Sign Up to PPP Today

You have to be a member to comment at PPP. Membership is free and requires only an email address.

Become a Member

Contrary to how I usually do these things, this will be a mini update on a bunch of Toronto's prospects all at once. As a reminder, when I report on prospects I am not counting any player on the Marlies – I am only watching those still in junior, college or over in Europe. I'm also not writing about every single prospect whose rights Toronto owns.

So the regular season for every non-AHL league has ended. Some have already started the playoffs, with Russia in particular being already in the middle of the second round. I don't really have any major updates on any of Toronto's best prospects from whenever I last wrote a report on them. So, rather than try and power through (adding them up) 15 full profiles, I'm going to give some brief updates and how their playoff picture looks.

Easton Cowan

We'll start with the guy that's been Toronto's hottest prospect pretty much all season. Cowan's final game of the regular season was on Sunday, where he had a goal and one assist. He finished the year on a 36 game point streak where he had 25 goals and 68 points. He also finished second in the league in points per game at 1.77, which would have been a 148 point pace over a full 68 game season. But since he missed chunks of time from being in Toronto's pre-season camp and then at the World Juniors, Cowan finished tied for 6th in the league with 96 points in 54 games. For good measure, he also finished first in the league in short handed goals (7) and points (14). Suffice to say, it was an outstanding season for a guy that many people – myself included – questioned as a first round pick.

From Mitch Brown's CHL tracking project:

The London Knights finished with the best record in the OHL, and will open their playoffs against Flint starting on Friday March 29th. Their conference is definitely the tougher one, and so their path to an OHL championship and Memorial Cup appearance is no guarantee. But they will be the favourites, with:

  • The second best offense (goals for)
  • The best defense (fewest goals against)
  • The best powerplay (PP%)
  • The best penalty kill (PK%)
  • A strong balance of quality prospects at the top and in their depth, at forward and defense.

And Cowan will lead them in every situation.

Fraser Minten

I get the feeling that Minten had a bit of a forgotten year, both because the Hot New Prospect(TM) was on a bonkers point streak and because his point totals are not that sexy-looking. Minten finished the season this weekend with 22 goals and 48 points in 43 games. He got into some NHL games at the start of the year, he was captain of Team Canada at the world juniors, and he was traded from the worst team in the WHL to the best. While I think we'd all have loved to see his point totals explode, it was still a good year for Minten.

From previous interviews, Minten and various coaches or development staff talked about how they wanted him to work on specific parts of his game to help him be more pro-ready. Points were of a secondary concern. And honestly, being traded to Saskatoon helped that a lot as they are not an elite offensive team, but a very strong two-way team. What Minten did was give Saskatoon an elite defensive/two-way center. At one point I was tracking their team shots against before and after he joined the team, and their possession numbers improved pretty dramatically with and without him.

Like London, Saskatoon finished with the best record in the league, but they are in an easier conference. They had:

  • The 7th best offense
  • By FAR the best defense (163 goals against, second best was 187)
  • The 6th best PP%
  • The best PK%

They'll open the playoffs against Prince Albert starting on Thursday March 28th, and funnily enough they came close to playing Chadwick's team (more on him below).

Brandon Lisowsky

Honestly, at the start of this season and even through the first third of it, I didn't really have much interest in Lisowsky. His point production had not really been increasing since his draft year, nor did he seem like he had improved a lot in significant areas of his game. I honestly only watched a small handful of games at the start of the year before focusing on Cowan and Minten more, once they returned to their junior teams.

Once Minten was dealt to the same team, I started seeing Lisowsky more by proxy and gained a newfound appreciation for him. He finished with career highs in goals (42), points (80) and shots (297) in 68 games. Again, these are improvements from his previous seasons but not huge ones.

