Partway through the second period in the Monday night Leafs game in Nashville, everyone suddenly noticed Kasperi Kapanen wasn’t on the ice. The TV people never found anything to show as to why he was gone, and neither did I having a look at his last shift.

This is the last thing Kapanen did on the ice.

Prior to this, on this shift, he took a hit, and it looked like nothing. He didn’t show any signs of problems handling the puck, which he did quite a bit of. If fanning on a shot is a sign of a serious injury, William Nylander plays hurt all the time. But Kapanen could have had something bothering him in the intermission, but would he have missed any game time if he wasn’t the most talked about trade chip the Leafs have?

The word last night was that x-rays were negative, and they would decide later if he would play in Dallas on Wednesday.

Meanwhile later on in the TSN broadcast, Bob McKenzie talked Leafs and trade deadline. There’s no new news here, not really, just a slightly different spin on who the Leafs are willing to trade to, once again, add a defenceman. Kevin Papetti summed it up well, so I’m just going to let him talk:

What’s new here is that last year and through the summer, Timothy Liljegren was definitely not on any sort of internal no-trade list. Last year so much was going on, though, that’s it understandable that the Leafs needed to keep some options open. But no team would trade Rasmus Sandin. The number of 19-year-old defenders who can legitimately play in the NHL is not long. You don’t get rid of them.

As for Nick Robertson, you don’t trade a player like him either. It isn’t just that the Leafs certainly seem to have punched above their weight with a 53rd overall pick, it’s that he’s so young still, and playing so well, we can’t yet say for sure how far he’ll soar over an average second rounder, but it’s impossible not to get very exciting about his potential.

I was looking at points on Elite Prospects, which is a terrible way to judge players, but sometimes for a big picture look at players in leagues not the NHL, it’s interesting. This is the top 100 U19 player seasons since 2000-2001:

U19 Player Seasons in the OHL by PPG since 2000

1Connor McDavid (C)2014-2015Erie Otters4744761202.55
2Patrick Kane (RW)2006-2007London Knights5862831452.5
3Corey Locke (C)2002-2003Ottawa 67's6663881512.29
4Sam Gagner (C/W)2006-2007London Knights5335831182.23
5Marco Rossi (C)2019-2020Ottawa 67's372853812.19
6Sam Bennett (C/LW)2014-2015Kingston Frontenacs111113242.18
7Connor McMichael (C)2019-2020London Knights353442762.17
8Jason Spezza (C)2000-2001totals5643731162.07
Mississauga IceDogs15723302
Windsor Spitfires413650862.1
9Mitchell Marner (RW)2015-2016London Knights5739771162.04
10John Tavares (C)2006-2007Oshawa Generals6772621342
11Mitchell Marner (RW)2014-2015London Knights6344821262
12John Tavares (C)2007-2008Oshawa Generals5940781182
13Sam Nyberg (D)2008-2009Brampton Battalion21342
14Kris Purawec (LW)2005-2006Oshawa Generals11122
15Dylan Strome (C)2015-2016Erie Otters5637741111.98
16Jason Spezza (C)2001-2002totals5342631051.98
Windsor Spitfires271926451.67
Belleville Bulls262337602.31
17Quinton Byfield (C)2019-2020Sudbury Wolves362941701.94
18Dylan Strome (C)2014-2015Erie Otters6845841291.9
19Taylor Raddysh (RW)2016-2017Erie Otters5842671091.88
20Matthew Tkachuk (LW)2015-2016London Knights5730771071.88
21Taylor Hall (LW)2009-2010Windsor Spitfires5740661061.86
22John Tavares (C)2008-2009totals5658461041.86
Oshawa Generals322628541.69
London Knights243218502.08
23Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW)2012-2013Sarnia Sting332734611.85
24Gabe Vilardi (C)2017-2018Kingston Frontenacs322236581.81
25Cole Perfetti (C)2019-2020Saginaw Spirit462854821.78
26Arthur Kaliyev (LW)2019-2020Hamilton Bulldogs403239711.78
27Jamieson Rees (C)2019-2020Sarnia Sting261729461.77
28Connor McDavid (C)2013-2014Erie Otters562871991.77
29Cody Hodgson (C)2008-2009Brampton Battalion534349921.74
30Kyle Wellwood (C)2000-2001Belleville Bulls6835831181.74
31Philip Tomasino (C)2019-2020totals453246781.73
Niagara IceDogs362235571.58
Oshawa Generals91011212.33
32Steven Stamkos (C/W)2007-2008Sarnia Sting6158471051.72
33Corey Perry (RW)2003-2004London Knights6640731131.71
34Bryan Little (C)2005-2006Barrie Colts6442671091.7
35Robby Fabbri (C/LW)2014-2015Guelph Storm302526511.7
36Barrett Hayton (C)2018-2019Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds392640661.69
37Alex DeBrincat (RW/LW)2015-2016Erie Otters6051501011.68
38Travis Konecny (RW/LW)2015-2016totals6030711011.68
Ottawa 67's29738451.55
Sarnia Sting312333561.81
39Tyler Seguin (C)2009-2010Plymouth Whalers6348581061.68
40Nicholas Robertson (C/LW)2019-2020Peterborough Petes313418521.68
41Morgan Frost (C)2017-2018Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds6742701121.67
42Michael Dal Colle (LW/RW)2014-2015Oshawa Generals564251931.66
43Christian Dvorak (C)2014-2015London Knights6641681091.65
44Cory Emmerton (C)2006-2007Kingston Frontenacs402937661.65
45Nail Yakupov (RW/LW)2011-2012Sarnia Sting423138691.64
46Andrei Svechnikov (RW/LW)2017-2018Barrie Colts444032721.64
47Ryan Strome (C/RW)2010-2011Niagara IceDogs6533731061.63
48Akil Thomas (C)2018-2019Niagara IceDogs6338641021.62
49Bobby Ryan (RW/LW)2005-2006Owen Sound Attack593164951.61
50Sam Bennett (C/LW)2013-2014Kingston Frontenacs573655911.6
51Tyler Toffoli (RW)2010-2011Ottawa 67's6857511081.59
52Steve Ott (C/W)2000-2001Windsor Spitfires555037871.58
53Nick Suzuki (C)2017-2018Owen Sound Attack6442581001.56
54Ryan Ellis (D)2008-2009Windsor Spitfires572267891.56
55Nail Yakupov (RW/LW)2010-2011Sarnia Sting6549521011.55
56Patrick O'Sullivan (C)2003-2004Mississauga IceDogs534339821.55
57Adam Mascherin (LW)2016-2017Kitchener Rangers6535651001.54
58Mike Richards (C)2003-2004Kitchener Rangers583659891.53
59Eric Himelfarb (C)2000-2001Sarnia Sting493144751.53
60Robert Thomas (C/RW)2017-2018totals492451751.53
London Knights272026461.7
Hamilton Bulldogs22425291.32
61Alex DeBrincat (RW/LW)2014-2015Erie Otters6851531041.53
62Andrew Mangiapane (LW)2014-2015Barrie Colts6843611041.53
63André Burakovsky (LW/RW)2013-2014Erie Otters574146871.53
64Brad Boyes (RW)2000-2001Erie Otters594545901.53
65Taylor Beck (RW/LW)2009-2010Guelph Storm613954931.52
66Max Domi (C/LW)2013-2014London Knights613459931.52
67Arthur Kaliyev (LW)2018-2019Hamilton Bulldogs6751511021.52
68Stephen Weiss (C)2001-2002Plymouth Whalers462545701.52
69Steve Downie (RW)2005-2006totals351934531.51
Windsor Spitfires13033
Peterborough Petes341634501.47
70Christian Thomas (RW)2010-2011Oshawa Generals665445991.5
71Robby Fabbri (C/LW)2013-2014Guelph Storm584542871.5
72Mike Vlajkov (D)2013-2014Ottawa 67's21231.5
73Shane Prince (LW/RW)2010-2011Ottawa 67's592563881.49
74Chris Terry (LW/RW)2007-2008Plymouth Whalers6844571011.49
75Eric Staal (C)2002-2003Peterborough Petes663959981.48
76Ryan Strome (C/RW)2011-2012Niagara IceDogs463038681.48
77Nick Suzuki (C)2016-2017Owen Sound Attack654551961.48
78Brett MacLean (RW)2006-2007Oshawa Generals6847531001.47
79Owen Tippett (RW/LW)2017-2018Mississauga Steelheads513639751.47
80Riley Damiani (C)2018-2019Kitchener Rangers583055851.47
81Steven Stamkos (C/W)2006-2007Sarnia Sting634250921.46
82Rob Schremp (C)2004-2005London Knights624149901.45
83Patrick O'Sullivan (C)2002-2003Mississauga IceDogs564041811.45
84Jared McCann (C/LW)2014-2015Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds563447811.45
85Logan Couture (C)2006-2007Ottawa 67's542652781.44
86Dougie Hamilton (D)2011-2012Niagara IceDogs501755721.44
87Derek Roy (C)2001-2002Kitchener Rangers624346891.44
88Bobby Ryan (RW/LW)2004-2005Owen Sound Attack623752891.44
89Josh Bailey (RW/LW)2007-2008Windsor Spitfires672967961.43
90Jeremy Morin (RW/LW)2009-2010Kitchener Rangers584736831.43
91Taylor Hall (LW)2008-2009Windsor Spitfires633852901.43
92Jordan Kyrou (C/RW)2016-2017Sarnia Sting663064941.42
93Michael Dal Colle (LW/RW)2013-2014Oshawa Generals673956951.42
94Tobias Rieder (RW/LW)2011-2012Kitchener Rangers604243851.42
95Jeff Skinner (LW)2009-2010Kitchener Rangers645040901.41
96Stephen Weiss (C)2000-2001Plymouth Whalers624047871.4
97Chris Stewart (RW/LW)2005-2006Kingston Frontenacs623750871.4
98Nikolay Goldobin (RW/LW)2013-2014Sarnia Sting673856941.4
99Brendan Perlini (LW/RW)2014-2015Niagara IceDogs432634601.4
100Greg McKegg (C/LW)2010-2011Erie Otters664943921.39

