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We're another round deep for Toronto's various prospects, or in the case of our NCAA prospects... the season is now fully over. For a quick refresher on how Toronto's various kiddos have done in the playoffs...

Maple Leafs Prospect Report: Playoff Updates
We’re a week into the start of the CHL playoffs and NCAA tournament, with the bulk of games happening over the Easter weekend.
Maple Leafs Prospect Report: More Playoff Updates
Checking in on Toronto’s prospects in the playoffs, including those who have advanced to the next round and the one that was eliminated.

Again, we have only one player who has been eliminated. The rest have all advanced to the next rounds.

Easton Cowan

What I thought was going to be a more interesting series between London and one of their top rivals in Kitchener turned into more of the same from the first round. London steamrolled to a 4-0 sweep, with the only periods that Kitchener looked to be competitive occurring when the Knights got into dumb penalty troubles.

I'll be honest, Cowan was not a major factor for good in the series for London. Not that he was terrible, but he wasn't having the same level of impact to help the Knights win. He had "only" 3 points in the 4 game series, but it was all secondary assists on the powerplay. He also "only" had 2 shots per game, and he was a net rating in terms of goals for and against while on the ice. He's still a point per game these playoffs, but he hasn't looked as good as he did in the regular season or during the first round.

I always put the "only" in quotations because even when he's looked "off", he's still an effective player. On the one hand, this is only a four game stretch where he hasn't looked as good as usual and players are allowed to have peaks and valleys. On the other, it's not like the opposition is going to get easier from here.

The bigger issue, for me, has been that these whole playoffs Cowan has continued a frustrating trend from the season of taking unnecessary and stupid penalties. I believe London was scored on at least twice during his stints in the penalty box this series.

But I don't want this to be me bemoaning how awful Cowan was. He was still a top penalty kill guy, still on the top powerplay, still one of the most used players at even strength and contributed to why London was able to shut Kitchener down – relatively speaking. We'll see how he looks against either Sault Ste Marie or Saginaw, two of the top teams in the league besides London. Whoever wins that series likely wins the OHL championship. Saginaw currently has a 3-2 series lead, and it is the only series in the OHL second round that did not have a sweep and is still ongoing. So London will still have to wait a bit to find out their opponent and what the schedule will be.

Fraser Minten & Brandon Lisowsky

Funnily enough, the second round saw the opposite for Minten and Lisowsky. Saskatoon also swept their series against Red Deer in pretty easy fashion, winning by a combined score of 21-7 across those four games. Minten helped carry Saskatoon to start, with 3 goals and 1 assist in the first two games, was a +3, had 11 shots on net and won 36 of 48 faceoffs (75%).

Minten was just a dominant two-way force in those two games, and even after blocking a shot and looking like it stung him after game one he still looked great. Red Deer was not that deep a team, but he helped lock things down on their top players. He is up to 5 goals and 5 assists in the 9 playoff games he's played.

Lisowsky also had a great series, especially in second half where he had back-to-back 3 point games. He finished with 8 points in 4 games, and averaged 5 shots on net. He was used interchangeably between the top two lines, depending on the state of the game – mainly whether the top or secondary powerplay unit came off, or the penalty kill, etc. As always, Lisowsky looks like a fun secondary offensive player who doesn't necessarily impact the game that much without the puck on his stick. He still continues to show a low-key pest element to his game that he seemed to pull out of thin air partway through the series. He's up to 4 goals and 7 assists in 9 playoff games so far, and leads the team with a +14 rating if that's your thing.

Their next opponent is Moose Jaw. They were one of the hottest teams in the league entering the playoffs, with the top producing offensive defenseman (Mateychuk, 19 points) and forward (Firkus, 18 points) in these playoff so far. They also have top prospects in Brayden Yager and Matthew Savoie up front, and a deep roster behind them. Considering Saskatoon is built as a two-way team with solid goaltending, defense and possession numbers with enough offense to get by... it will be an interesting matchup.

Braeden Kressler

The only other Leafs prospect left in the CHL playoffs, Kressler and the Ottawa 67's got swept by the top team in their conference – Oshawa. They had their chances, especially at home, but Oshawa had a couple of come from behind wins.

Kressler had a good series for Ottawa, with 3 goals in the 4 games he played. He also averaged 3.5 shots per game, and won 60% of the faceoffs he took (60 for 90). He was used a lot to try and handle Oshawa's top lines at even strength and kill a lot of penalties, but Ottawa's offense mostly dried up. Kressler finished with 6 goals to lead the team in the playoffs, and his 8 points were 3rd.