Where he did improve was in other areas of his game. He hasn't gotten to a Minten or Cowan level of impact on the ice as a whole, but he added new or improved elements to his game He was used as a penalty killer, where I thought he did pretty well. But he also added a bit of an underrated physical game, in the vein of a small pest rather than being a bruising power forward. I thought it was funny that a couple of weeks after I started noticing this, Lisowsky was quoted in an article talking about how he was modeling his game after the likes of Brad Marchand. I certaintly would not say he's a pest anywhere near that level, but I can kind of get what he was going for.

Lisowsky will be a big part of Saskatoon's playoff run. He is not their top scorer, but he was their second best scorer for the season. He bounced between the two top lines with two older prospects (Wong and Sidorov) who formed the core of their top forward line all year, and the second line with their two big acquisitions: Minten and Alexander Suzdalev.

And hey if we're really lucky, maybe Toronto will have two teams and three prospects in the Memorial Cup this spring! I can't remember if it's after this season that Toronto has to sign him or give up his rights, and I'm also still not fully sold he'd be worth an ELC. But he at least made it a question I have to think about rather than being an easy "no". I can see him at least making an interesting AHLer.

Noah Chadwick

Chadwick is arguably the bigger pleasant surprise in his improvements this year than even Cowan. His issue is he started a lot further back, so even as far as he progressed he still is not anywhere near a star prospect. However, he did put himself into the realm of being interesting even if there's still a ways for him to go.

What he did was almost triple his goal (13) and point (57) totals from the previous season, and finished 8th in the league among all defensemen in points. If you filter for U19 players who were his age or younger, Chadwick finished 2nd in the league. The combination of Chadwick's growth offensively as a defenseman with his size (6'4", 201 lbs) is likely what led to Toronto signing him to an ELC – one of the earliest non-first rounders of his draft year to be signed.

From Mitch Brown's CHL tracking project:

Unlike London or Saskatoon, Lethbridge did not finish first in the league. In fact, they finished 7th in their conference giving them a matchup against Swift Current in the first playoff round starting on Friday March 29th. Swift Current loaded up at the deadline, while Lethbridge mostly stayed put as more of a rebuilding team. I'd guess this will be a pretty quick series for Swift Current, but Chadwick should be proud of the progress he made this year. I'm looking forward to seeing him at the rookie and development camps, where he will hopefully show another leap in adding more muscle to his frame and improving his skating.

Braeden Kressler

Rounding out the CHL prospects, Kressler is sort of in the same camp as Lisowsky despite already having an ELC. Since being signed as an undrafted prospect, he has made smaller bits of progress rather than any big developmental leap you'd want to see from someone who was originally unheralded. Kressler is at least is under contract until the 2026 off-season, and he also has a bit of an excuse for slower development – he was never able to stay healthy until this year. It was also a career year for him, in goals (28), assists (46) and points (74).

But he's also an overager, who was loaned back to junior rather than going pro like most other prospects his age. And between the pandemic and various injuries, Kressler had only played in 75 games the previous three seasons. This year he played in 65, and was dealt from Flint – a team barely in the playoffs – to Ottawa who were had the 10th best record in the OHL. Kressler has the 2nd most points on his team, and wound up being used a lot in all situations.

Ottawa will begin their playoff series as the 6th seed against Brantford, starting on Friday March 29th.

Nick Moldenhauer

Moldenhauer is coming off a decent freshman season for Michigan. He finished the year with 8 goals and 21 points playing mostly a depth role on the third line and second powerplay unit. That was good for 8th on a pretty deep team full of first round NHL draft picks and older NCAA veterans. Among other U20 players in the whole of the NCAA, it was good for a tie for 40th. Given his role, it was good but not great.

Watching Moldenhauer was much the same. He had his moments, but I never really saw him take over a play or influence the game very much. He was more capitalistic and supportive, and even then his impacts were not significant. Eyeballing the roster, there's no guarantee that any of the high profile prospects or older players ahead of him on the depth chart will be gone next season. So I'll want to see him show the ability to influence the play more in his depth role, since his offensive skills do not seem like they're good enough to carry him.

