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Sunday FTB: Seeing positive growth from key prospects

The Leafs have done well to draft prospects who take important steps forward.

2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I always like signing up for the Sunday FTBs, because it’s a good time to give little updates on various Leafs’ prospects who had strong weeks and weekends. Or just to write about who I like!

Matthew Knies

Much ink and digital text has been spilled this year writing about Matthew Knies, who the Leafs drafted in the second round as a bit of a surprise. Myself and any other prospect writer have marveled at his explosive growth this year in his D+1 season, which is his freshman year in the NCAA. He’s not only produced offensively and become one of the top forwards on a top NCAA program, but his underlying numbers look stellar almost across the board.

We get to see him on a big stage against much tougher opponents coming up at the Olympics for Team USA. They’re in a group with China, Canada and Germany. The American’s schedule have their round robin games on the following days:

  • Thursday Feb 10th at 8:10 am vs China
  • Friday Feb 11th at 11:10 pm vs Canada (so it runs into early Saturday morning our time)
  • Sunday Feb 13th at 8:10 am vs Germany
  • The single game elimination playoffs will start on Monday Feb 14th.

It’s a weird system with only three ‘round robin games’, but a very long ‘playoff’ after that. USA is arguably the best team in the group, so they should qualify for the playoff pretty easily.

Ty Voit

Ty Voit has been a bit more quiet as a prospect in the Leafs’ last draft, but as a fifth round selection there was less expectation on him as well. He was a small, zippy, playmaking winger who barely played in his draft year because of COVID wiping out the entire OHL season. This year, he’s been Sarnia’s leading forward and even moved to center a lot of the time.

In his D+1 season, Ty Voit has had 45 points in 33 games, which leads his team by four points. That puts him just inside the top 20 in the OHL, but Voit is on a relatively poor team, is not surrounded by a very strong supporting cast, does not have tons of PP points like others ahead of him do, and somehow has all but three of his points as primary points.

He is a very effective playmaker, but has some slick hands to score goals in close. He’s a poor man’s Mitch Marner in every sense. He isn’t as big, fast, or skilled. But he is very much cut from the same cloth, including being a bit underrated for his defense and all-situations utility.

Ryan Tverberg

Tverberg is in his D+2 season, and while he seems to be a longer shot than anyone else in their big breakout seasons this year, he also had the most ground to make up. He was a 7th round pick, and the fifth final pick in the draft. The Leafs actually made a last second trade to take him, which seems odd for a team to do in the 7th round like that. But hey, he’s definitely made himself interesting.

Tverberg leads UConn in the NCAA in goals, and is tied for the most points, despite not being used on their top line. He is coming off of a three point weekend for UConn. He is often between the second and even the third line, though he is also used on their top powerplay and penalty kill units. He has not played against competition that tough, so don’t take his point totals too seriously. The good news is that his underlying numbers still look pretty darn good for a former 7th round pick.

But what he has done is make people start to believe in him. He was an invite to Team Canada’s selection camp for the World Juniors, even if he didn’t make the final cut. He is not as skilled as Voit. He is not as big as Knies. But he is an effective straight line skater with some decent hands and a good shot. But most importantly for him, he has one of this Zach Hyman-like motors where he just won’t quit on a play.

William Villeneuve

COVID has quietly made Villeneuve’s season go under the radar. The QMJHL wound up suspending their season for almost two months until cases were under control. He had zero games between December 12th and February 4th. Up until then, he had 23 points in 26 games. He was playing close to 30 minutes every night, in all situations.

In his first game back this past week, he picked up where he left off with two assists in their 4-0 win. His team, Saint John, are hosting the Memorial Cup. Assuming it happens (it’s already been pushed back), he’ll play on the big stage. That is why they loaded up at the QMJHL trade deadline, which happened during their break. Saint John made roughly 10,000 trades, and brought a former NCAA prospect in Yan Kuznetsov to play with him on the top pairing. He has a lot more help, which may mean that he plays less time on the ice but may be balanced by just having better teammates around him. He’ll still be used as their top defenseman.

LEAFS LINKS

Sarah Nurse and Brianne Jenner score dueling hat tricks in surprising blowout of Finland | by Hardev, who has been doing soldier’s work not only staying up to watch all of the late night women’s hockey games, but also writing recaps.

Trade targets for the Maple Leafs’ blueline | by TLN

Are the Maple Leafs more contenders or pretenders as they hit the midseason mark? | by The Athletic

In his second game back from his long injury, Nick Robertson was shining in the AHL last night. He had two goals and four shots, including this snipe.

MISCELLANEOUS LINKS

Claude Giroux’s two goals lead Metro to win over Central at NHL All-Star Game | by Sportsnet

Bettman: NHL will consider moving 2022 Draft out of Montreal if restrictions still in place | by TSN

Stay safe, stay healthy everyone!