puck, although his spot on the Crimson’s first power play unit suggests that his offensive game is doing quite alright. He is a good skater and glides effortlessly up and down the ice. Abruzzese is on the smaller side, but he is not afraid to battle for the puck along the boards. While he can finish, he is fonder of dishing out the puck than of taking the shot himself. His development curve so far suggests that his game is still growing. – JS

  1. Joey Anderson, RW (73rd overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 5 [New Jersey[])

Anderson has had his ups and downs where performance is concerned and adjusting properly to the pace of the NHL game, but remains a highly likely long-term NHLer. He hasn’t yet hit the mark on the little things that turn into bigger things at the higher level. Offensively, he has talent when it comes to getting to the net and finding scoring opportunities. On the other hand, his play on the backend needs to tighten up ever so slightly to be considered for a role with more dynamic players. He will also have to find more grit and an extra gear to reach his ceiling and solidify a spot in Toronto’s crowded NHL roster. Anderson is great at capitalizing on turnovers and recognizing plays before they happen and if he can keep on adding to his hockey IQ and anticipating instead of reacting more often, his path will become clearer. With the NHL experience he already has, he may be ready to stay up with Toronto, who acquired him from New Jersey for Andreas Johnsson, but a little more AHL time could also be beneficial in the long run. - SC

  1. Mikko Kokkonen, D (84th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 4)

Although he was overshadowed by some of the other young defensemen on the Jukurit last year, Kokkonen’s play improved as the season went on. He is an effective distributor of the puck and can start offensive transitions with crisp and accurate long-range passes. He could be a bit more creative with the puck, but he shows poise and good offensive vision. He has a good wrist shot with a quick release and the ability to get pucks through traffic on a regular basis. He reads the game well and his positioning is solid in all three zones. He shows calculated movement as he rarely gets caught out of position. He plays a stable, if unspectacular two-way game, although his skating remains a concern. It is somewhat clunky and lacks explosiveness. He will have to improve his foot speed and lateral mobility as well. On a more positive note, he is sturdy and has good balance. Kokkonen is physically strong for his age and may be closer to a finished product than others of his level. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but he could develop into a dependable NHL defenseman on a moderate timetable. - MB

  1. Yegor Korshkov, RW (31st overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 5)

Korshkov is a good fit as a top Leafs prospect at the moment. Not only is he a big body but he moves well, plays with a strong drive and makes his presence known on the ice. People count his size as one of his top attributes but his ability to carry the puck is actually what allows him such success in the goal scoring department. As a player coming from the KHL, Korshkov had few adjustments to make in order to keep up at top Marlies pace and earn a call up to the Leafs, even scoring in his debut. That being said, Korshkov is a good defensive player, yet he tends to be a little too cautious in his own end and is prone to standing still too long. The only time he seems motivated is when he is breaking out or with the puck on his stick, and he needs to keep in mind that hockey is a two way game and to be a top level player he will have to be good in his own end as well. Aside from that, he is both a physically and mentally mature enough player to find himself with a spot on the Leafs and frankly it would come as little surprise to see him up as an occasional second liner. The future is bright for a player as strong and hard working as Korshkov, with size, skill and a keen eye for playmaking. The Leafs would be smart to try him up more frequently this coming season. - SC

  1. Timothy Liljegren, D (17th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 7)

With Liljegren approaching the end of his entry level contract and his best season in the with the Toronto Marlies yet, he is hopefully proving his worth when it will come to re-signing the first rounder. Although his career has not come without struggles and inconsistencies as well as a severe ankle injury that put him out for a long stretch last season, his turbulent career has proven his durability. Liljegren has grown tremendously over last season and his offensive play has grown even more to the point where he was playing both penalty kill and powerplay. He continues to carry the puck with ease and has improved his scoring chances, and he is no longer afraid to shoot and does well at getting the puck to the net. His weak spots continue to be in his own end and defending one on one during turnovers, where he desperately needs to work on his physicality in order to compete at the next level. He also needs to keep his feet moving and his eyes off the puck. Despite not making the main camp roster, look for Liljegren to show up as a bottom four defenseman should the Leafs call him up again. – SC

