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|
|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|
|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.