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Maple Leafs Prospect Pool

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Who do they have ahead of the draft?

Russia v Czech Republic: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Usually the NHL Entry Draft is the big kickoff to prospect season for Maple Leafs fans. After last year’s spree of new draftees and signings, this summer might be a little more low key. As of now there are only three draft picks in Leafs’ possession, all for the Saturday portion of the draft. Last year was the big spend on prospects ahead of what we likely should expect to be frequent purchases at the trade deadline and in the offseason on NHL-ready players.

Last year’s draft dominates the list of unsigned draft picks:

Maple Leafs Unsigned Draft Picks July, 2021

Name Birth Date Position Draft Year Round Draft Position Rights Expire
Name Birth Date Position Draft Year Round Draft Position Rights Expire
Roni Hirvonen January 10, 2002 C 2020 2 59 June 1, 2024
Topi Niemelä May 25, 2002 RD 2020 3 64 June 1, 2024
Artur Akhtiamov October 31, 2001 G 2020 4 106 IND
William Villeneuve March 30, 2002 RD 2020 4 122 June 1, 2022
Dmitri Ovchinnikov August 19, 2002 C, LW, RW 2020 5 137 IND
Veeti Miettinen September 20, 2001 RW 2020 6 168 August 15, 2024
Joe Miller September 15, 2002 C, LW, RW 2020 6 180 August 15, 2025
Axel Rindell April 23, 2000 RD 2020 6 177 June 1, 2022
John Fusco June 13, 2001 LD 2020 7 189 August 15, 2024
Wyatt Schingoethe August 3, 2002 C 2020 7 195 August 15, 2025
Ryan Tverberg January 30, 2002 C 2020 7 213 August 15, 2025
Mikko Kokkonen January 18, 2001 LD 2019 3 84 June 1, 2023
Nick Abruzzese June 4, 1999 C 2019 4 124 August 15, 2023
Mike Koster April 13, 2001 LD 2019 5 146 August 15, 2024
Kalle Loponen March 13, 2001 RD 2019 7 204 June 1, 2023
Semyon Kizimov January 19, 2000 RW 2018 7 211 IND
Vladislav Kara April 20, 1998 C 2017 4 124 IND
Ryan O'Connell April 25, 1999 LD 2017 7 203 August 15, 2022
James Greenway April 27, 1998 LD 2016 3 72 August 15, 2021
Vladimir Bobylev April 18, 1997 LW, C 2016 5 122 IND
Nikolai Chebykin August 1, 1997 C 2016 7 182 IND
Fabrice Herzog December 9, 1994 LW, RW 2013 5 142 IND

At the bottom of this list, taken from Cap Friendly, so it includes Fabrice Herzog who I like to forget about, is dominated by players like him who aren’t prospects anymore, but are held by indefinite rights. They come from countries where, at the time they were drafted, there was no transfer agreement with the NHL. This causes a lot of confusion because non-North-American players in the junior systems of Canada and the US can have difficult statuses to track. Cap Friendly confirmed this summer that the Leafs’ rights to defender Eemeli Räsänen have expired upon his return to various European leagues.

I ignore everyone drafted in 2018 and earlier, and I ignore anyone born in 2000 or earlier who were taken in later rounds. The only potential exception is Nick Abruzzese, who has so far done nothing but play well in what is junior hockey. But because he missed an entire season, his “are you a player or not” year is likely this coming season.

Once a player is three to four years out from the draft, if they haven’t been signed, they’re likely to be heard from again only when they sign a minor-league deal for some other team.

This is particularly true when a team is not worrying about SPC counts. The Maple Leafs had so many dead contracts, NHL-contracted career minor leaguers, and players taken in trade as cap dumps in 2015 and 2016, that they were careful about who they signed, but that’s no longer an issue. They’ve been signing prospects they like, bringing them to Toronto, at least in the offseason, and deciding their future based on more than hazy ideas of what they wished the player was when they drafted him.

Their list of players who either are now unsigned RFAs or whose contracts expire as RFAs is decently long for a mature team:

Maple Leafs RFAs as of July, 2021

Name Birth Date Positiion Draft Year Draft Round Draft Position Contract Expires
Name Birth Date Positiion Draft Year Draft Round Draft Position Contract Expires
Rodion Amirov October 2, 2001 LW 2020 1 15 2024
Nicholas Robertson September 11, 2001 LW 2019 2 53 2024
Mikhail Abramov March 26, 2001 C 2019 4 115 2024
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev September 15, 2000 C 2018 3 76 2023
Alex Steeves December 10, 1999 C UND 2024
Filip Král October 20, 1999 D 2018 5 149 2023
Timothy Liljegren April 30, 1999 D 2017 1 17 2022
Pontus Holmberg March 9, 1999 RW, LW 2018 6 156 2023
Ian Scott January 11, 1999 G 2017 4 110 2022
Mac Hollowell September 26, 1998 D 2018 4 118 2022
Joe Woll July 12, 1998 G 2016 3 62 2022
Joey Anderson June 19, 1998 RW 2016 3 73 2023
Kristians Rubins December 11, 1997 D UND 2022
Joey Duszak July 22, 1997 D UND 2021
Veini Vehviläinen February 13, 1997 G 2018 6 173 2021
Denis Malgin January 18, 1997 F 2015 4 102 2021
Erik Källgren October 14, 1996 G 2015 7 183 2023
Nicolas Petan March 22, 1995 F 2013 2 43 2021

There are again, some older players to ignore here. Anyone older than Joey Anderson is a known commodity, but in the younger set under contract is some potential. With only two first-round draft picks and two second-rounders, it’s muted potential, but again, that’s the expected status of a prospect pool for a team that should be making deep playoff runs by now.

It’s not the end of the world to have only a few names added to this list this year and next, when there are also only three picks, but eventually, creative solutions need to be found, or you end up the Washington Capitals, with no one on the roster on an ELC, cap troubles and a bare prospect cupboard.

The goal, of course, is to not have holes in big-minute roster spots every season, which is not something the 2021 draft can solve. but is likely the more immediate concern than counting up picks.