  1. Veeti Miettinen, RW (168th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Born only a few days too late to have been eligible for the 2019 draft, Miettinen spent a second full season in Finland’s junior league, once again producing at elite rates, far above one point-per-game, and this time leading the Jr. A SM-liiga altogether. He is a versatile player who proved last year that he can kill penalties in addition to his offensive exploits. Miettinen’s game is well-rounded; He is a strong skater with a dangerous shot, featuring both wrist shots and snap shots. He is a fine stickhandler who utilizes his linemates well and he plays a proactive game off the puck. His primary downside at this juncture is his size. Short and lean, he doesn’t have a physical game to speak of. He is headed to North America next season to play collegiately at St. Cloud State. Because of that path, he will have plenty of time to grow accustomed to the North American game before he turns pro, where he currently projects as a reasonable third line type. – RW

  1. Mac Hollowell, D (118th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 8)

Hollowell has been a pleasant surprise for the organization. Sure he is on the smaller side for a defenseman, measuring up at 5-10”, 170lbs, but can he ever skate. He is a dynamic skater whose smooth strides help him keep space between himself and his opponents and his passing skills help to keep him from entering danger zones with the puck or over carrying it. Hollowell still has a lot left to learn, having just completed his rookie professional season, but with any luck he will be fit to aim for a debut with the big squad next season for a game or two. That being said, once he is physically mature, look for Hollowell to be a bottom four defenseman as he already has the skill to fit in at the NHL level. His work ethic and fearlessness alone will be what helps set him apart from the rest of his defensive cohort. - SC

  1. Filip Kral, D (149th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 9)

Kral is a steady defensive player with limited offensive upside. Last season he has shown more confidence with the puck and better decision making overall which has led to a bit of an offensive outburst. The hard shooting Czech had his best offensive production with his 12 goals and 36 assists as an overage player. He is a good skater who manages his own zone very well. He is a first pass guy but isn’t really a rush-leading defenseman. His vision and passing skills are both fine but he doesn’t ooze offensive skill. Defensively he is sound with a good control of his gaps and spacing in his own zone. He manages the cycle well despite not being an overtly physical player. His production comes from making smart, safe, fundamental hockey plays while on the ice with some lethal offensive weapons such as he had last season with Spokane. Don’t expect him to flash big production at the next level but he could fit nicely into a bottom pairing. - VG

  1. Joseph Woll, G (62nd overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 10)

For a rookie goaltender in the AHL, Woll did fairly well considering the change of pace coming from the NCAA Boston College to the Toronto Marlies. As a younger goaltender he does tend to bite a little early when it comes to dekes but stays strong in two-on-one situations. As a big body, he moves well and his rebound control is good as he stays strong in his crease. The future is still bright though, for Woll, as he has the potential to be a starting goaltender for the Leafs in the future. He still needs to work on playing the puck better and positioning when it comes to finding ways to see past players and find the puck in scrum situations but overall he made a good adjustment to the harder shots and quicker pace of the AHL level. As far as Toronto’s system goes, Woll stands a good chance of seeing starting time in the future but as always keep in mind that goaltenders often take a longer time to develop. – SC

  1. William Villeneuve, D (122nd overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

One of the top sleepers out of the QMJHL in the 2020 draft class, it may be easy to forget that he was selected second overall in the circuit’s 2018 Entry Draft. Despite his slow start to the current year, Villeneuve was the top scoring defender in the ‘Q’ last year. His game is predicated on solid decision making and finesse. A right-handed shot, he plays with poise at both ends and moves the puck soundly. He is not the most physical defender and needs to add strength in addition to his skating, which holds him back from a higher ranking as his technical efficiency is not quite matched by power or speed. The only CHL player drafted by the Leafs in 2020, He may not have the tools you look for in a power play quarterback, although his shot and puck skills will help him contribute in the offensive end. The overall game will have a chance to play at higher levels. – RW