Michigan, like Moldenhauer, had a good not great year. They lost in their conference finals, and finished with the 10th best ranking in the NCAA. They did make the NCAA tournament, and will face the 6th ranked North Dakota in the first bracket single elimination game on Friday March 29th. If Moldenhauer wants to impress us late in the year, doing it on the biggest stage of the season would be the time to do it!

Hudson Malinoski

Malinoski is also coming off his freshman season, as a D+2 prospect, but on not as good a team as Michigan. Providence and Malinoski actually started the year very strong, and I think I saw their ranking top out around 8th. But they faded down the stretch, as did Malinoski's point production, and they lost in their conference semi-finals while failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament. As a result, Malinoski's season is completely over.

Considering expectations for Malinoski going into this season were basically zero, he had a pretty good year. Even when he wasn't scoring, he was one of the top centers – switching between being used as the 1C and 2C mostly. He was used on the top PP unit and occasionally on the PK, and he finished with 18 points in 35 games. That was good for 4th on a lower scoring team, but they are expecting a few higher profile, higher skilled forwards on their roster soon with a decent group of commits. Malinoski is interesting as a depth option because of the little things he does well, but he's not an elite offensive force. Having more skill around him to drive the offense while he acts as the glue for his two wingers could very well lead to a big jump in production next year.

Joe Miller

Miller arguably had the best year of any of Toronto's prospects in the NCAA this season. He led a pretty bad Harvard team in almost every offensive category, so even though his point production dropped by a single point from last season I found it actually more impressive. Last year he was a passenger on a top line that was largely driven by genuinely high profile prospects who turned pro after last season. This year, Miller was almost on his own to be the team's offense and he did an admirable job. He finished leading the team in goals (13), assists (14) and points (27) by a healthy margin. The next closest forward to him had 16 points, for reference.

But like Malinoski, Harvard was bounced in their conference playoffs without even reaching the finals. They were in a situation where they had to win their whole conference to qualify for the NCAA tournament, so Miller's season is officially over. It will be interesting to see where he'll go from here after two very different seasons as far as what he had to work with, but with a team that will almost all be returning, all a year older and better and maybe with some good new commits arriving, we'll see if he can take another step to not just lead the team in offense but lead them to better results.

Cade Webber

Cade Webber is one of Toronto's new acquisitions from the trade deadline. Webber came with a reputation as a big defensive specialist who blocked a lot of shots, killed a lot of penalties, and played the kind of shutdown, physical game that is in vogue for depth defensemen in the NHL. From the bits I've seen of him this year, he lives up to that reputation at least at the NCAA. I believe he won an award as the top defensive defensemen in his conference, which was the best conference this year.

Webber's obvious areas of concern are an almost complete lack of offense and his foot speed. I had read some scouts remark that he is a good skater for his size, and "good for his size" about sums it up. He moves better than you'd expect considering how tall he looks, but he's a bit like Chadwick in that he doesn't look like he's completely filled in his frame yet despite being 23 years old. But that doesn't mean he's a great skater. He doesn't have the awkward teenage giraffe on ice for the first time look that Chadwick still kinda does, but rather Webber at least has quick on his pivots and can shuffle his feet as needed in the situation. But he can and was still beaten wide on occasion by players who are great skaters. That's something that will only be more true in the AHL and especially the NHL.

Offense wise, Webber is very much in the same vein as Simon Benoit. He can do alright at making the first pass and moving the puck up the ice with simple passes, but you'll never rely on him to quarterback an offensive zone possession and set up his teammates for scoring chances.

Webber's team, Boston University, lost in the Hockey East conference finals to the top ranked team in the entire NCAA, and received the 2nd overall seed in the NCAA tournament. They will open the tournament against the 15th seeded Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on Thursday March 28th at 5 pm.

