## NHLe for Leafs Prospects, 2021-22

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports - Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Every year after the draft, with an eye toward the Top 25 Under 25, I like to calculate the season NHLe for the Leafs players and prospects. It can be refreshing or sobering to assess players looking first at their production and then supplementing those numbers with context and the player's story.

NHLe stands for NHL Equivalency, and it's an attempt to translate player production across various leagues into one universal currency to better analyze prospects. We understand that a player who scores 70 points in 72 games in the AHL did something more difficult than a player who scored 92 points in 68 OHL games, and NHLe attempts to express that mathematically.

For this post, the players' totals come from Elite Prospects. For players who switched leagues or teams, I have summed them for convenience. The NHLe coefficients I am using come from Patrick Bacon (@TopDownHockey). You can view them on his Tableau. For players who played in different leagues, the NHLe column below sums the total NHLe, while the NHLe/g*82 normalizes the NHLe/g rate for 82 games in proportion to how much a player played in each league.

Important point, as always: production is production, but these numbers should be a starting point for discussion rather than the terminus and should be part of a holistic understanding of a player. You should get that in other prospect writing around this fine website.

Players on the tables below are those on the T25U25 eligibility list minus Auston Matthews, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, and Victor Mete, whom I consider NHLers. I have also omitted Rodion Amirov, who I am uncomfortable ranking in a post like this. If that bothers you: Auston Matthews laps the field 3 times, Liljegren and Sandin are first and second on the defensemen table, and Mete's rocky 2021-22 season lands him behind Mac Hollowell with 15.51 NHLe/g*82. Rodion Amirov, meanwhile, posted fine numbers in the KHL for a 20-year-old, and I choose to believe he will recover and get back on the ice given time.

#### Forwards

Name Draft Birthday Age Draft Year Position League GP G A P NHLe NHLe/g*82
Pontus Holmberg 2018 1999-03-09 23.39 2018 5 RW AHL/SHL 52 13 32 45 24.76 39.05
Nicholas Robertson 2019 2001-09-11 20.89 2019 3 LW NHL/AHL 38 17 12 29 11.89 25.66
Alex Steeves n/a 1999-12-10 22.64 n/a 4 C NHL/AHL 61 23 24 47 18.89 25.4
Vladislav Kara 2017 1998-04-20 24.28 2017 6 C VHL 30 17 11 28 9.18 25.1
Joey Anderson 2016 1998-06-19 24.12 2016 6 RW NHL/AHL 61 26 16 42 16.34 21.96
Roni Hirvonen 2020 2002-01-10 20.56 2020 2 C Liiga 46 9 17 26 11.47 20.44
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev 2018 2000-09-15 21.88 2018 4 C AHL 51 13 19 32 12.45 20.01
Nick Abruzzese 2019 1999-06-04 23.16 2019 5 C NHL/NCAA 37 10 24 34 7.4 16.4
Curtis Douglas 2018 2000-03-06 22.4 2018 4 C AHL 67 13 21 34 13.23 16.19
Matthew Knies 2021 2002-10-17 19.79 2021 1 LW NCAA 33 15 18 33 6.4 15.91
Semyon Kizimov 2018 2000-01-19 22.53 2018 4 RW VHL 48 13 14 27 8.86 15.13
Nikolai Chebykin 2016 1997-08-01 25 2016 7 C KHL/VHL/MHL 41 9 6 15 7.29 14.58
Ryan Tverberg 2020 2002-01-30 20.5 2020 2 C NCAA 36 14 18 32 6.21 14.14
Ty Voit 2021 2003-06-10 19.14 2021 1 RW OHL 67 26 54 80 11.52 14.1
Mikhail Abramov 2019 2001-03-26 21.35 2019 3 C AHL 66 7 21 28 10.89 13.53
Dmitri Ovchinnikov 2020 2002-08-19 19.95 2020 2 C AHL/KHL/MHL 46 16 18 34 7.24 12.91
Joe Miller 2020 2002-09-15 19.88 2020 2 C USHL 62 23 45 68 9.72 12.86
Nikita Grebyonkin 2022 2003-02-05 19.49 2022 1 RW KHL/MHL 59 17 47 64 9.15 12.72
Nicholas Moldenhauer 2022 2004-05-24 18.19 2022 0 RW USHL 41 18 25 43 6.15 12.3
Pavel Gogolev n/a 2000-02-19 22.45 n/a 4 LW AHL/ECHL 45 12 16 28 6.05 11.03
Max Ellis n/a 2000-01-18 22.54 n/a 4 RW AHL/NCAA 41 16 12 28 5.43 10.86
Veeti Miettinen 2020 2001-09-20 20.86 2020 2 RW NCAA 37 10 13 23 4.46 9.89
Brandon Lisowsky 2022 2004-04-13 18.3 2022 0 LW WHL 68 33 25 58 8.18 9.86
Fraser Minten 2022 2004-07-05 18.07 2022 0 C WHL 67 20 35 55 7.76 9.49
Braeden Kressler n/a 2003-01-05 19.57 n/a 1 C OHL 28 5 11 16 2.3 6.75
Wyatt Schingoethe 2020 2002-08-03 19.99 2020 2 C NCAA 20 0 0 0 0 0