  1. Adam Brooks, C (92nd overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 11)

Despite being a hard worker and trying to keep a focused attitude, forward Brooks has yet to really differentiate himself from his other Toronto Marlies teammates. He plays a simple game, does well on the penalty kill and keeps attackers to the outside in his own end and there is nothing wrong with that or his skill level. It simply comes down to the fact that Brooks has a good stride, can shoot and plays in a compact way where he does not get in the way and is aggressive enough to win puck battles but the details in his game are the loose ends that he needs to tie up. He does a lot of chasing of the puck and not enough anticipating of the play where he gets sloppy and ends up responsible for turnovers. At this point, Brooks will have to fine tune his game in time for next season or run the risk of becoming a trade commodity if he wants a chance at returning with the Leafs again as a bottom six call up, to say nothing of securing a full-time role. - SC

  1. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, C (76th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 12)

A skilled playmaker, Der-Arguchintsev had his best season to date in the OHL that saw him finish third in the league in assists with 63. Playing alongside fellow Leafs’ prospect Nick Robertson, SDA (as he is affectionately known) showed some progress physically which helped him to utilize his creativity and puck skill more consistently. However, it is important to note that while Der-Arguchintsev was near the top in total assists, the majority of those were either secondary or powerplay assists. His 18 primary assists at even strength were tied for 21st in the OHL, and his 42 total primary points were tied for 68th in the circuit. Additionally, he saw a shift to the wing later in the year, with his projection as an NHL center looking bleak. Maple Leaf fans will need to be patient with SDA as he continues to mature physically. His upside remains high, but with each passing year, it seems less likely that he reaches it. - BO

  1. Mikhail Abramov, C (115th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 13)

While Abramov’s point totals may not look totally impressive at first glance last season, his 35 goals alone nearly bested any teammate’s point totals. To say Abramov was on an island with Victoriaville last year is more or less accurate; the team took a step back from the previous season and teammate Yegor Serdyuk missed significant time. Despite this, Abramov still put on a clinic as the team’s primary option in terms of offence. He is slight of build but a great skater and confident puckhandler.  At 161 pounds, he is hardly a finished product, but he has some potential as a scoring option down the line. It is a commendation to his hockey sense and skating that he can play some center at that size. However, due to his sight build, it is likely scoring lines or bust for the Russian forward. - MS

  1. Pontus Holmberg, LW/C (156th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 14)

Holmberg has shown steady progression as a player since he was drafted in 2018. He is a puck skilled winger with good hockey sense who can make creative plays. He plays a quick-thinking game and controls the puck well. His skating is good, and while he is not the fastest player, he has strong lower body-balance and is quite agile. His production is still inconsistent, and he still takes too many nights off. He is the type of player that can have five brilliant games and then not show up on the scoreboard for ten straight games. He finished the season on a high note though, which hopefully is promising. He has a good wrist shot but has averaged fewer than one shot on goal per game. He has not earned the coaches trust to play top line minutes in the SHL, but he has signed a two-year extension with the team. His NHL projection is long-term, and the 21-year-old will need more time to develop before he can compete for a spot in the NHL. - JH

  1. Ian Scott, G (110th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: UR)

Originally drafted after a statistically awful season in the WHL, Scott had a moderately better one to follow before everything came together in a season for the ages to finish off his junior career, leading his team to a league championship. He was expected to compete for the title of “goalie of the future” with Joseph Woll last year, but a hip problem led to surgery last December, ending his professional debut before he actually suited up in a game. There is a ton of mystery in what happens next for Scott. He is healthy, but the WCHL will not be an option next year as Toronto’s affiliate in Newfoundland will not play this season due to the pandemic, while the organization brought in Alex Stalock and Michael Hutchison to play with Woll in the AHL. Clearly, Scott needs to play. He flashed enough in 2018-19 that a return to that trajectory would make for a great feel-good story of perseverance. Flashes of excellence aside, we don’t really have a way to currently project his ultimate ceiling. - RW