Mike Koster

Production wise, Koster had a disappointing season. After having a bit of a breakout last season with 29 points in 40 games, this season he managed only 14 in 31 games. This is despite the fact that three of their top four defensemen from last season all turned pro, and (in theory) Koster would have more of an opportunity to get top powerplay time, and top even strength minutes with their best players. But production has never been his strong suit, despite being a smaller and puck moving defenseman. He was more of a play facilitator than an offensive driver, and it showed even more this season when Minnesota lost so many of their top players from last year (Logan Cooley, Matthew Knies, Brock Faber, Jackson Lacombe, Brock Faber, etc).

Koster and Minnesota lost to Michigan in the Big 10 conference semi finals, but came into the conference playoffs ranked high enough that they were basically guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament. Their rank fell a bit because they were ousted even before the conference finals, down to 7th overall. They will open the tournament on Thursday March 28th.

Veeti Miettinen

Miettinen had an improved season compared to the previous three, setting a career high with 20 goals – almost double his previous best. I would say he looked better overall as well, but that's a low bar to clear. I've made it known how disappointed I was in his past two seasons, after he seemed to show some actual promise in his freshman season. He just was invisible too often, and not able to use his big weapon (his shot). This year he was back to looking more zippy and willing to work hard and influence play on offense, but at 22 years old and turning 23 in September, in his fourth season in the NCAA... his time's run out, and I don't think he showed enough to earn an ELC. I'm not sure I'd even give him an AHL deal. The most interesting thing you can say about him is that he managed a feat of playing four years and 146 games in his NCAA career without taking a single penalty.

St Cloud lost in their NCHC conference finals, and needed help from the results of other conference playoffs. They did not get the results they needed, and as a result they narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA tournament. That means Miettinen's season is done. I believe he is eligible to return for a fifth year in the NCAA if he wants, and he might well choose to since his younger brother just joined the team as a freshman this year.

Nikita Grebyonkin

I already recently wrote about Grebyonkin's first playoff round a couple of weeks ago. Metallurg is three games into the second round, and hold a 2-1 lead as the top seeded team in their conference. All playoff hockey in Russia was delayed by a few days after a period of mourning was declared following the mass shooting in Moscow a few days ago. Grebyonkin has one goal in three games so far in the second round, and continues to play the most minutes of all the team's forwards.

Their series will puck up again starting on Tuesday and Thursday, with the rest of the series game dates and times still to be determined (if needed).

Maple Leafs Prospect Report: Nikita Grebyonkin’s Playoff Debut
Nikita Grebyonkin made his KHL playoff debut for Metallurg, who beat the 8th seed in a 4-2 series win. Grebyonkin led his team’s forwards in ice time and had 4 points in 6 games.

Kirill Slepets

Because I know I may be asked about him, Slepets was the other "prospect" Toronto acquired at the deadline in the three-team trade that brought Lyubushkin to the Maple Leafs. Slepets was thrown in as another of Carolina's late round and unsigned prospects they had no intention of signing.

Slepets is a 5'10" winger that played on Amur, Grebyonkin's team from last year who Metallurg eliminated in the first round this year. He is 24 years old, turning 25 in a couple of weeks, and just had his first full KHL season where he had 19 points in 53 games. He seems like a non-prospect to me, and I'm guessing he was only included in the deal for some bureaucratic reasons by Carolina.

Artur Akhtyamov

Akhtyamov is also in the second round of the playoffs in Russia, but in the VHL. He is coming off a pretty good season where he had an extended run in the KHL due to injuries to his KHL club's starting and backup goalies. After getting into 17 games and managing a .921 sv%, he was sent back to the VHL where he had a strong .927 sv% in 19 games.

So far in the playoffs, his team (Neftyanik Almetievsk) has already pulled off one upset as the 9th seed and now hold a 3-2 series lead against the 3rd ranked team. They have two chances to pull off another, even bigger upset and advance to the semi-finals. So far, Akhtyamov has a .921 sv% in 9 playoff games where he has a 7-2 record.

PPP Runs on Your Support

If you enjoy reading PPP Leafs, and want to see it continue, please consider becomming a paid subscriber. We want to keep all our content open to all users, but to be a sustainable site, we need more support from paid members.

Subscribe Now