There’s eight players here from this season, which is not the most from a single year, but is still fairly unusual. Some of them haven’t been drafted yet, and if you don’t know the name Marco Rossi, you might as well learn it now, because he’s making a case for a future as the best Austrian hockey player ever. But look down the list, and see how many names you don’t know.  (Don’t count the two guys who only played a couple of games.)

There’s only one player in the top 40 who never had a serious NHL career or isn’t currently a top prospect. By the time you get to the rate Robertson is scoring at, it’s clear the quality is getting a little more mixed, and he’s not John Tavares, on the list every year. But he’s in there with the players who are top draft picks this year. And no those guys aren’t a year younger than him. Nick Robertson is 12 days older than Marco Rossi.

The man who didn’t make it is Corey Locke, 35 now and just retired. He was a good player, maybe even great in junior, but he was drafted in the fourth round by Montréal after that amazing OHL season. He played a lot of AHL hockey for a lot of years, and finished with .89 points per game there, or just a hair under what a scoring forward usually produces to be the absolute cream of the crop.

Locke had three NHL games for the Rangers, five more for the Senators and then he went to Europe and toured the leagues before settling in to dominate the EBEL in his thirties. Locke is 5’9” and 165 lbs. And maybe he was born a decade too soon, or maybe he just didn’t quite have it, but that’s the tale of the one man on that list who never made it.

And that’s the fear about Robertson, of course. But the NHL is different now, and if you’re scoring in that class in the OHL (and Robertson is doing it with both a massive shooting percentage and a very, very high shot rate) then you’re going to get a real shot at doing that in the NHL. No one is going to trade you as a prospect when you’re in that class.

Jeremy Bracco is a different story. I think we all expect him to be traded, and I think back to last summer, when so much was happening, and with the gift of hindsight, it sure looks like that was the time to use Bracco to sweeten some pot. He’s not suddenly bad now that his points per game rate in the AHL has dropped to .79 from 1.1. But he is struggling to produce on the roster as it is now. It looks like he wasn’t the driver of his line last year, and you might think it all was Chris Mueller all along. Mueller has slowed down too, so maybe it was both of them getting the job done.

Bracco has looked lately like he’s not trying, but also sometimes like there’s a bounce back just waiting for an opportunity.

It’s interesting that when the AHL All-Star Game was short players at the last minute, it was Liljegren and Bracco who got sent. Bracco’s been there and done that, so he was a good choice, though not an All-Star by his play this year. But it never hurts to get a player like him out in front of some eyes in the Western Conference, so I doubt the GM of the Marlies had to think too hard about sending him.

It’s very hard to tell right now how serious the Maple Leafs are about making a trade. But it looks like Kapanen is going to be protected from harm for a few weeks, and it looks like Bracco just got put on display, but then maybe that’s all just how the dice rolled. Last year it felt more definite that a trade was coming. This year seems so uncertain in so many ways.

But what’s your take on this? Who do you think won’t be on the Leafs come February 25?

Who will be gone by the deadline?

Jeremy Bracco166
Kasperi Kapanen154
Andreas Johnsson113
A package deal of some or all of those players657
No one will get traded at all180