With the NHL and AHL frozen and nearly everything else cancelled for 2019/2020, it’s a little difficult to decide if this is offseason or not. For junior draft picks it is, but they don’t all know where they’ll be next year. There’s a couple that are in that grey area of still eligible for junior hockey as an overager, but now AHL eligible as well. There are also other NCAA and junior players who aren’t formally named to teams for next year. We can likely guess where they’ll play next year, but it’s not official yet. For them and others, they’ll live in limbo for a while longer.
It seems as though the Leafs have signed all the draft picks they want to add before rights expire in June (assuming that date isn’t moved). The drafted prospects that haven’t fully moved to the AHL or the NHL yet now looks like this:
Hiatus Pipeline, April 2020
|Name||Birthdate||Pos||2019/2020 Team||2020/2021 Team||Rights Expire|
|Nick Robertson||September 11, 2001||LW||Peterboroough Petes, OHL||NHL Contract - still junior eligible|
|Mike Koster||April 13, 2001||D||Tri-City Storm, USHL||University of Minnesota, NCAA||August 15, 2024|
|Mikhail Abramov||March 26, 2001||C||Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL||NHL Contract - still junior eligible|
|Kalle Loponen||March 13, 2001||D||Sudbury Wolves, OHL (Loan from Kärpät)||Kärpät, Liiga||June 1, 2023|
|Mikko Kokkonen||January 18, 2001||D||Jukurit, Liiga||Jukurit, Liiga||June 1, 2023|
|Semyon Der-Arguchintsev||September 15, 2000||C||Peterboroough Petes, OHL||NHL Contract - AHL eligible in 2020/2021|
|Semyon Kizimov||January 19, 2000||RW||Lada Togliatti, VHL||Indefinite|
|Riley Stotts||January 5, 2000||C||Calgary Hitmen, WHL||June 1, 2020|
|Zachary Bouthillier||November 8, 1999||G||Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL||June 1, 2020|
|Filip Kral||October 20, 1999||D||Spokane Chiefs, WHL||NHL Contract - AHL eligible in 2020/2021|
|Nick Abruzzese||June 4, 1999||F||Harvard, NCAA||August 15, 2023|
|Ryan O'Connell||April 25, 1999||D||Ohio State, NCAA||August 15, 2022|
|Eemeli Räsänen||April 6, 1999||D||Jokerit, KHL||HPK, Liiga||Indefinite|
|Pontus Holmberg||March 9, 1999||LW/C||Växjö HC, SHL||Växjö HC, SHL||June 1, 2022|
|J.D. Greenway||April 27, 1998||D||University of Maine, NCAA||August 15, 2021|
|Vladislav Kara||April 20, 1998||C/W||Ak Bars KHL/Bars Kazan VHL||Ak Bars KHL/Bars Kazan VHL||Indefinite|
|Nikolai Chebykin||August 1, 1997||LW||Toros Neftekamsk/Traktor Chelyabinsk, VHL||Indefinite|
|Vladimir Bobylev||April 18, 1997||C||Toros Neftekamsk/Traktor Chelyabinsk, VHL||Indefinite|
Beginning with the oldest drafted player still under team control would really involve starting with the 25-year-old Fabrice Herzog, but he’s a confirmed Swiss league player, and under indefinite rights due to the lack of transfer agreement with Switzerland.
The next two players are younger versions of Herzog and one of these days they’ll drop off this list entirely. The most notable thing about Vladimir Bobylyov and Nikolai Chebykin is that they ended up on the same team in the VHL and were traded together to a new team in December. They are both 23 this year, and are as set in their VHL careers as Herzog is in his league. The team they were traded to has a KHL club so bad right now, they might get some KHL games in next season if they re-sign, but both are currently without contracts. Neither of them would be a significant asset on the Marlies, even if there was interest on either side.
Vladislav Kara, under contract with Ak Bars/Bars Kazan, is a better player than the two older Russians, but he’s also got a good deal on a very good team and may well want to stay there permanently.
J.D. Greenway made a decent comeback in the NCAA after a year back in the USHL. He has one more year of eligibility for the NCAA.
Pontus Holmberg, drafted as an overager, has a contract in the SHL that runs for years, and there’s no way of knowing if there’s interest in him playing on the Marlies, but a loan could happen at some point.
Eemeli Räsänen is signed to play in the Liiga for next season, and that might cause his rights to revert to non-indefinite, but we have no confirmation on that yet.
Ryan O’Connell and Nick Abruzzese are about the same age, even though they were drafted in different years, and they will both play more NCAA hockey before the Leafs have to make a decision on them. Abruzzese has impressed in his first year with Harvard, and made the NCAA second-team all-star team.
Filip Kral will almost certainly be on the Marlies or Growlers next year, but take note of his age vs Abruzzese. Kral has played three years in the WHL and seems like he’s been around forever, and yet he’s the younger player.
Zach Bouthillier and Riely Stotts seem to be about to fall out of team control unsigned, although no one has confirmed that. Bouthillier could show up in the ECHL, even in Newfoundland, and Stotts seems like a player who would get a serious look by AHL teams, perhaps the Marlies.
Semyon Kizimov is curiously unsigned for next season so far. He would be better off in a club with a KHL and a VHL team so he doesn’t get stuck in the VHL, but that hasn’t happened yet, and he was snakebit on goal scoring this season, making it harder. It pays to remember he’s only 20 years old, has been playing pro hockey for years, and has room to develop significantly yet.
That leaves the six youngest prospects, three of whom are already on ELCs. Nick Robertson and Mikhail Abramov will both be in the CHL next year, but not without a whole lot of “will he or won’t he” games around Robertson making the NHL in training camp.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev will likely be on the Marlies/Growlers along with Kral. Mike Koster is starting in the NCAA and the two Finnish defenders, Mikko Kokkonen and Kalle Loponen might both be in the Liiga next year. The difficulty for Loponen is that his team’s roster will be almost impossible for him to crack, so he might be loaned somewhere, perhaps to the OHL again. Kokkonen finished up this season playing top pair, and should start next year where he left off.
One thing that stands out as a concern with this list is that once Bouthillier’s rights expire in a few weeks, the Leafs have no junior-aged goalie prospects. The other thing is that half the youngest cohort of prospects are defenders, leaving a dearth of forwards to move up the ranks. Once you lop off the older prospects on indefinite rights and look as the younger ones with serious chances to develop to something better than their draft position should have given you hopes for, the list is short. Very short.
The Leafs have 10 draft picks for this year’s draft, whenever that will take place, so that infusion should bring up the numbers, but only one of those picks is higher than the fourth round. We will need to see more late-round hits on picks than you get on average to improve this list significantly. If you believe the Maple Leafs scout and draft better than average, you should be cautiously optimistic for what that list will look like the day after draft day.
Next up, I’ll try to sort out who is likely on the Marlies and Growlers rosters and where the empty places are that need to be filled.