I pulled these numbers on August 1st, so happy 25th birthday to Nikolai Chebykin! He and Vladislav Kara aging out of consideration should occasion some reflection on those Hunter drafts. Kara's a nice study for how to misread NHLe to make a bad point. Yes, Kara shows up in 4th on this forwards table. He's also 24 and put up this performance in the VHL after the past few seasons' failed attempts to stick in the KHL. Chebykin likewise at 25 years old hasn't been able to stick in the KHL despite starting the season hot. Womp womp.

Pontus Holmberg blew the doors off this season, and while that's always nice to see, he'll need to swim in the AHL in his D+6. His development path resembles Pierre Engvall and I would forecast him as a similar player: a 3rd liner with strong impacts.

Alex Steeves and Joey Anderson look like the most capable Marlies to challenge for a spot on the main roster at training camp. SDA, Abramov, and Gogolev look like they need more time in the AHL and will need to ramp their production to warrant optimism. Note that Curtis Douglas outscored both Gogolev and Abramov. These numbers don't qualify for deployment or icetime, so if Curtis Douglas is doing this with 4th-line usage, that's a huge reason for perk up and probably why the Leafs signed him to an ELC.

On a more positive note, despite how you might feel about Nick Robertson, his scoring suggests he'll be a good NHLer. His injury history is cause for concern, but it seems people have soured on from him because he hasn't locked down the 2LW spot at age 20, and I think that's a mistake. The NHLe translation is also sobering for Matthew Knies, who is enjoying the D+1 hype campaign that Nick Robertson enjoyed. In the aggregate, I feel Robbie and Knies look very similar to one another: two LW prospects who have a solid likelihood of becoming good NHLers and remote chances of being stars (depending on how you define star).

#### Defensemen

Name Draft Birthday Age Draft Year Position League GP G A P NHLe NHLe/g*82
Topi Niemelä 2020 2002-05-25 20.18 2020 2 RD Liiga 48 10 22 32 14.11 24.11
Mac Hollowell 2018 1998-09-26 23.85 2018 5 RD AHL 45 5 21 26 10.11 18.43
Axel Rindell 2020 2000-04-23 22.27 2020 4 RD Liiga 42 1 16 17 7.5 14.64
Filip Král 2018 1999-10-20 22.78 2018 4 LD AHL 58 3 18 21 8.17 11.55
Mikko Kokkonen 2019 2001-01-18 21.54 2019 3 LD Liiga 58 1 14 15 6.62 9.35
William Villeneuve 2020 2002-03-20 20.36 2020 2 RD QMJHL 64 8 48 56 6.33 8.11
Mike Koster 2019 2001-04-13 21.3 2019 3 LD NCAA 36 3 11 14 2.72 6.19
Ryan O'Connell 2017 1999-04-25 23.27 2017 5 LD NCAA 30 0 10 10 1.94 5.3
Kalle Loponen 2019 2001-03-13 21.38 2019 3 RD Liiga/Mestis/U20 SM-sarja 49 3 6 9 2.56 4.28
John Fusco 2020 2001-06-13 21.13 2020 3 LD NCAA 26 1 1 2 0.39 1.22

It's Topi Niemelä's table and the rest of these guys are just living in it.

