We are one week into our countdown towards the Leafs top organizational prospect. Right now we seem to be focusing largely on players that are encouraging long shots or potentially worthwhile depth players. Next week we’ll start seeing a few more names that are a lot more of the hit or miss, swing for the fences prospects that haven’t necessarily established themselves yet.
Here’s who we’ve covered so far…
In the Honourable Mentions we focused on Dmitri Ovchinnikov, Kalle Loponen, and Veeti Miettenen. Here’s some of what what Nick DeSouza had to say about Ovchinnikov:
I personally had Ovchinnikov ranked the highest out of the TLN crew at 14. To many, Ovchinnikov was regarded as a sleeper prior to the draft and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Leafs were the ones to take him. One thing that was surprising though, was the fact that they traded up for the pick, something that we don’t usually see too often by Dubas.
Given that Ovchinnikov has 23 points in 15 games in the MHL, and has appeared in 5 games in the KHL this year, it’s likely we’ll have him a lot higher next year. Unfortunately Ovchinnikov didn’t make the cut for the Russian World Juniors camp roster, but given that he’s on the young sider of the eligible draftees, there’s a high probability we’ll see him there next year.
Our 20th ranked prospect was the lone CHLer taken by the Leafs in the entry draft this year, and given his unappealing stride, he was a prospect that some scouting services were quite low on, but there was an equal number of scouts that felt quite good about his point totals from the blue line.
Here were some of my thoughts on Villeneuve:
The thing about all of this is that there are a lot of familiarities to what was said about Tyson Barrie, and while I’m not sure a lot of Leafs fans are thrilled at a Tyson Barrie compensation, finding a potential Barrie type player in the fourth round, rather than trading for his worst professional year is a big difference. And that’s not to say that Villeneuve is Barrie anyway, he’s just another defenseman who had skating issues heading into the draft, but a strong offensive skillset that was able to find his way in the NHL.
Slowly but surely I think we’ll all warm up to our 19th ranked prospect, Pontus Holmberg. He’s steadily improved and considering he was drafted as a potential slower development project (think Engvall), he seems like he’ll be another late round hit, although playing much more of an Andreas Johnsson type game.
Here’s what Earl Schwartz had to say about Holmberg:
Pontus Holmberg doesn’t make many flashy plays or beat goalies with a great shot. He creates value by moving the puck into the offensive zone with his feet, and passing into high danger areas. What sets him apart is his efficiency in doing so, looking to push the puck deeper into the zone and closer to the net every time he gets ahold of it.
It’s hard not to have a soft spot for ECHLers who put in their time and develop, moving up from a tryout, to an AHL deal, to an entry level contract. That’s a big part of why we had Rubins at 18th overall, and the recent success of Justin Holl is a reminder to not discard players trying to make the show the hard way.
We kept Earl busy this week, and here are some of his thoughts on Rubins:
Being able to close the gap and engage with smaller players without getting burned with speed is what sets Rubins apart from the Martin Marincins of the world, who rely on an active stick to keep puck carriers to the perimeter. Rubins’ willingness to engage early prevents forwards from gaining the zone so easily with possession, when paired with a partner like David Quenneville who retrieves pucks it allowed Medicine Hat to execute quick breakouts.
I always root for the Leafs WHL prospects, and Kral is no different. To my surprise two of our writers had him ranked higher than me and I had him placed as the 14th best prospect in the organization, with his highest rank being 12th overall, although he was left off of 4 of 10 voters rankings completely as well.
One more time, here’s Earl Schwartz’ thoughts:
For some prospects you can point to their shot or their skating as an NHL-level tool, and that’s what makes them worthy of drafting. Kral does not have one physical attribute that stands out that way, but he uses his hockey IQ, stickhandling, and passing in combination to be an NHL-level breakout artist. Thinking about the tools we currently have to evaluate defencemen, crossing blue lines with control is something that certainly translates well.
Heading into the draft, many people wanted Dubas to take a Russian goaltender with the Leafs first round pick. He split the difference and took a Russian in the first round, and took a Russian goaltender in the 4th round. All the bases are covered, and from the looks of things Akhtyamov looks like a decent Plan B to Askarov. In fact, he’s likely to be the Plan B at the World Juniors next month.
Here’s some of Nick Richard’s breakdown of what the Leafs have in Akhtyamov:
So far this season, Akhtyamov has been shuffled around the Kazan system a bit and even got his first taste of KHL action at the ripe old age of 18, as the big club dealt with players missing time for various reasons. Playing at that level and keeping his head above water as a teenager is a feat in itself, regardless of the circumstances. He began the year back in the MHL but has found himself on the VHL roster following his brief KHL stint, and he’s continued to post strong numbers there as well. Through seven appearances, his .935 save percentage currently exceeds the mark he registered against weaker competition in the MHL last season.
That concludes our week one wrap up. You’ve probably got a good idea of who the remaining 15 players are, but the order might be a bit of a surprise. Remember to check back every weekday for our new prospect post, and you still have one more week to complete your own rankings for our community rankings post.
Finally, a special thanks to Nick Barden, who is responsible for all the beautiful prospect images you see at the top of the posts. If you are looking to hire someone for graphic design work I can’t think of a more talented and hard working individual.