So what's next for Kressler? He officially ages out of junior, since he was eligible to play pro in the ECHL/AHL this year but was loaned back to the OHL instead. He had a decent season, and for once seemed to be mostly healthy. For his age, relative to the rest of the league, you'd have liked to see more from a smaller forward.

Kressler is still under contract for two more seasons. He still has that two way utility, and will likely be used in whatever ECHL team Toronto has or partners with or loans their prospects to. He'll have that time to show if he's worth keeping around beyond his current contract, and as of now I'd say that's not likely to be better than an ECHL/AHL deal.

Nick Moldenhauer and Cade Webber

You know the stories by now. Both Moldenhauer (Michigan) and Webber (Boston University) had a long wait to play in the NCAA semi finals, and both were eliminated by their opponents (Boston College and Denver University respectively). There really isn't much new I can say about either player that I didn't in the previous updates, they both played the same role and had the same kind of performances in the one additional game they played since then.

But what's next for each?

Well, after Webber and BU lost in heart breaking fashion in overtime to the eventual NCAA champions, and he recently signed his ELC to join the Maple Leafs organization. We're not likely to see him actually play in any playoff games barring a whole slew of injuries and desperation, so we'll have to wait until the summer prospect camps and tournaments to get our first look at him in the blue and white.

Cade Webber is officially a Leaf
Two year ELC.

Moldenhauer is a different story. After a decently successful, but not spectacular freshman season in the NCAA, he will be returning to Michigan with a much better opportunity for playing time at even strength and the powerplay. After being eliminated, Michigan saw three of their top forwards sign NHL contracts and turn pro: Gavin Brindley, Dylan Duke, and Frank Nazar III.

Michigan does have a pretty good crop of new freshmen committed to them for next season, but they typically like to take things slow. Moldenhauer will have to seize his opportunity as a returning sophomore to help drive the offense in the top six and top powerplay unit while he can.

Nikita Grebyonkin

Metallurg and Grebyonkin won a tough 7 game series to make it out of the semi-finals, and as of writing this have a 1-0 series lead in the KHL finals against Loko. The same trend I had mentioned from the second round continued – Greb's ice time continued to fall and he didn't get any special teams time. In fact, in the final three games of the last series he played 5:22, 8:08 and 9:51 – all well below the averages he had through the first and even the second round, when his ice time started to drop.

It was a bit confusing that he went from the most used forward in round one, down to just a middle six even strength guy, to barely playing. But it was extremely confusing when, after only playing 5:22 in game 5, his team named him player of the game. So you'd think maybe he's playing through an injury, like I did, but in a post-game interview his coach was asked exactly why he only played so little and not at all after the first period – the coach said it was not injury related. Now, he could always just be lying or fudging the truth as teams like to do in the playoffs, but it's still just weird.

Grebyonkin did see his ice time bounce back up to 13:10 in the first game, but he has only two points, both goals, since the end of the first round. That's a 14 game period, for clarification.

Whether he's banged up or not, he and his team are only three wins away from becoming KHL champions. Game two is on Saturday morning, with future gamedays all coming every second day. We'll see if he has gotten back some health or find his game again and produce a bit to help his team win it all.

Artur Akhtyamov

Since the last update, Akhtyamov also advanced to the finals for his team. He stopped 31 of 32 shots faced in game seven of the previous series, on the road against the second seed. As of writing this, Akhtyamov and Neftyanik is up 2-0 in the VHL finals as the underdog 9th seed vs the favoured 4th seed. Two road wins puts them at a big advantage going back home for games 3 on April 22nd and game 4 on April 23rd.

Unlike the previous rounds, Akhtyamov has been a big part of the first two wins. He gave up 3 goals against on 36 shots he faced in game one, but one of those goals against was an own goal by the defenseman. He accidentally deflected a shot/pass going wide into the net. Then he followed up with an even better 38 of 39 shots saved in game two. So far, Neftyanik has been outshot 75-53 in the first two games.

Akhtyamov has improved his record to 14-5 with a .930 sv%. He is already under contract with Toronto and was loaned back to Russia this season, which did help him get some valuable playing time in the KHL where he proved he could hang as a starter playing in every game for a big stretch of the season. Capping his Russian career with a championship would be a nice thing before he comes over to North America starting next year. He only has two wins to go, with the majority of remaining games coming at home.

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