I have questions about ways forward for Mac Hollowell and Filip Král given the Victor Mete and Jordie Benn signings. Ideally both would be squeaking in for games here or there on a contingency basis, what you would expect for 9th-10th defensemen, but instead they're boxed out save for a Mr. Burns' softball team series of unfortunate events. This is slightly less of an issue for Král, who could brook a season playing top-4 minutes for the Marlies on his path to being a 3rd-pair defenseman, but I do not see a world where Mac Hollowell gets that chance and time is running out for him.

I believe erstwhile teammates Axel Rindell and Mikko Kokkonen will be joining the Marlies this season and that can't happen soon enough. My bias is the sooner any players adapts to the AHL, the better. I find that I hate watching Mikko Kokkonen while I am intrigued by elements of Axel Rindell's game, and Rindell's production rate suggests why that might be.

William Villeneuve falls into the same camp as forward prospects like Ty Voit: I am encouraged by their production, but for CHL players, it's not high enough to warrant genuine excitement.

#### Goalies

Name Draft Birthday Age Draft Year Position League GP Sv%
Vyacheslav Peksa 2021 2002-08-27 19.9 2021 2 G MHL 56 0.936
Artur Akhtiamov 2020 2001-10-31 20.8 2020 2 G KHL/VHL/MHL 42 0.810/0.912/0.943
Joseph Woll 2016 1998-07-12 24.1 2016 6 G NHL/AHL 19 0.911/0.907
Dennis Hildeby 2022 2001-08-19 21 2022 3 G Superelit/SHL 19 .931/.931

No fancy translations here. Goalies are hard to predict but are also fairly distant—it is unlikely any of the Leafs' recently drafted goalies start an NHL game within the next 3 years—but let's talk about them for the sake of completeness.

Woll, having seen NHL action this season, should probably rank out ahead of any of these other goalies, but his ceiling is likely that of a backup goalie.

Dennis Hildeby's numbers are intruging and he's also humongous big. Both Akhtiamov and Peksa were brick walls in the MHL, and Akhtiamov managed respectable numbers in the VHL. He had one KHL game where he got smoked. Gotta learn somehow.

#### Conclusions

If the Leafs prospect pool feels bland it's because it kind of is. Dynamic, exciting prospects are a luxury reserved for teams who routinely pick in the top 10, and the Leafs finished high in recent regular seasons and have also moved substantial draft capital to both buy add-ons at the deadline and to clear out bad salary. Yet for a team like the Leafs, who have put up solid regular seasons and had cup aspirations for several seasons now, their prospect pool is not as barren as a lot of other teams who have also tried to keep contention windows open and win season in, season out (see: Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning).

I would probably find the Leafs' prospect pool interesting because I am a fan of the team, but I also find it interesting because while most pundits rank it around middle of the league, there are some (Byron Bader) who lauded their pool as deep in recent seasons. I don't have a quantitatively robust way to compare prospect pools for you, but I do have an analogy.

Imagine 32 children. Imagine some of those children had \$3-5 and some had less than \$3. Imagine most kids \$2-4 in loonies and toonies and the rest in nickels and dimes and such. Imagine one child had around \$3, but it was mostly in quarters. That child is the Toronto Maple Leafs: a deep but flat prospect pool with very few outright stars in the making but a lot of prospects that are more likely than most prospects to grow into NHL players, maybe even super useful ones.

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